Be a Legal Eagle
Before you start your hives, it’s important to know your city’s ordinances regarding keeping bees. Is it allowed? Are there rules regarding number of hives, fencing, distance from other residences, etc.? Knowing the answers to these questions is your first line of defense against angry neighbors — and can save you a lot of money in fines.
If the city permits the keeping of bees, the next place to check is your homeowners association. Most associations follow local ordinances, but some can be a bit more discriminating. Check your HOA bylaws to be absolutely sure you won’t end up having to get rid of your hives.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
If you can, consider installing a fence or planting a tall shrub around your apiary. This serves two purposes; one, it makes it difficult for neighbors to spot your hives, and two, it alters the flight pattern of your bees, forcing them to above head level.
Keeping hives out of sight also helps to safeguard against vandalism and theft. You can add another layer of camouflage by painting them colors that match their surroundings. If your bees are out of sight, they’re far less likely to be the object of concern or controversy.
If you live where bears may be a problem, an electric fence is an absolute necessity. Bears will willingly endure stings to get to the precious larvae, pupae, and eggs inside the hive. They’re also all to happy to help themselves to any honey available. A seven wire fence built to a height of 4.5 feet should be sufficient to deter bears.
Construct a Watering Hole
Bees need water for a myriad of hive activities, such as controlling the temperature and humidity of the hive, as well as diluting honey. If your bees don't have an accessible water source, they will find the next closest supply — which might just be your neighbor's swimming pool.
Since bees prefer shallow, standing water, place a birdbath lined with rocks near your hives. The rocks are a vital component, as the bees will drown if it is just an open container.
To a beekeeper, a swarm is not only something awesome to behold, it’s a chance to start another hive. However, for neighbors, it can cause a great deal of fear and anxiety. Those who are unfamiliar with bee biology aren’t aware that swarming bees are at their most gentle state and not inclined to sting, so a large group of stinging insects making a considerable amount of noise can be terrifying.
Swarm prevention is a key part to keeping your neighbors in good spirits. Provide adequate room in the brood chambers and space for honey storage to keep swarming at a low level. It’s also a good idea to know how to capture swarms, as it allows the city to call on you in times of need.
Catch Flies With Honey
It’s a lot easier to befriend your neighbors before any potential trouble than trying to calm them down when they’re already angry. Chat with your neighbors about the benefits of beekeeping, the difference between wasps and bees, and answer any questions and concerns they might have. Discuss colony collapse disorder and why beekeeping is important to the environment. Once they know you are a responsible beekeeper, they will be less likely to raise the alarm if they spot your bees out and about. It also doesn’t hurt to sweeten your relationship with a gift of honey every now and then.
When you’re not fighting the city, you HOA, and your neighbors, beekeeping can be a real pleasure. If you prepare ahead of time, educate yourself on the laws, and keep your bees happy and gentle, you’re sure to meet success in any neighborhood.
Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.