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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Carl Hayden Bee Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #392591

Research Project: Quantifying and Reducing Colony Losses from Nutritional, Pathogen/Parasite, and Pesticide Stress by Improving Colony Management Practices

Location: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center

Title: Effects of hive entrance orientation on honey bee colony activity

item Meikle, William
item Weiss, Milagra
item Beren, Eli

Submitted to: Journal of Apicultural Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/14/2022
Publication Date: 1/24/2023
Citation: Meikle, W.G., Weiss, M., Beren, E.D. 2023. Effects of hive entrance orientation on honey bee colony activity. Journal of Apicultural Research. 62(3):444-449.

Interpretive Summary: Many beekeeping books have discussed the importance of which direction a hive should face, but not many scientific studies have been conducted to address that question. We placed 15-20 hives facing one of the four cardinal directions (east, north, south and west) and monitored hive weight (every 5 minutes) and temperature (every 30 minutes) over time over 14 months. By analyzing changes in hive weight from day to day, as well as within each day, we found that during winter (from December to March) hives facing east (where the sun comes up) started their day 50 minutes earlier than hives facing west, and ended their day 57 minutes earlier than hives facing south. During winter hives facing east also had lower temperatures, less foraging activity and lower hive weight loss compared to one or more of the other directions. Some other differences were noticed at other times of the year, but most effects were observed during winter. Bee researchers should pay attention to hive direction when setting up their experiments in order to avoid confusing treatment effects with hive direction effects.

Technical Abstract: In an effort to determine the effects of the orientation of hive entrance on honey bee colony activity and temperature, hives were placed facing different cardinal directions (3-5 hives per direction). Hive weight was recorded every 5 minutes and temperature every 30 minutes from April 2019 to June 2020. Daily weight data were analyzed using piecewise regression. In southern Arizona from December to March, hives facing east started daily flight activity 50 minutes earlier than hives facing west, and ended flight activity 57 minutes earlier than hives facing south. During that period east-facing hives also lost only 62 g per d while north-facing hives lost about 100 g per d, and east-facing hives were also about 7°C cooler on average than west-facing hives, although that latter result may be due to the movement of bee clusters within the hives. From December to March hives facing east also had significantly lower morning weight loss due to departing foragers than hives facing north (indicating more foragers) but higher weight loss from April-June 2020. Most effects were observed from December to March, probably due to restricted daylight hours and lower ambient temperatures. We recommend hive orientation be taken into account in the design of field experiments that involve monitoring colony activity.