When beginning beekeepers run through the list of necessary equipment, their thoughts naturally turn to bee boxes, smokers, and protective clothing. That’s why it may come as a quite a surprise to find that proper fencing is just as important as all the other tools and trappings. Fencing serves two distinct purposes in beekeeping — and your particular situation may call for a specific type of fencing.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
Bees tend to travel in a straight path to their hive — anything that gets in their way is a potential target for a collision or stinging. The easiest thing a beekeeper can do to avoid this issue is to locate their bees away from heavily trafficked areas and surround the beehives with solid fencing. A fence lessens the chance that a bee will accidentally crash into someone walking nearby by redirecting their flight path upwards and above the heads of most humans.
It’s important to build the fence before bringing in your bees. If you do so after they’ve settled, you’ll have to wait a few days before you’ll see higher flight paths.
A solid fence can also give your neighbors peace of mind. Large accumulations of stinging insects have the understandable effect of making people nervous. Those who aren’t keen on the idea of you keeping bees can be a nuisance, so building a fence that conceals your hives can be helpful in creating an “out of sight, out of mind” situation.
To Keep Out Predators
Bees have many predators, but luckily, most can be stopped by adding various protective features to your bee boxes. However, there are two predators in particular that have to be stopped before they ever make it to the boxes.
Raccoons are clever little creatures, and if they set their mind to getting into something, they are often successful. Expert climbers and proficient at opening latches, raccoons are completely undeterred by standard fencing. To keep these adorable troublemakers from destroying your combs, you’ll need to add electric wires to your existing fence. Starting six inches from the ground and about eight inches away from your solid fence, install two or three wires at an interval of four to six inches.
For beekeepers in forest environments, bears will be your number one enemy. Like raccoons, anything short of an electric fence won’t keep them out. It’s a good idea to install your electric fence early in the season, as it’s much easier to keep bears away from hives before they’ve had a taste of what’s inside.
To keep bears out, you’ll need a seven wire, 54″ high fence. You’ll need to give the local bear population a quick tutorial of the fence by baiting it with peanut butter, bacon, or fish. This will prompt them to touch the wire with their nose or tongue, and get a shock. Bears are incredibly intelligent, and have a long memory, so a psychological barrier will easily keep them from decimating your hives.
Fencing your apiary isn’t so much an option as it is a necessity. From redirecting your bees’ flight path to preventing bears from munching on your brood nests, a fence can be one of your greatest assets.
Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.