What is an Apiary?

Shannon Kietzman
Shannon Kietzman
Bee.
Bee.

An apiary is the land or area where a person purposely places multiple beehives for bees to live in. The apiary may be built to assist with farming, to collect honey, or both. An apiary is beneficial to the farmland that surrounds it because it encourages bees to stay in the area. In turn, bees aid in pollination, which helps vegetables and fruit to grow. Typically, one beehive provides enough bees to pollinate one acre of crops.

Honey.
Honey.

Vegetables, fruit trees, and other plants require pollination to produce vegetables or fruit. If the pollen is not spread from one plant to another, the plant will produce only flowers. Bees help spread pollen from one plant or tree to the next as they complete their own task of collecting pollen.

In an apiary, multiple beehives are set on pallets. Special scents are used to attract queen honeybees to the hives. While the queen sits in the beehive, she sends her workers out to collect pollen and nectar from area flowers. The pollen is used by the colony of bees as protein to keep them well nourished as they go about their tasks. After the worker bees ingest the nectar they collect, they regurgitate it and store it in the honeycombs within the beehive. This is how honey is made.

A queen bee surrounded by attendants. Special scents are used to attract queen bees to apiary hives.
A queen bee surrounded by attendants. Special scents are used to attract queen bees to apiary hives.

Beekeepers build an apiary for bees in order to give them a suitable area in which to produce ample supplies of honey. When it comes time to collect the honey, the beekeeper introduces a small quantity of smoke to a hive. This causes the bees to become dormant. The beekeeper can then reach into the beehive and remove several of the honeycombs, making sure to leave enough for the bees to eat. When the combs of honey are removed and the hive is shut again, the bees work hard in order to replace the missing honeycombs.

Buckwheat fields are an ideal location for an apiary.
Buckwheat fields are an ideal location for an apiary.

Typically, an apiary is set up in a field of flowers that help produce quality honey. The best location for an apiary is in a field of clover, orange blossoms, heather, blackberry, blueberry, or buckwheat. The flowers surrounding the apiary have an impact on the honey’s flavor. Clover honey, which is typically very sweet, is the most common. Honey made from the nectar of fruit trees and bushes tends to have a fruitier flavor.

Beekeepers use smoke to make bees dormant so that honey can be collected.
Beekeepers use smoke to make bees dormant so that honey can be collected.

The nectar of some flowers is toxic to humans. Therefore, an apiary should never be placed near these flowers. Azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel, for example, contain grayanotoxin, which can cause irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, dizziness, vomiting, and muscle paralysis. Thanks to proper apiary placement, grayanotoxin poisoning from honey is extremely rare in the United States.

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    • Bee.
      Bee.
    • Honey.
      Honey.
    • A queen bee surrounded by attendants. Special scents are used to attract queen bees to apiary hives.
      A queen bee surrounded by attendants. Special scents are used to attract queen bees to apiary hives.
    • Buckwheat fields are an ideal location for an apiary.
      Buckwheat fields are an ideal location for an apiary.
    • Beekeepers use smoke to make bees dormant so that honey can be collected.
      Beekeepers use smoke to make bees dormant so that honey can be collected.
    • The goal of a beekeeper is to harvest honey.
      The goal of a beekeeper is to harvest honey.