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...