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Discussion Starter #1
Questionsfor those urban/suburban beeks.

First, I have 4 hives w/ 3 on double deeps. 4 th hive has been a growth problem child that will get requeened when it can. I'm on a half acre of old-built (50-60 yr old) homes with well establish trees, yards, and gardens. I'm near the city center, so no open fields for me.

My questions are, given the neighbors okay, was is a reasonable number of hives I can keep without limiting growth due to resource restrictions? I'm fairly sure I'm the only beekeeper in my immediate area, so I don't think I have competing hives very close by.

And second, since these are old homes, well planted with lots of flowering plants ( fruit, azeleas, maple, tulip, multiple gardens, border plants like zinnias and begonias) what is the expectation of flow? I am aware it's highly local, but have people found that a suburban area with things flowering all the time has a longer flow than farm/field crop hives with only one big flow and then smaller surrounding flows later?

Just curious what beeks have found given the different environments.

Thx. MsBeHaven
 

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My understanding is that suburbia has such a wide aray of plants that the potential is good. I live in an area of urban/suburban sprawl and there are so many non native landscape plants that bees love in addition to the wild natives. I think it also takes the dearth potential down because something is almost always blooming and is probably irrigated as well... But, I'm fairly new at this.

As far as the number of colonies, lots!?
 

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Biggest worry beside grouchy neighbors, would be all the pesticides those homeowners will be using on their pretty yard flowers.

I would think that 4 would be the limit that I would use unless I found some outyards several miles away.
 

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My understanding is that suburbia has such a wide aray of plants that the potential is good. I live in an area of urban/suburban sprawl and there are so many non native landscape plants that bees love in addition to the wild natives. I think it also takes the dearth potential down because something is almost always blooming and is probably irrigated as well... But, I'm fairly new at this.

As far as the number of colonies, lots!?
Yea, and there was also an article about how many of these so-called "good for bee" plants were produced in a garden center with neonics.

Not to mention all of the "bee-friendly" plants that honey bees never visit (Monarda is frequently suggested as a bee plant, however the large patches of it here were overwhelmed by bumblebees, but I have never once seen a honey bee anywhere near them despite the large number of hives in the area), and the other "bee-friendly" plants that are weird mutations of plants that would normally be interesting for bees but have had their nutritional interest dwindle to pretty much nothing through the selective breeding.

I think it's great that people have hives in suburban and urban settings, but I really don't see it as a bee haven. Sure, it's better than the worst rural monoculture areas, but diversified rural areas are the best environment for bees.

But to get back to the original question, I'd advise you to start small and then grow. It's really the only way to know what your local area can support. When production starts waning as hive number increases, you'll know you've reached the limit.
 

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I'm in a suburban/orchard setting, spring/early summer is fine thanks to the trees. Miss out on the late flows because of lack of field fauna. Got a 4 acre hay field across the street, just as it starts to bloom they cut it lol. If it were me I'd start checking for a outyard, just in case.
 

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Last year, we put 2 hives (limited by city code) on my tiny 50x100 lot. Obviously lot size doesn't really matter and every location has it's differences in available nectar and forage. Mine have done great, and in talking to another beekeeper / entomologist who does "house calls" - he sees the same thing and commented that they could get through a summer on just crape myrtles.

Where I am is being overtaken with eco-conscious hipsters, lawns are going away and drought tolerant natives are going in. Late last summer, I went to check as my country hives during a dearth and drought, we had a little rain earlier in the week which didn't make any difference in the fields and pastures near me but, in the city the Texas Sage (Cenizo) were covered in blooms so thick the air was perfumed.
 

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Could that explain the growth problem with the OP's forth hive?
Maybe. My first reflex would be to blame it on that hive though, not on the hive number. Food scarcity should affect all hives, not just one of them. That hive could be sick, it could have bad genetics, maybe it's getting robbed? I can't say, I can't see the hive.

To be sure, I'd recommend to feed the fourth hive to put all hives on an equal footing. It is possible that the fourth hive is suffering more greatly from food scarcity than the other hives because, due to having a smaller worker population, the ratio of foragers is smaller than the other hives' and thus it cannot compete as well as the others for the limited food sources. So it may be that food scarcity is to blame. But I'd still try to verify that before jumping to any conclusion, if I were him.

I don't really believe in pre-made answers for questions such as these. The environment is too important, and varies too greatly from one locale to the other. Making observations and taking notes is the only way to go. City beekeepers here market their honey differently according to which neighborhood it came from. And they pollen content analysis proves that even within the same city (Montreal), profiles do vary. There's really no way to predict what's the beekeeping potential of a locale without going ahead and testing its limits. And testing the limits multiple years in a row, too: just because you add a hive one year, and average honey harvest drops that year, does not automatically mean that the hive is to blame, could very well just be a bad season.
 

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I've got 2 hives in by suburban backyard, and I counted 8 hives in total within 1/4 mile of me. Our subdivision is a early seventies model. I think my major flow comes from trees in July and August. Mostly Catalpa and basswood/linden. I think because the are big mature trees. There are lots of perennial gardens in the subdivision as well as other flowering trees that help out the bees with pollen and some nectar but I don't think they do much for surplus. Those would be stone fruits, apples, hawthorn, different shrubs, dandelion( the elementary school gets zillions of them).
Outside the subdivision I don't think there is much forage at all, mostly dry land winter wheat and prairie dog villages.
I'm limiting my backyard hive count in my 1/4acre to keep it friendly with the neighbors (and other beekeepers). I do have an out yard on an organic farm a dozen miles away.
You might find the city arborist and see/influence the planting of flowering street trees.
 

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I got up to five with a couple of nucs in a similar setup. At times there a lot of bees in the air and I didn't want to have a problem with neighbours so I moved a couple out to a different yard. Three with a couple of nucs was better.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The problem with the fourth hive is queen related. The package killed the 1st 3 queens I gave it. In late July I gave up and let them raise their own. However, this queen is a poor layer. Brood only on 2-3 frames. I fed it all through the fall and winter, thinking it was not going to make it. If you can imagine the scrawniness hive of bees in a hive that always seems to manage to hold on, that's what I've got. And yes, I've stolen many a frame of brood from the other hives to keep it going. Looking for a good local queen when queen season ramps up to try again.
I probably should have combined it last year, but I do have to say its rag-tag persistence has me fighting for it to keep going for so long.
 
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