placing 2 hives on city lot
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  1. #1
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    Jul 2015
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    Green Bay, Wisconsin
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    16

    Default placing 2 hives on city lot

    I live in the city and beekeeping is legal here, and the ordinance is silent on how many hives a person can have. To keep my backyard as usable by humans as possible, I put my bees on a bit of a side yard. The hive is about 8 feet from my 6 foot privacy fence facing into my property to minimize the risk of my neighbors having interactions with them, and it was never an issue last year. Last year everything went well and everyone is happy.

    This year I was hoping to add to my apiary by adding another colony to that space. I had ordered a nice overwintered nuc last fall because I wasn't sure if my bees would overwinter and I figured if they didn't, I'd have the nuc, and if they did I would just have 2 hives. So far so good, my colony is still going so I started to make plans to add the second colony to my yard. I told my mentor what I was planning to do and I was a little surprised to receive dire warnings about it. He acted like I was nuts to want to put another colony in there. I've seen lots of people with 2 colonies on city lots so I wasn't really worried about it but he seemed to think that having 2 full strength hives at my house would be dangerous and "a lot more potential for interaction" which means he thinks someone will be WAY more likely to get stung just going about their business.


    He suggests that since I would like to keep a nuc on the side as well if I have a chance to make one, that I just keep one of these colonies as a nuc and that would be better. I'm not really a fan of this plan because I paid a pretty decent sum of money for this overwintered nuc, I kinda wanted to use it to make a full strength colony, not choke it back. I had planned to maybe use a split as my little nuc on the side.

    I've polled a couple other local beekeepers I know but they're all pretty new, like me. Wondering what a larger group of beeks would say, so that's why I'm posting here. I know a lot depends on the bees' temperament and I know the colony that is already here is very docile and gentle. Obviously the surest way to make sure no one gets stung is to not have bees...but I enjoy being a beekeeper so that ship has sailed

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
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    2,461

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    Have two yards in a city. 12 colonies in one very large yard (2 acres).
    My back yard has 7 and is very small.

    The one thing about urban beekeeping that I'd stress is to check your bees weekly and make sure they're queen right. Queenless hives are extra defensive for 4-6 weeks and give me the most trouble. It happens but you can at least warn the neighbors that the bees are pissy for this month or something. Best to just give some honey to the neighbors and not ever talk about any bee problems.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    ElDorado,Arkansas,USA
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    1,602

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    I have 12 in my yard right now with a couple swarms I caught.I usually have 10 here and no one has ever had a problem.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Brown County, IN
    Posts
    2,300

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    When I began keeping bees, my mentor kept between 15-20 colonies in his backyard - a typical subdivision lot. I wouldn't recommend that many, but 2-4 seems perfectly reasonable.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Greenville, SC USA
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    463

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    I have (what sounds like) a similar setup with where my bees are in my urban lot. I have two hives and I don't think anyone around my neighborhood would be able to discern if I had one or two hives from the visible bee activity. A beek, watching the apiary, would see the difference but that's it. I'd definitely go with two hives in your position. A big part of that recommendation (as this had been hugely beneficial for me) is having two to compare. Mine are very different in strength (I'm only about a year in) and I likely wouldn't know that if I had only one (and no prior experience with bees).
    Go for two and if you're like me you'll soon be thinking , "I can fit a third hive right there, and maybe a fourth over there."

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Memphis, TN
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    95

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to add another hive or two, or more. A privacy fence works wonders. Mine are 8 feet from a sidewalk, but passers-by are unaware and unmolested. Good luck with your nuc!

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Oyster Bay, NY, USA
    Posts
    476

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    Quote Originally Posted by SG12 View Post
    I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to add another hive or two, or more. A privacy fence works wonders. Mine are 8 feet from a sidewalk, but passers-by are unaware and unmolested. Good luck with your nuc!


    Another practitioner of Stealth Urban Beekeeping here. My hives are hidden behind a fence, kids' playhouse, garage, etc but there is one spot on the street where if a passerby is looking, they could see them. I am tinkering with the idea of painting them to look exactly like those squat gray air conditioner units. Boring, nothing to see here! Move along, people.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
    Posts
    2,270

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    I've seen a lot of very inappropriate urban beekeeping.

    You must control swarms. You must have an "outyard" and be prepared to move problem or swarmy hives without delay on a moments notice.

    I know we are all supposed to support each other and go "Rah, Rah!" when someone wants to keep hives. However, unkempt hives in the city cause a major PR problem for all beekeepers.

    Between 1 and 4% of the population is deathly allergic to bees. In the country, a hive can live its whole life and never encounter another human being than the beekeeper. In a city block, 200 people may live within sight of the hive. Statistically, it is certain some of those people are going to be seriously allergic.

