- Have you discussed this with all your family members? The bees will have an impact, so make sure everyone’s onboard – or at least somewhat willing to have them around.
- Are honey bees legal where you intend to put them? Not all cities, townships, or homeowner associations allow honey bees, so be sure to check before acquiring your bees.
- What does your homeowner’s insurance policy say? Some insurance companies have real issues with beekeeping and others don’t – it’s better to find out before the bees arrive. And, are you planning on selling the honey? If so, you’ll need coverage for a business, not homeowner’s insurance.
- Where will you put the hive(s)? It’s a good idea to imagine everything bad that could happen, and then locate the hive(s) with that in mind. Consider sun, shade, isolation (out of sight (out of mind) is often good for neighbors), weeds, mowing (bees don’t like vibration), bad weather access, distance from house, pests (skunks, bears, vandals, neighborhood boys, etc.), nearby activities (gardens, pools, etc.), pesticides, and getting equipment to the hive(s).
- Have you considered the flight path? Bees act like airplanes in flight, so it’s important to make sure the garden, pool, etc. are not in their takeoff or touchdown flight paths. If you put a six-foot fence or hedge around the hive; however, you can cause them to alter to a higher flight path where they are less likely to interact with humans.
Where will the bees get their water? Honey bees need one gallon of water per hive per day, and you’ll want to control where they’re getting their water (for example, you don’t want them getting their water from your neighbor’s pool). Bees can be trained to get their water from a particular source by scenting the water (almond or vanilla extract are easy to add); once they start going to one smell they’ll always return to it. And it’s a good idea to keep the source of water near the hive; it gives them more time to make honey, rather than gathering water.
What will the bees eat? It takes one acre blooming continuously from frost to frost (in our part of the country) to support one hive. Since there are few continuously blooming acres around, this means your bees will probably forage between 1 -2 miles away. It’s a good idea to take a look at something like Google Maps to see where your bees will be gathering their food (for example, it might not be great to locate them in the midst of soybeans – or you might produce GM honey).
There are many other things to consider when starting with honey bees (such as type of bee, equipment needs, and maintenance); however, these are basics that really need to be considered – and sometimes get overlooked.