Encouraging Bee Flight Patterns

I keep bees in my backyard. I've been doing so for three years and haven't had any major issues with my kids or my neighbors being bothered.

Actually, if anyone was keeping track, my kids probably got stung  more than I, but that's because in the summer they refuse to wear shoes and we do have a bit of clover in our yard.

I've always been pretty happy with how the bees would usually fly out of their hive and almost straight up and away. Usually.

Sometimes though, a few bees would fly low to the ground for 20-30 feet leading up to the hive and would often buzz right past the kids.

I'd like to think they're loaded with pollen and honey and are too heavy to fly any higher, but who really knows for sure.

One of the things I've read that will encourage the bees to fly higher right out of the hive is an obstruction placed in front of the hive.

This is a fairly popular method with beekeepers who live in subdivisions with close neighbors and want or need their bees to fly up and away pretty quickly.

I've got some extra wood that wasn't split last fall and was just sitting in a pile. As an experiment, I moved the pile to about 4-5 feet in front of the hive, and stacked it about 4 feet tall.

The picture below makes the pile look really tall, but I took it at a funny angle. It's only about 4 feet tall.

I didn't want the obstruction too close to the hive. I wanted to give the bees room to orient and land/take-off easily. I also didn't want the wood pile to encourage the bees to abscond from and undesirable condition, although I've read you can place obstructions as close as 6-10 inches from the hive.

To give you a better idea of how far from the front of the hive it is, I took a picture standing behind the hive looking outward.

As the day warmed up, the bees came out for the first time in two weeks. There were lots of bees who were orientating and then flying away.

I did notice they flew up and away higher than before the wood pile obstruction. I also saw most of them return higher off the ground, over the wood pile obstruction and then down into the hive.

I also saw a few bees who returned to the hive flying low, up to the wood pile, and then stopped and hovered in the air a bit before going up and over the wood pile obstruction. Only about 1 of every 20 bees did this. I'm thinking maybe they were older overwintered bees who didn't orient before they left the hive, and when they returned, were surprised by the wood pile obstruction?

I've also read if the obstruction is too skinny (not wide enough) the bees will simply fly around it. I made the wood pile obstruction wrap in a semi-circle fashion around the front of the hive to see how it works.

I'll wait and see how this wood pile obstruction works out this year. If it helps them from flying low to the ground as they come and go, maybe I'll keep it there.

Since it's not really a necessity for me they fly away higher, if it doesn't work, I may take it down.

Anyone else use obstructions to encourage the bee's flight paths?

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