Beekeeping basics: Starting a colony
Choosing a Location for your Hive
A good location will help your bees thrive so it is important to spend time scouting out the perfect spot before you get your bees.
There is no “right” spot for a hive. For thousands of years, bees have built hives in all kinds of places, in a variety of climates. They are adaptable like that. Yet, some qualities make some places better than others.
When choosing a location for your hive, look for a place that has most of—if not all of—the following qualities:
- Choose a quiet place away from people, walkways and roadways. You don’t want to place your hive somewhere people will get stung. It is bad for everyone.
- Find a location that is close to a body of fresh water like a river or stream. Bees need to drink, so find a place with a natural water source. Lakes and oceans are not great for bees because they are too dangerous for bees to drink from.
- Bees need access to nectar and pollen sources throughout the season. Find a place that has a variety of plant life growing throughout the year.
- Natural or man-made windbreaks will protect your hive from strong cold breezes and blowing snow in the winter. Look for areas that will shield your hive in bad weather.
- Morning sunlight will wake your bees up and make them more productive, so look for a place that gets full sun in the morning.
- Elevated locations are less likely to flood, so look for a place on a mound or a hill. It doesn’t need to be a huge incline—just enough that water will flow away from your hive rather than toward it.
Make the most of what you have
If you find the decent spot, but it is missing some of these qualities, you can sometimes make your own adjustments. For instance, you can make a water source with a kiddie pool or build a windbreak by planting shrubs or building a wall. Whatever you choose, know your site’s strengths and weakness. Be prepared to make adjustments if necessary.
Finally, and most importantly, choose a place that you can access easily. That organic farm 1 hour away may seem like a good idea now, but it may not be practical to drive there and back each week. Choose a site that will work for your lifestyle.
Ontario regulations – Distance requirements
Before setting up your hive, visit the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website to review the most up to date Ontario beekeeping regulations regarding distance requirements for hives. To date (2017):
Honey bee colonies cannot be placed within 30 metres of a property line separating the land on which the hives are placed, or left from land occupied as a dwelling or used for a community centre, public park or other place of public assembly or recreation.
Hives, with or without bees, cannot be located within 10 metres of a highway (Section 19).
OMAFRA, Overview of Beekeeping Regulations, 2017, web.
Regulations can change over time so visit the OMAFRA site before setting up your hive and review the most up to date information.