Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...
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  1. #1
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    Default Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    I respect all of the city beekeepers out there. My hat is indeed off to ya'll. I'm only a 3rd honey season beekeeper and consider myself a rank newbie and I am blessed to be in a rural area with my bees.

    Having said that, I am in awe of someone who can keep honey bees on a 5,000sf lot in a residential area with the neighbors' houses a basketball throw away from them...and keep the peace with all of these neighbors. Even a 10,000sf lot seems small to me...as I live in the country.

    This may seem like some worse case scenarios and they probably are, but being with no neighbors around me I can let my imagination run somewhat wild. I'm posting this partially in true wonderment in how you city dwellers do it, but also to possibly lay out obstacles for people wanting to start keeping bees in the city and for arguments and situations that might arise that could keep them from keeping bees. I have actually wanted to post this for a while now. Here's some things that come to mind...presented in a paranoid or fantasy tainted fashion.

    A 5,000sf lot is basically 50'x 100'...I've seen swarms, that once in the air and before consolidating, easily spread out to cover a 50'+ wide piece of sky. But they don't just hover over their hives...they drift in one direction or another and usually travel at least a hundred or more feet away from the hive...in my situation they drift until they run into an obstacle such as a hedgerow or tree line....or in the case of a residential area, it could be someone else's house or crepe myrtle tree or row of ornamental pear trees or a kid's swing set or.... Swarms cluster in the darnedest places...what happens if a large (or small) swarm cluster of bees covers the door of a neighbor's car when they need to go to work or have a doctors appointment...and you're not at home?

    And "increase"? If you do have a swarm and catch it and re-hive, well that's another colony in your yard and will eventually add to the local bee population...and another colony that could possibly throw another swarm later. What do you do with the incidental "increases"? Some of the best swarm prevention methods involve building up strong hives and doing artificial swarms...splits or pulling brood frames and replacing with foundation or drawn domb...but, the brood frames are then used for starting nucs...bee population for your backyard...increases.

    Flying bees... I understand that a solid fence can be built to get the bees to fly "up and over" pedestrian traffic areas, but still...isn't there bees that simply don't understand the reason of the fences and go where they want to? It's not like we can put an instruction sheet on the inside of the fence for the bees to read so they will know to stay at least 8' AGL. I understand that most will adapt and fly up and over, but the bee population around the area will increase and people will (or at least should) start seeing more honey bees foraging on their flowers...and naturally there will be a sting once in a while. Will they mutter under their breath about that @"*!#(@!!! beekeeper over on Wildflower Street or come over angry and foaming at the mouth screaming that their kid has been stung by your bee (even though it was a yellow jacket that stung them?).

    What about the person six houses over on the street behind you that suddenly finds bees going in and out of a crack behind the trimboard of their brick house. You keep bees, these *must* have come from you. Will they come to you stating it's *your* responsibility to get them out?

    Then you have the neighbors two doors down with the kiddie pool...and suddenly their kiddies are screaming in terror over the bee invasion of their paradise. Or, there dog's water bowl is "infested" by honey bees...and they're *your* bees, naturally. Or, they've been watering their lawn and it's covered in bees...and again, they're *your* bees and *you* have to do "something" about them. Or, they have a leaky hose bib and the area around it is "covered with thousands of bees" when they go to turn the water off...

    How about the do-gooder who naturally is "deadly allergic" to honey bee stings (but has never been stung by one) and tries to incite the other neighbors to line up in opposition to your beekeeping desires. Will a pint of honey buy him/her off? Probably not so you need to win the neighbors over to your side.

    And, with a couple of bee colonies in your backyard, things can be a little cramped. Remember we're talking a 50x100 foot lot here...your house takes up a good portion of that, you probably have a driveway. There's probably a small front yard so there is maybe a 50x50 backyard? If you have "setbacks" you have to adhere to per zoning rules, there is a chance your beehives will be in the dead center of that backyard. Now, during a flow the bees will be happily occupying themselves working themselves to death as the bring in the gold. But eventually that plays out and the bee population stays "at home" most of the time (except for the sporadic foragers and water haulers). When the dearth hits they can sometimes get a little defensive, too. So now in your 50x50 backyard you have maybe 100,000 honey bees sitting around their hives. It's summer, maybe a cookout with friends...and 100,000 bees? Check your Coca Cola before taking a sip...oh, and that open freezer of homemade ice cream...oh, and they like Fosters and Alaskan Amber, too.

