Feral honey bee colonies are incredibly versatile and live in a myriad of locations, but keeping bees in urban environments requires stricter placement guidelines to promote safety and ease of access for the beekeeper. Here is a general list of criteria to help you choose the ideal location for your bees.
Once you’ve determined beekeeping is legal in your area, you will likely need to follow some hive placement requirements in order to get a hive permit. In Portland, hives must be placed 15 feet away from public walkways, 6 feet away from property lines, and they must have a 6-foot visual barrier to make sure it can’t be seen from outside your property.
Hives must be placed where they will not be a threat to people (and animals) that are nearby. Place them in an out-of-the-way location and point the entrances away from areas that will be frequently occupied. Honey bees have a defined flight path when they leave the entrance of their hive. We can manipulate this path by facing the entrance toward a wall, fence or hedge which will force the bees to fly up and out - adjusting their trajectory well above human height.
Ease of Access
Make sure to place your hive somewhere with plenty of space for you to move, crouch, and shift boxes around as you are working your hive. Be mindful of vegetation that may grow and turn into a barrier for you to work around in the future.
If you are a “foundationless” or “natural comb” beekeeper, you will need to make sure your hive is placed on level ground to encourage straight comb production.
Make sure hives are not in an area that is prone to flooding, and if it is a particularly windy spot, you’ll want to provide some sort of windbreak.
Hives should be kept at least a foot off the ground to keep out unwanted intruders like yellow jackets or small mammals. If you live in an area with bears, make sure you take the necessary precautions, like electric fencing.
Bees require heat from the sun to warm their bodies for flight. They can do this by vibrating their flight muscles, but many beekeepers face hive entrances southeast to catch some morning rays.
Honey bees are adaptable, and as long as they have plenty of forage, sun and can stay dry - they’ll be happy!