Raise Bees in Your Backyard

Raise Bees in Your Backyard

8 Ways to Be a Courteous Backyard Beekeeper

Tips for Managing a Small Apiary and Respecting Your Neighbors


By Angi Schneider

Being a good beekeeping neighbor is something all backyard beekeepers should be concerned about. When we started talking about keeping bees we knew we’d have to be careful since our property is only 1.5 acres and we’re surrounded by neighbors. We do not want to irritate any of our neighbors with our bees so we try to be respectful and thoughtful of our neighbors by following these good beekeeping practices:

  1. Know your local laws regarding backyard beekeeping. Learning what your local and state beekeeping laws are is something every backyard beekeeper needs to do before starting beekeeping. Usually there are not any ordinances or laws that strictly prohibit backyard beekeepers, but there are usually some that restrict beekeeping practices. This could include how many hives can be on your property or how far away they need to be from neighboring properties. We live outside the city limits and our county does not regulate beekeeping, so we just need to make sure we follow any state regulations for backyard beekeepers.
  2. Always have water available for your bees. Like all of us, bees need water to survive. In the summer a bee colony can use a quart or more of water a day. Bees are super resourceful so if you don’t provide water or are gone for a few weeks and your water source runs dry, they’ll find water elsewhere. The problem with that is that your neighbor’s kiddie pool may become their favorite watering hole. And most neighbors don’t take too kindly to a bunch of bees trying to swim with their children. But it’s also not good for the bees as most pools are treated with chemicals and most do not have landing pads floating around where bees can drink and rest safely.
  3. Position your hive opening away from your neighbor’s homes. Your bees will be coming and going all day long and it’s best to have them leaving their hive and flying toward your home and not your neighbor’s home. Backyard beekeepers are responsible for keeping the bees from being a problem for neighbors, and no one wants to have bees buzzing by their faces whenever they go outside.
  4. Use fences, screens, or hedges to alter their flight pattern. Bees keep a flight pattern when leaving and returning to their hive. And that flight pattern can be altered with a little planning on your part. Backyard beekeepers can build a fence or screen or plant a hedge near the front of the hive, so the bees are forced to fly high and steep when taking off and landing. This will help them fly overhead sooner.
  5. Be helpful. There are people who legitimately are allergic to bees. But even if none of your neighbors are allergic, they might still be concerned about honeybee farming so close to their property. Most of the time their concerns are easy to resolve if you just take the time to educate them on what you are doing and why the bees are acting a certain way. Once, a neighbor knocked on our front door to tell us that she couldn’t go out to her back yard because our bees were swarming all over the place. Our son went over to see what the problem was and sure enough there were hundreds of bees flying around the back porch. Our neighbors had a new recycling bucket for soda cans on their porch and our bees were feasting on the remnants of soda left in the cans. Our son explained what was happening and let them know that if they rinse out the cans, the bees won’t be back. The issue was completely resolved in five minutes.
  6. Encourage your neighbors to feed the bees. Most neighbors will be excited or, at least, intrigued by you keeping bees and will ask what they can do to help. Planting plants that attract bees is a great way for them to be a part of what you’re doing and they’ll have a good harvest because of the bees. It’s a win-win situation.
  7. Share your harvest. People are most excited about things they benefit from, so every so often share a small jar of your honey with your closest neighbors. When a backyard beekeeper brings over a jar of honey it will put a smile on even the most concerned neighbor’s face.
  8. Only keep gentle bees—this is the most important backyard beekeeper rule. The more populated the area you live in, the gentler your bees need to be. This is especially important if you live in an area that has Africanized genetics in the bee population. I know we all want to do whatever we can to help bees survive but keeping aggressive bees in an urban or suburban area is not wise. Our family does, in fact, keep feral bees in our hives. However, we have no problem destroying a hive that gets too aggressive. By aggressive, I don’t mean bees that sting because you are mowing near their hive and shooting grass into the opening. Those bees are probably just defending their hive. By aggressive, I mean bees that start attacking you at the watering hole or start dive bombing your head when you’re on the other side of the yard. Keeping aggressive bees in a backyard apiary puts all the backyard beekeepers in your area at risk, not to mention yourself, your family and your neighbors.
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