    Ok, so maybe all of that is some worse case, never-gonna-happen, paranoid-needs-a-shrink, what-the-heck-is-this-guy-thinking thoughts. But, it's just some things I'd wondered about in regards to keeping honey bees in close proximity to other people's homes. There is apparently a *lot* of people that are successful at doing this...and you have my utmost respect! Maybe these thoughts will help prospective city beeks to make some decisions or to possibly prepare for opposition that they may face in keeping bees. Maybe it will help them possibly prepare answers ahead of time for questions posed by nervous neighbors and city councils.

    You see, I probably have a similar mindset as non-beekeeping city dwellers in regards to "how" can bees be controlled so that they are not a pest for nearby neighbors...I haven't had to deal with neighbors so I don't know what I would do. It seems amazing to me that it is possible...but it is, there's too many folks successfully managing to do it for it not to be possible.

    If you are considering keeping bees in the city, don't be discouraged by opposition but rather prepare for the opposition by educating yourself *and* them. Even with the opposition out there, there are still lots of non-beekeepers that understand the importance of a local honey bee population and who welcome our golden throng.

    This was rather rambling, probably off-the-wall, and hopefully I didn't miss my "mark" by very far. Feel free to add to it...

    FWIW,
    Ed

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  3. #2
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    Apr 2014
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    Indiana, PA
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    I live on a lot like you describe

    Two of my neighbors know I keep bees and are into it especially for the honey

    The rest don't need to know

    I think you have to take extra precautions like having a close water source and a contingency plan for hot hives and a bait box

    But for any negativity I've seen I've seen 10 times the enthusiasm

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    My best producing hives are by my home. Lots of forage for the girls in the city, pretty well year round. I always include all my neighbors on a harvest and also have talked with them about me keeping bees. Some are favorable some are not. The ones that have doubts I spend more time with them and make sure their children understand the "bees" and what they do for all of us.
    They may have my bees or a hive 2 miles away. No difference. That is explained.
    It's risky but well worth the risk. The popo and firefighters have my name and number for help when they need it also. They also will get some of the harvest.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    This past week we brought some bees to a rural retreat center for a youth program.
    One of the students was stung by a bee a few hours BEFORE we arrived. If we had arrived earlier there would have bee no doubt that the sting was a direct result of us having brought in bees.
    Sometimes the lights all shining on me
    Other times I can barely see. -The Grateful Dead

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    Intheswamp- I just raised 100 queens on my 50'x50' parcel, but I will agree one has to educate and be very
    generous with their honey.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    A 6 foot privacy fence takes care of most flying issues. It took my neighbors 3 years to figure out I had bees. A jar of honey usually solves any issues with neighbors as well. Swarms happen. I catch a lot in urban areas, they aren't much of an issue.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    I would check your local city laws and ordinances in regards to keeping bees within city limits.

    Sometimes you'll get really ignorant people that are negative about bees. If the law is on your side, you won't have to deal with trying to change the opinions of those.

    I'm fortunate to be on a half acre, sandwiched between two open minded neighbors that live on over an acre each. They are all very supportive of me raising bees.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    Concern about the "traffic and collisions" because the water haulers would have to fly across and close to my main shed door seems trivial to what the city dwellers deal with on almost every side

  10. #9
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    Oct 2013
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    I've had two top bar hives in the suburbs for two years now. One of the reasons I picked top bar hives was that they don't look like beehives and so they don't stand out. I only asked the neighbors that were in sight of my backyard before I got the bees and none of them had a problem with it. Most of the others probably don't know they're there. When the bees go out foraging they fly straight up and that's the last I see of them. I have no idea where they go. The neighbor behind me has water fountains that my bees like (despite the fact that I have three in my back yard). However, he likes to watch them zooming in and out over the fence getting water from his fountains. I've had people from the neighboorhood (who found out through the grapevine), work, church, etc come by to see my hives and they're all pro-beekeeping. I've never received a negative comment.

