Many people wonder if you can keep bees in the city since other animals tend to need more space. The short answer is YES you absolutely can keep bees – even in very small spaces. But if you don’t do it right you are setting yourself up for a neighborhood war.
Use This Secret of Bee Behavior to Save Your Neighbors
Honeybees will develop a primary flight path just in front of their hive opening. It makes sense – that’s the path all the bees use going in and out of the hive. This means that you, the beekeeper, are able to control their flight path to save your neighbors from accidental stings.
One way to so this is to position the hive opening with a fence, hedge, or other baffle a few feet in front of the opening that will force the bees to fly upwards. If you place a 6 foot tall fence 5-10 feet from the hive opening, bees will fly out and UP and be above the level of your neighbor’s heads so they aren’t crossing paths. Air space is free space for the bees, and unless your neighbors have mastered levitation, this will help keep them safe.
The Must-Have Element in Your Yard
The number one thing to remember about bees is that they need a water source. Once your honeybees have a water source, they will stick with it. This means you can be smart and GIVE THEM a water source near their hive in an out-of-the-way place so they don’t choose their own unacceptable water source – like the neighbor’s swimming pool or your dog’s water bowl.
This water soruce for bees can be as simple as a bird bath near your hives. Fill it with some rocks or twigs so the bees won’t accidentally drown and if they adopt this bee-friendly water source they will always use THAT water. Just make sure you keep it filled at all times – a self-watering bird bath can be great if you are very busy and can’t maintain the water level on a daily basis.
An Option Most People Don’t Consider — But Should
Another thing to think about if you want to keep bees but don’t have space, bee-friendly laws — or you feel your neighbors would toilet paper your home in revenge — is to partner up with someone else in your local area. Bees don’t need daily maintenance like a chicken or a horse or a dog. You could purchase the bees and hive and arrange to house it on someone’s land who has a more bee-friendly living area.
They get the pollination boost and half the honey harvest, while you get a place to keep your bees. I’m seeing more and more creative co-owning or land-leasing (share cropping?) type arrangements springing up everywhere as people start trying this new lifestyle. We housed our beehives at my father-in-law’s 80 acres instead of risking them in the ¼ acre backyard which already housed goats, chickens, and five active children.
It is a total win/win IF you have the arrangement expectations clearly outlined in writing ahead of time. Did you catch those two keys? #1 In Writing. #2 Ahead of Time.
Lots of cities and municipalities have bee-friendly laws and regulations. Because bees forage several miles you don’t have to worry about having a certain amount of land that YOU own in order to keep a hive. If you have a platform big enough to set a hive on, you can keep bees. I’ve even seen window-sill-platforms designed to hold a bee hive in an upper window or apartment space. City Hall in Chicago has several rooftop bee hives which is a perfect place to keep a hive.
With these creative solutions, you will find you can keep your bees and neighbors too. Oh, and a jar of golden honey as a bee-bribe would never go amiss!
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