Do you have a landmark you use to remember where your house is? Or possibly you do, but just don’t even think about it anymore. Well, bees use landmarks and various other methods to remember where their home is. It is pretty much in their little bodies, but we can do things that help make their trip back home easier. When bees are moved or have found a new home (from a swarm) they make what is called an orientation flight (or flights). If you watch the entrance to the hive what you will notice is quite amazing. You will see bees flying up and down and left and right over and over and in large numbers. If there are a lot of bees in the hive it will be quite a sight to see. They are getting their ‘coordinates’ kind of like a GPS and remembering where they live. It is pretty amazing to think that they can fly for up to 2 miles away and remember exactly where they live and be able to tell another bee exactly where a single flower is. Pretty amazing feat if you ask me.

So this brings us to the topic of what can the beekeeper do to make sure the bees make it back to their own home, and more importantly not someone else’s home (this is called drift). If you have more than 1 hive in your yard and they are fairly close together there are a couple of things you can do to make it easier for the bees to find their home. You can:

1. paint each hive a different color. This is not really practical if you just have a few hives to paint as it will waste a lot of paint. But, if you have the paint this will make a big difference. If you don’t have a bunch of paint you can opt for the next suggestion

2. paint different symbols on each side of the hive. You can paint different symbols on the sides of the hive so the bees can differentiate their hive form their neighbor’s hive. Common symbols are triangles, circles, squares, lines, wavy lines, etc. These can also be in different colors which helps out just a little bit more.

3. Move the hive entrances facing different ways. The ideal orientation of the hive entrance is either south or south-east to get the early morning sun to shine on the hive and get the bees off to an earlier start. But, this can not be done in all cases if there are things in the way. So, if you have one hive facing south and the other hive facing 90 degrees away at east this will help the bees to find their own home.

4. Spread the hives apart. This last tip is not always practical for the beekeeper as it makes for more area that the bees fly and does not help with quick and easy inspections. But, if you have the luxury of time and space this will be the best at making sure the bees head back to their own home. This reduces drift greatly and is great at making sure disease does not spread from hive to hive.

One hive with a traingle to help.

One hive with a traingle to help.

So help your bees find their home, and paint them a pretty picture:)