Establishing Bee Communities

It’s important to choose a good place for a beehive. Whether one hive or 10, these factors help create the best possible environment for your bee colonies.

Shade

Here in Southern California the long hours of extreme heat in summer and early fall or “Indian summer” can put real stress on a hive. Wax comb begins to melt at 120F and when it is over 100F for a week, as is often the case in the hottest heat waves, the combs can fall off of the frames. Workers forage for water to create a kind of “swamp cooler” effect, but the stress of trying to keep the hive cool can wear the bees down and use up their energy reserves.

On south-facing slopes, open fields, or in paved areas, a shade-cloth hung up above the bees can bring the temperatures down significantly.

Louie's-Shade

Afternoon shade from some trees is extremely helpful. Even a piece of plywood, painted white, or an extra migratory top works to lower the heat.

Carboard-shade

A 6-foot fence on the south side of the hive can also help.

It should be noted that dense shade without sun encourages Small Hive Beetles. Beehives need at least 4-6 hours of sun per day.

Here are a few more pictures of shade from other locations:

Forage

The best sites for bees have abundant and varied forage for them to eat and to store. In addition to eucalyptus and bottle brush from the southern hemisphere, all kinds of California native plants provide excellent food sources.
Below are just a few of the ones that grow in our area of the state:

Protection from Pests and Predators

Many backyards and estates in the Los Angeles area have skunks and raccoons roaming at night looking for food. These are two varmints that love to eat bees and everything in the hive: larvae, honey, wax and all. In order to protect your bees from predators it’s important to provide some kind of fencing around the hive area. In Los Angeles county, it doesn’t need to be strong enough for bears, but should secure your bee-yard from the smaller pests. Here are some examples of effective critter control:

 

Water

From November to April in Los Angeles, bees can effectively forage for water without any special provision. But once spring is fully underway and summer is around the corner, the high temperatures here make it necessary to provide a water source that is clean and that never dries up. If allowed to dry up the bees will “forget” where it is and need to re-find it all over again when it is next refilled.

They must also be given something to land on in the water so that they don’t fall in and drown. Water plants are the best since they also filter the water to help keep it clean, but corks from wine bottles will also work very well. It’s a good idea to add mosquitofish. They are very efficient at eating the mosquito larvae, keeping the water clear, and providing nitrogen for the plants. Your local vector control district gives them away for free.

waterbucket

 

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