MY BACKYARD APIARY DESIGN – Beekeeping Like A Girl


The Space

We enjoy a corner lot with a large (for Southern California), flat backyard. The space behind the house is a rectangle approximately 85′ X 74′ with neighbors on two sides. The bee area is a 50′ long by 15′ wide strip along our back fence stretched between two sheds. It also runs along our vegetable garden with no barriers between the two spaces.

The Problems

So, why am I redoing this space? Let’s go over some of the current apiary design’s problems.

Flight Path Drama

The beehives are lined up in several short rows with 2-4 hives in each. Their entrances are all facing the same direction (towards the north shed), like chairs in a classroom. This keeps the bee flight paths from going directly into the vegetable garden, but it also means that their flight paths are easily disrupted during inspections.

The hives in the first row must fly around the hives that are in front of them. So, when I stand behind one hive, I block another’s flight path. This setup is especially problematic when I am teaching. All of the extra bodies stading in the space become obstacles that confuse the bees as they try to find their entrances. Just a few minutes into my beekeeping class, we have created a chaotic aerial traffic jam!

No Boundaries

Most of the time, the bees are tolerant of us, even when we work very close to them in the garden. However, we do experience defensive behavior from the occansional guard bee and I am always on alert when I am close to the hives. Now that we have a toddler, it’s more stressful. I constantly worry he will go into the bee area. We also have this problem with guests and dogs that come to visit. Since there is no clear division between the apiary and the rest of the yard, new people and dogs often wander right into the bee area. Some don’t even realize the bees are there!

Weed Meadow

To keep the weeds down I partially covered the area in cheap astroturf. I know this isn’t a good solution, but I had some on hand so I figured why not? After awhile, I got sick of looking at the unnatural green and covered it with straw as a temporary fix. However, weeds still grow through it and cause issues with ants.  Also, the astroturf has started to break down from sun exposure and is now shedding horrible microplastics everywhere. I regret using it.

Aesthetics

To be frank, the apiary design is ugly. The way the hives are arranged looks messy and the ground cover is incomplete and unsightly. We are constantly battling weeds and in the spring, parts of the apiary are swallowed by them. It has gotten to the point where I avoid showing anyone the apiary because I am embarassed by how it loooks.



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