“What is an Out Apiary?” I was asked that the other day when discussing our honey bee colony spring expansion plan with a friend.  You may need one even if you just maintain a hive or two in your backyard.  If you maintain large numbers of colonies, you may have several already.

An out apiary is a remote apiary location that is a minimum of three miles from the home apiary.  A little honey bee biology refresher allows you to recall that a honey bee will travel about three miles in any direction to forage.  When we split colonies in the spring, to increase our colony counts, one of the splits must move at least three miles from the donor hive to an out apiary.

We first start with some strong fencing (cattle panels and T-Posts) due to feral hogs that roam (and destroy) Texas.  We raise our hive stands up on leveled cinder blocks to keep the skunks at bay and lastly, run electrified wire around the perimeter to deter the pesky racoons.  Once the field work is done in the out apiary, we move in the splits.

To create a split, we take at least two frames of brood covered with nurse bees, a frame of honey, and a frame of pollen and place them into a new deep (hive box).  The brood frames are placed in the middle flanked by a frame of honey and pollen.  Since we run 8 frame hives we add four additional frames of foundation to complete the hive.  A new queen is added to this “nuc” and set in the out yard and provided supplemental feed (sugar syrup) to provide an incentive to draw out new foundation for the queen to continue laying eggs.  If frames with comb are available, always use those instead of foundation.

Moving the split to an out apiary aids in preventing the honey bees from flying back and re-joining the colony from which it was created.

What do we look for when choosing an out apiary location?

  • Great year-round availability of forage and water
  • Accessibility by our vehicle 24/7
  • Chemical/Pesticide/Herbicide/Fungicide free areas
  • Limited exposure to residential or commercial structures
  • Limited exposure to public view
  • Ability to fence in the honey bee colonies

Consider any state apiary regulations, inspections, permits, and fees required to locate your honey bees in an out apiary located in an adjoining county or state.  Texas beekeepers can access the TX State Apiary Inspectors’ website for appropriate permit applications