Beekeeping 101 - The Model Bee Yard
Somewhere the perfect bee yard exists, probably. It has all of the attributes below. Most are the result of a beekeeper's style that fits both location and management. Bee yards should be easy to get to, right-up-next-to-the-hives easy, all year long. Or at least whenever you need to get there. Newly plowed fields, sudden fences, rising creeks, too muddy roads, locked gates and the like should be anticipated and avoided.
The most accessible location is worthless without something for the bees to forage on and there should be enough of it to produce surplus honey for every colony in the apiary. Field crops, hay crops, tree bloom, weed species, horticultural or oil crops all can work, but there needs to be large areas of them, blooming all season to fill the bin. Water is required all season long, too. A lake, stream or pond is best. Swimming pools, cattle troughs or leaky faucets are not good.
A wind break, especially during the colder months is recommended. A tree line, fence or hill works best. These can serve as shade producers during the warmer months and non-observation screens from the public all year long. Air drainage is important. Cold air drains downhill, so colonies at the bottom of a hill get dumped on in cold weather. Hill tops suffer winds and wind chill problems. Avoid both. Exposure seems important to some. Colonies receiving early day sun start earlier than those in the shade (at least with some races of bees). Southwest is the most common, and probably works best.
Protection from all manner of beasts should be provided. Bear (electric fencing), skunks and opossorn (fencing, barriers cattle and horses (regular fences, though stout), and prying eyes (screening, hedges) all work. For large out yards, an out-building works as a storage shed, work area, extracting room (well, sometimes) and lunch room when needed.
Most of all, a bee yard should be a pleasant place to visit. Scenic, quiet, distant (no matter how close to whatever) and, most importantly - NOT a challenge to use.