    One of the things that concerns me is that my fence in the backyard is going to need to be replaced at some point and it may be hard to get someone to do it with beehives sitting around. The same goes if I ever have to get a tree taken down back there. The price will probably double or triple when they see bees.
    Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards

  11. #10
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    Indianapolis, IN
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    I'm very lucky to have cool neighbors. They like honey too

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    >One of the things that concerns me is that my fence in the backyard is going to need to be replaced at some point and it may be hard to get someone to do it with beehives sitting around. The same goes if I ever have to get a tree taken down back there. The price will probably double or triple when they see bees.

    Now is a good time to line up a place for them when that happens. It need to be at least 2 miles away and you can take them there at night and bring them back when the work is done. It's always good to have a place lined up in case their temperament takes a bad turn so you can avoid problems by moving them immediately when that happens before there is time for people to hurt/upset.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    Quote Originally Posted by BeeGora View Post
    One of the things that concerns me is that my fence in the backyard is going to need to be replaced at some point and it may be hard to get someone to do it with beehives sitting around. The same goes if I ever have to get a tree taken down back there. The price will probably double or triple when they see bees.
    Just close up the hive during the work and move it to your garage. Especially the tree work should take less than a day, so that should not be a problem with the bees. Once the fenceworkers are out of range of the bees you can move them back.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    Quote Originally Posted by BeeGora View Post
    One of the things that concerns me is that my fence in the backyard is going to need to be replaced at some point and it may be hard to get someone to do it with beehives sitting around. The same goes if I ever have to get a tree taken down back there.
    This concerns me too. When I replace the fence, I'll either do it myself or if I hire pros, maybe have it done during winter when bees are generally snuggled in the hive. It would be a pain to build a fence (pouring concrete, etc.) while wearing a bee suit.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    I am in a fairly dense neighborhood in MD. When I started my 2 hives I talked to my direct neighbors who were fine with a trade of silence for a jar of honey. (just kidding, my county passed an allowance for honeybees in the suburbs.) The bees do not bother anyone, have not seen nor heard of any invading a kiddie pool or going after a fountain - but we have a collection pond behind my house, so that is their main water source. Most of my neighbors have really forgotten that I have bees - they are always surprised when I ring the door in July with a jar. The bees blend in very well with the rest of the outside world.

    I live very close to Wash DC and Baltimore. There are very active Bee groups in both cities - and the bees do very well there. My friend in DC gets about 4 to 6 supers per hive - he loves DC - so many flowering trees and ornamentals that the bees have nectar at their front door. The flow there is from April 1 until well into late July, or longer.

    So don't you worry anymore about us city dwellers - we are doing just fine. And we don't have to put up electric fences for bears! or skunks, or badgers, etc.

    New Bee Lady

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...

    Quote Originally Posted by NewBeeLady View Post
    So don't you worry anymore about us city dwellers - we are doing just fine. And we don't have to put up electric fences for bears! or skunks, or badgers, etc.
    You might be surprised. I saw a skunk in our neighborhood (dense suburb homes, not those 5 acre mcmansions), and have raccoons regularly.

  17. #16

    Default Re: Problems keeping city bees...some thoughts from a *rural* (newbie) beek...



    You would think I have problems with neighbors looking at this picture, right? I have only been doing this for three years but so far I have had no serious problems or complaints. Why?
    1. I don't let the bees swarm. I actively monitored them and I split both my hives pre swarm this year. If you make increases you can sell them or give them away.
    2. I give them a constant water source so the don't have to go find one.
    3. I give away a lot of honey. This builds community and bonds people to the hive. If you are eating something that the hive produced the bees become you friends, even your pets. if someone gets stung I give them more honey. When I apologies for having so many hives people say they like them, they aren't bothered by them. people in the city have a lot of other things to be annoyed about. They don't notice the bees.
    4. I am not doing anything illegal. I register my hives.

