This question is often debated among beekeepers. Sometimes you will even see one beekeeper trying both ways – part of apiary under direct sun, other in shade. So what is my opinion, what to chose? Sun or shade? To be perfectly honest, both choices have their own benefits. In mentioned tips for beekeepers I advise to place supers in shade with early sunlight exposure. In this article I will try to elaborate this advice.
Some beekeepers prefer placing their colonies under direct sun. Reason for that is not just due to belief that gatherers from that colony would work better, but more. They believe that it will also help their honey to ripen faster. Logic dictates that it happens due to high temperatures inside supers. Exposure to the early light will signal to the bees that its time to work. On the other hand, exposure to heat has negative impact on the productivity of the hive. They would require to invest more strength into ventilating their colony instead on to gathering resources.
My Opinion on the debate “Sun or Shade?”
If we observe behavior of honeybees in their natural habitat, we will find out that they establish their colonies either in caves, hollow trees, top of trees or under branches of trees on edge of forests. Neither of those places are actually in dark, but they do provide minimal amount of cooling shade. It’s not too dark, that it lacks early light which urges honeybees to start working early. It has just enough shade that it’s easier to maintain temperature of hive at optimum. At your man-made habitat (supers), this will depend from type of supers which you are using and climate of region in which you live.
Some old models of supers do not have ventilation at all. This doesn’t allow beekeepers to have any effect on micromanagement of hives temperature. As result, during hot summer days, you will be able to notice honeybees hanging outside to vent the hive. Simply to cool down inside of colony. Not just that, but also there will be lot of honeybees in front of hive entrances, cooling it by swinging their wings.
And of curse, this will depend from climate of your region (if it is colder region, logically your supers would need more sun exposure, while if your in hot areas, your honeybees will highly benefit from shade).
I personally would suggest as mentioned before, to keep honeybees protected from afternoon heat, but to be exposed to earliest light of rising sun (such is just under trees, or forests). In conclusion, to know what would work best for you, I suggest that you spend some time observing behavior of honeybees at your apiary. Their behavior will be good guidance to you. Do they wish shade or not. Certainly, make sure that you provide them source of water, either natural or man-made, because it is crucial in cooling down of hive.