The location is paramount (First beekeeping season part 2)
Before you decide to start your apiary and manage your own bees, you need to explore the possible locations for beehives and chances for bees to get forage (bee forage means pollen, nectar and honeydew, or respectively: pollen forage, nectar forage or honeydew forage, which are food for bees and raw material processed by bees. Forage also includes bee glue, i.e. a resinous exudate that covers tree buds).
In terms of the manner of apiary management, there are two types of apiaries: stationary and migratory apiaries. Today, we tend to go beyond typical apiculture definitions. Beehives are more and more frequently put up on office buildings in city centres.
Karolina and Sławek have a plot of land on the outskirts of a small town. The plot is surrounded by detached houses, yet they stand more than a dozen metres from the place where they are planning to put up their beehives. After an exploration of the surrounding area performed in the summer, they found that the direct vicinity of the planned apiary offers lindens, acacias and chestnut trees. The area is surrounded by wastelands (meadows), gardens and orchards. Within a distance of 1 km, there is a mixed coniferous forest and fields where corn, rape, agrimony and cover crops (phacelia and lupin). There are no other apiaries at a range of 3km from the plot. Such conditions allow to assume that an amateur apiary considered by Karolina and Sławek will be a viable option.
When deciding to set up your own apiary, you need to ensure that you, your neighbours and other people who may approach the beehives are safe. You also need to think about the safety of your bees and hives.
How to choose a location for your apiary in accordance with the law
Location of apiaries is not precisely regulated in Poland (nor in the EU). The legal basis is provided by the provisions of the Civil Code. Article 140 provides that an owner may use a thing in accordance with the social and economic purpose of his right, and may, in particular, collect the profits and other revenues from the said thing. Article 144 adds that a real estate owner should refrain from actions which could disrupt the use of neighbouring real estate beyond a normal scope, arising from the social and economic purpose of the real estate and local relations. Article 222 defines that an owner is entitled to claim restitution of the lawful status and for violations of the law to be ceased, against a person who violates his ownership otherwise than by depriving him of actual control of the thing.
In 2011, the Polish Association of Beekeepers issued the “Code of Good Production Practice in Apiculture”. The publication says that a beekeeper wishing to set up an apiary should mark (fence) the apiary area and post a warning sign at the entrance: “Attention – bees! Authorised access only”. The Association also provides the following rules for locating apiaries:
– hives with bees should be located at least 10 m from a busy public road, residential buildings, livestock buildings and utility buildings, and from the yard and the garden, and 50 m from motorways and freeways;
– hives with bees placed within 3–10 m from the said surrounding buildings (does not apply to motorways and freeways) should be separated with a permanent barrier (a fence, a wall, a bush) of the height of at least 3 m, which will force the outgoing and incoming bees to fly up above the surrounding area;
– in the event of a specific terrain configuration, additional solutions should be applied to protect the surrounding from increased hazard;
– a safe distance of at least 150 m should be kept from schools, medical facilities, care homes and similar public utility buildings;
– in areas of high population density, use bees characterised by a lower level of aggression towards the surrounding, i.e. gentle bees.
In addition, the Association recommends purchasing a third party insurance for beekeepers as part of their beekeeping organisation, which negotiates detailed terms and conditions of group insurance. Additionally, pursuant to the Act on maintaining cleanliness and order in communes, the commune council, upon consultation with the public sanitary inspector, shall adopt regulations for maintaining cleanliness in the commune, which is a local legal act. Pursuant to Article 4(2) item 7 of the said Act, the regulations define requirements for maintaining livestock (including bees) in areas excluded from agricultural production, including a prohibition to keep such livestock in specific areas or specific property. Based on custom law (respected by courts in disputable cases), which derives from the 19th-century Galician law, it may be assumed that if the condition of a 10-metre distance from buildings and roads is not met, then the beekeeper’s property should be fenced with a 3-metre-high tight fence or a hedge.
The apiary should be fenced. The area where the apiary is located should be rich in varied plants called bee forage.
You must explore the vicinity in order to learn which forage may be expected for the bees and what the competition for the forage is. It is hard to start an apiary when you already have someone’s beehives 100 metres away. You need to remember that the amount of nectar to be collected by bees is limited and in addition to your bees and your neighbour’s bees, there are some wild competitors such as bumblebees, wild bees and other insects that feed on it. According to various publications, a bee may effectively harvest nectar within a range of …. (different sources provide different data) km from the hive.
The hive location should be sunny, dry (ideally exposed to the south) and calm (in order not to disturb the bees and vice versa). It is also worth to surround the apiary with trees and bushes. It is particularly recommended to provide pussy willow, European cornel, cotoneaster, snowberry and locust (robinia).
It is a beginner’s mistake to set up a small apiary limited to a single bee family. Although it seems rational, it also bears a high risk. Lack of sufficient experience may lead to some serious problems. If you have a small number of bee families, you can lose your entire apiary and feel discouraged to go on. You should therefore think about starting your beekeeping journey with a larger number of hives. The area for beehives should be hardened (e.g. with concrete slabs) and levelled. Position your beehives so that their entrances are turned towards the most sunny side.