    Beehives have become "status" symbols in a certain class of urban hipsters -- but this "embellishment" runs counter to the age-old pattern of a solitary beekeeper with full-time charge of their skeps. A beehive left alone all day while the owner is in his cubicle working on the next "hot app", is simply a potential nuisance to the community.

    You let a hive go into swarm mode 'cause its a pricey "overwintered nuc" and you want it to boom, and those swarmy bees are going to get testy and defensive (its what swarm hives do). A interaction between a testy hive and an allergic individual is a tragedy.

    It is a universal right of passage for 13 year-old boys to double dare their 12 year-old brothers to beat on beehives with sticks and rocks. The raggamuffins hop fences to fulfill the dare. These "interactions" are more fraught in the city than in the country, and much more likely to involve lawyered-up urban helicopter parents than in the country where the "wild" is a fact of life.

    A very common pattern in urban beekeeping is the "hoarder" who from 2 to 4 to 16 to 90 hives fill their yard beyond all reason. I have been called out on a number of enforcement calls to deal with these aggregations.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Panama City, Florida, USA
    Posts
    1,046

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    See this sample document from Florida. It shows what the state thinks is a reasonable colony density for non agricultural lands of different sizes. Also other suggestions on urban/suburban beekeeping.

    http://www.freshfromflorida.com/cont...CA_for_EAB.pdf



    My backyard apiary (just over an acre in size). Hives sit within 50 feet of my house, no issues with family being stung.
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  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Oyster Bay, NY, USA
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    476

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    I've seen a lot of very inappropriate urban beekeeping.

    You must control swarms. You must have an "outyard" and be prepared to move problem or swarmy hives without delay on a moments notice.

    I know we are all supposed to support each other and go "Rah, Rah!" when someone wants to keep hives. However, unkempt hives in the city cause a major PR problem for all beekeepers.

    Between 1 and 4% of the population is deathly allergic to bees. In the country, a hive can live its whole life and never encounter another human being than the beekeeper. In a city block, 200 people may live within sight of the hive. Statistically, it is certain some of those people are going to be seriously allergic.

    Beehives have become "status" symbols in a certain class of urban hipsters -- but this "embellishment" runs counter to the age-old pattern of a solitary beekeeper with full-time charge of their skeps. A beehive left alone all day while the owner is in his cubicle working on the next "hot app", is simply a potential nuisance to the community.

    You let a hive go into swarm mode 'cause its a pricey "overwintered nuc" and you want it to boom, and those swarmy bees are going to get testy and defensive (its what swarm hives do). A interaction between a testy hive and an allergic individual is a tragedy.

    It is a universal right of passage for 13 year-old boys to double dare their 12 year-old brothers to beat on beehives with sticks and rocks. The raggamuffins hop fences to fulfill the dare. These "interactions" are more fraught in the city than in the country, and much more likely to involve lawyered-up urban helicopter parents than in the country where the "wild" is a fact of life.

    A very common pattern in urban beekeeping is the "hoarder" who from 2 to 4 to 16 to 90 hives fill their yard beyond all reason. I have been called out on a number of enforcement calls to deal with these aggregations.
    Hi JW,
    You are right about all the points you make, although not all urban beekeepers fit the image you describe.

    I do have an outyard, upstate in Vermont, where I am able to move splits or swarms. I go there every week.

    I don't keep bees because it's a status symbol or because it's trendy. I keep bees because they fascinate me. I don't have a "pricey overwintered nuc." I started my hive with a package and overwintered it myself. I'm not a hipster or a showoff. I'm more the introverted hermit type. I detest apps, hot or not, and don't even use them, let alone build them. I prefer to build real things, by hand.

    I don't work in a cubicle. I work at home and see my hive all day, every day. I am actually the very model you cite: a solitary beekeeper in full-time charge of my hive. In fact, I often move my work outside, so I can do it while watching my hive.

    There are no "ragamuffins" within miles of here. When the kids around here are not at their expensive private schools, they are all inside, playing with their game consoles or the newest "hot apps," and have no interest in going outside, much less winding their way into my fenced, hidden, boring backyard so they can "dare each other to beat on the hive with sticks." I don't know anyone, child or adult, who thinks that would be something fun to do.

    I'm definitely not a hoarder of bees. One hive is plenty. If they need to be split, the extras are getting loaded into the back of my pickup truck and taken to a new home in Vermont, where I see moose more often than I see my neighbors.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Green Bay, Wisconsin
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    Thank you for the helpful responses!

