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So...in beekeeping...

I wanted to post a question regarding urban beekeeping.

Is it easier to keep the bees under control and have less problems with them in a backyard with neighbors not too far nearby if they are kept in smaller hives rather than big hives? What do you think about this?

Part of what made me ask this is there's a number of youtube channels of guys doing backyard bee yards, and several of them look like they've focused on small nucs and nuc supers rather than the traditional deeps or normal size stuff.

I wonder if you can advise any other management tricks to keeping backyard style beehive areas from being noticed negatively.

Thanks.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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One of the surest ways to get noticed is to have the bees in your small hive swarm several times each year. Larger hives with plenty of room would tend to swarm less, all other factors being equal. Hide hives behind fences. Do not tell your neighbors you have bees and most likely they will never know. If you move out to the desert, you won't need to worry about it.
 

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I run large hives and do not have problems with swarming. I have only caught one hive that was wanting to grow swarm, and have not had any growth swarms that I know of.

I have had 2 small hives abscound, one was a mating nuc and one was a drone laying queen that I isolated with about a cup of bees.
 

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water source and a 6' flyway barrier are the top 2 that come to mind and are often required by local ordinances
 
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they've focused on small nucs and nuc supers rather than the traditional deeps or normal size stuff.
In fact, from safety stand point - small nucs are much safer than large units.
Even a single, but very large, hive alone may produce all kinds of safety hazards (often a case when you attempt to harvest honey from them - poorly timed!).

To compare, I can have 10 small nucs and not worry much of the safety (small units are inherently less defensive - they just have fewer bees and know it - to be wasteful with the bee lives).
Heck, I can have 20 mating nucs in the back yard and have not a worry (outside of exceeding the allowed limits as defined by the local ordinance).

Before asking here, however, refer to your local beekeeping ordinance and read what is says of the backyard beekeeping. That is the real starting point.
 

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I have found if you limit the queen to ONE deep (10 frames) with a queen excluder, AND you have drawn honey supers already (3 minimum, and remove capped supers and replace with drawn supers, so there is always an open super for nectar), then the colony will still get somewhat big, but not swarm.

If you keep the queen in a nuc, on just 5 frames with a queen excluder, be aware you'll need 3 stories above that, minimum. Maybe 4. Just for the bee population!!! The bees might decide the queen isn't doing a good enough job and supercede if you keep her access limited to 5 frames. Might be OK though, and a slightly smaller population.
 

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Arguably a new beekeeper should start with the standard double deep brood box arrangement as they will be able to get the most local advice on it
after a few years of success, then branch out.
 
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Arguably a new beekeeper should start with the standard double deep brood box arrangement as they will be able to get the most local advice on it
after a few years of success, then branch out.

I second this, or start with 3 mediums if you are concerned about weight. Trying to start with anything other than standard langstrom boxes will make your life harder and reduce your chances of sucess


For what its worth I run an unlimited brood nest (dont put in queen excluders). Some years the hive does not move back down into the bottom deep until late summer/fall, but the extra box on the stack does not bug me. I do not rotate boxes (I run a deep on bottom and stack mediums on it) in the spring, and the bees seem to do fine this way.
 

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A weak colony will be less agressive than a strong one. But bees are either thriving or dying. It's hard to keep them weak without splitting them constantly and soon you have 20 hives instead of 2. A small crowded colony will swarm which does not usually endear you to the neighbors...
 

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In my very hot (Florida) and very urban area (almost 1 Mil. residents), lighting is one of my biggest issues. Decide where you plan on locating your bees and the direction of the opening to the hives. Stand in that location and open your arms to a large V. Is their neighbors in that V? Is there your own outdoor lighting or your neighbors outdoor lighting in that area? If there is, pick a different location or understand you won't be using your lights in your backyard (summertime) and your neighbors will have bees all over their outdoor lighting at night. If that happens to be an outdoor seating area, expect major problems.

You should have 6 - 8 feet of working area behind the hive location with a 6ft. solid (wood or plastic) fence as a barrier to your neighbor. Give the bees a large unobstructed forward flight path and they'll have little reason to fly behind the hive location. My house sits about 60ft. from my bee yard with part of my house on one side and trees on the other side so they have to fly up and over my house when they head out to forage.

As others have said, little hives become big hives so you don't gain anything by keeping small hives unless you have unlimited time to manipulate your bees and someplace to move them to after you split them. I'm allowed 6 hives and half again as many nuc's at one time on my 1/3 acre lot. I use 8 frame double deep, double supers no excluder almost all year long. When they're getting too big, I remove frames of brood and food and start nucs that I then sell to pay for my hobby.

The hardest part of urban beekeeping is keeping up with the bees. In other words, you must give them more boxes when they need them. If you do that, you should be successful and your neighbors won't even know you have bees.
 
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