    Keep in mind bees don't dance nectar sources that are within 100 feet of the hive. I only notice the bees around during the dureth but there are just as many Bumble Bees, Japanese Beatles and other types of bees and wasps.

    Yes I have gotten nervous when I have really pissed them off and there are people 20 feet away but they usually are too focused on attacking me to bother with other people.

    So I am encouraging people, if they are on the fence about urban beekeeping, to give it a try. Mating queens in the city is an awesome thing. It has given me a great sense of being connected to nature in a concrete jungle.
    Last edited by Margot1d; 07-08-2014 at 04:55 PM.
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  18. #17
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    Default Bees in Santa Monica

    My bees are located in the middle of densely populated LA area. Relationships with neighbors is always a concern. In most cases the jar of honey is sufficient. Some neighbors are complainers does not matter what. In 4 years of operation, two "official" stings had reported. Over the same period of time our bee-community had tripled - 3 neighbors have a beehives. My personal biggest concern is bees using somebody's water pool. It can be a real problem. Swarms? They usually occupy my swarm-boxes. Otherwise - it is impossible to justify the source of the swarm, who is who? We setup one day per week, which is devoted to my bees - all neighbors aware of that and it seems to me they feel better (plus honey) with knowledge, that my bees are "on schedule." I normally report the state of my bees to neighbors after inspection.

    In my opinion, urban beekeeping has some advantages: continues and diverse source of nectar/pollen all year around; multiple water-sources; much less pesticides used (if any); no pollination business - less diseases spread. At the beginning of 20 century, Los Angeles had 100000 (hundred thousand) registered beehives and it was fine. Now, LA is against the bees - bees are not welcome in LA.
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  19. #18
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    Default Re: Bees in Santa Monica

    Well, looks like my post started some conversation. Most of the posts appear to state that there is not much problem with keeping bees in the city. Only a few comments about problems with neighbors which sounds good. Interestingly, no or at least brief comments from people who have had issues with people regarding there pools, or people with problems with city councils prohibiting beekeeping. I believe the many cities are indeed moving to a more bee-friendly stance but I'm sure there are beeks having trouble getting ordinances changed. What about HOAs?...are they changing over to being bee-friendly?

    There are still cities and towns that do not allow beekeeping, though. A simple search here on beesource for "city council" will bring up a few of them. I was hoping some dialogue would happen as to give folks in bee-less areas some ideas and preparedness for approaching their city councils or whatever about changing ordinances to favor beekeeping. Maybe some of what has been said will help.

    Ed

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Bees in Santa Monica

    I have a 1 acre lot and beekeeping isn't always a cake walk. Bees fly right past the bucket of water with chlorine and head straight for the muddy drainage ditch at the property line, then to the neighbors pool a few yards beyond. A small lynch mob of neighborhood mothers met me at the doorstep when I had swarming problems the first couple of years. Neighbors trying to sell their house and it has been on the market for a loooog time (did a potential buyer see one of the hives and subconsciously decided not to make an offer?). Bees flight pattern may bee temporarily interrupted by a tall fence, but when the neighbors' back yards are chock full of blooming white clover, the bees go right on down again. I also happen to live by the only family left in the US that doesn't let their kids watch TV and video games and makes their kids play outside -usually barefoot in the yard full of clover. Using the ol' "How do you know it was one of my bees?" line is an asinine way to respond to a mother with a crying kid, and offering a jar of honey only goes so far.

    Don't fool yourselves; your bees may be causing problems that you are not aware of. Neighbors may stilled be pissed but not be saying anything.

    We are pretty much all friends so everything is cool, but I have promised on more than one occasion to move the hives if anyone has a real problem.
    Honey Badger Don't Care ಠ_ಠ ~=[,,_,,]:3

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Bees in Santa Monica

    There were no hives in my backyard, nor anyone else's when I was a kid. I stepped on honey bees barefoot frequently. Bees happen.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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