    My current hive is about 40 feet away from my back door and we have never had any issues. I read the sample doc from florida and found it very interesting how many hives they think are appropriate for each parcel size. Mine fits into the more than a quarter but less than half acre. I see they would allow six, but 2 is plenty for me here. I have a third and that one is going to an outyard but I wanted to keep 2 here.

    Thanks again!

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Green Bay, Wisconsin
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    I did not think I fit the image of urban beekeepers described a few posts up, either.

    I inspect my hives weekly. I am not a hipster. My bees are not a status symbol, no one can even see them. I don't work in a cubicle, I am home all but maybe a couple hours a day. I have an outyard where my other nuc is going. I am not a hoarder, I just want 2 hives here. Not even my third is staying here because 2 is really all I want here. I can't say for sure there are no ragamuffins within miles...but if there are, they are unaware of my hives thanks to the tall privacy fence that surrounds my entire property.

    I DID say that I did not want to run a nuc off my "expensive overwintered nuc" but I did not say I wanted them to go boom. I think there is a big difference between letting a colony go berserk and take the nuclear option and just wanting to let my nuc develop into a nice, normal sized managed colony. I meant that I wanted the nuc I run later to come from a difference source than the nice ones I purchased. I apologize for any confusion there.

    Just wanted to know if it was really that unreasonable to have 2 hives on a city lot and it appears it is not.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Gadsden, Alabama
    Posts
    85

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    I would check with your local code enforcement office. The city I live in allows beekeeping in that there is nothing in the law that says I can't do it. But when I called city hall I was told that anything more than 2 hives is considered "livestock" and is not allowed.


    Oh, and I do work in a cubical (actually I have a door now) and create apps (maybe not hot ones though).

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Nampa, Idaho
    Posts
    57

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    Well, I've only been doing this for one year, and I did manage to make it through winter with one hive - but really, I think two hives is a practical minimum. Otherwise, you will eventually need to rely on outside resources to rescue a troubled colony.

    I'm on the edge of an urban area. Urban in front of me and suburban in back. 1/3 acre lot with neighbors close on one side. Hive stand has room for three without crowding and is in the back corner next to neighbors, with a 4' fence. A lot is said about high fences forcing the bees to fly high, but I can stand directly across the fence from my two hives and never come close to a bee.

    I agree that it's important to actively manage your urban bees, but who tells suburban bees ( or those on the farm at the edge of town) where not to go? I think this has a lot to do with the make-up of the culture of your area. In my case, we had a newcomer (from where, I don't know) in the subdivision down the road who complained to the county about the dust raised by neighboring horses. The county basically told her to suck it up, and everyone around her that had been here a while thought it was pretty funny.

    It's a case of "how urban is urban?" I guess. Aside from the law, it's important to be a good neighbor. These things always work out better if you are one. Do you know if your neighbors have a problem with bees?

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    Green Bay, Wisconsin
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    16

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    I've had the bees in my yard for a year already and my neighbors are fine with them.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    185

    Default Re: placing 2 hives on city lot

    Yeah, I'd agree with some of those points but I'd also have to quibble with that stereotype of the urban beek too - although I am undeniably hip I don't think I would be considered an urban hipster, nor would those in my club. There are definitely those who are attracted to beekeeping because of the "cool" factor, but not that many, they don't last long, and I don't think that's an urban phenomenon. I've seen a lot of suburban dilettantes, especially after that "Ask This Old House" episode last year. With five bee clubs within a 30 mile radius I'd say they are plenty of serious urban and suburban beeks around here and lots of support for anyone who wants to do it well. I don't encourage everyone to become beekeepers; I am honest about the amount of work - that scares most people off. But I also share lots of ways they can help bees and beekeepers without becoming a week themselves.

    I have two hives on .11 acre in the city and do just fine. Two hives is the limit for a residential lot in my city, but my neighbors are amenable to my using their lots if I want to expand - I don't, at least, not until I get better at this. There are certainly challenges to beekeeping in the city, but they are not unique. But I do think we have a special responsibility in an urban environment. Proper placement, watering, and swarm control are absolutely critical to preventing your bees becoming a nuisance - in Boston, even with the laws allowing beekeeping, if your bees become a nuisance, they can shut you right down. I work hard to make this all seem as safe and calm as possible, even down to my pink bee jacket. I keep my hives out of sight, but give honey to my neighbors twice a year. The allergy issue is really overblown. 54 people died in the US last year from bee/wasp/hornet stings - that many died from shootings in my city alone. And not having beekeeping does not mean not having bees. The bees will be here in any case. Better they be well-managed bees that are bred for gentleness. I think urban beekeeping, done properly, is a real opportunity to educate an increasing urban population on environmental issues - the Boston Tour de Hives is a great example of that.

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