Bee Flight Paths
There are a few different methods and some things to watch out for when putting something in front of the hive.
In general, bees prefer a nice long flight path too and from their hive, without obstruction. (See Diagram E) This allows them to freely come and go from the hive and minimizes collision and effort.
If you live in a neighborhood or have your hives near your home or barn and would prefer to raise the bee flight path up above your head, you can put a privacy fence in front of the hive, 6 feet more away from the hive. (see Diagram B) This piece of fence will force the hive flight path up above your heads. In general, once bees climb to the height of the privacy fence, they will maintain that altitude until they reach their final destination, up to 3 or 4 miles away. This is useful to make hive flight paths go over everyone's head instead of pedestrian traffic walking right through it. They can remember this flight path in and out, up high, because they learned it by using it every day.
Keep in mind when the weather gets cold and the bee bundle up in their winter cluster in the hive, that obstacles outside the hive can mean certain death. For example, many people like to place straw bales around their hives to make a wind break. (see Diagram C) This is fine as long as you consider their flight path. In the winter, the bees are all packed in their hive trying to stay warm. They are not coming and going from the hive regularly, so they forget where they are and their surroundings. This means, when the bees come out on a warm day during the winter months, to do cleansing flights, they will be able to leave the immediate vicinity of their hive, but because they are not doing orientation flights and are very “out of it” during their winter slumber, their navigation is terrible. While they can find a way out, they may not follow that same path in. If they can remember where their hive is, but not the way they came out, they will return “low”, run into the straw bales and not figure out how to go up and over, ending with death on the outside of the hive.( again see Diagram C)
We would recommend leaving an unobstructed gap between the bails to ensure your bees can find their way in and out when they come out during cleansing flights. (see Diagram D)
This will be true for wraps, Styrofoam panels, straw, blankets or whatever else you come up with, make sure the entrance is not blocked off or obstructed.