Q: My next-door neighbor informed me yesterday that he intends to set up a beehive in his yard. Is he even allowed to do this in a populated area? We both have half-acre lots, and he says the hive likely will be located in a far corner, but I see nuisance and even disaster ahead. What if the bees swarm? What if they sting a child and, God forbid, that child is allergic? Should I contact the city about this? – Claire S., via e-mail
A: Believe it or not, beekeeping can and does take place in suburban areas – and even in the middle of the city. I understand your concern, however.
Take heart in the fact that your neighbor came over to tell you about the planned hive before it arrived. That gives you the opportunity to ask some questions about the hive, the type of bees and so on. I encourage you to keep it polite. For now, just ask questions and listen to your neighbor. There’s a very good chance that he has been researching beekeeping for some time and that he even knows the municipal ordinances regarding the activity.
If he already has some homesteading activities going on, such as keeping a few chickens, and those activities haven’t been a nuisance to you or others, it’s likely that the beehive will make little to no difference in the neighborhood – other than the flowers in your garden perhaps blooming bigger and better than ever before, thanks to nature’s best pollinators living nearby.
After talking to your neighbor, do some research of your own. MAAREC (Mid-Atlantic Apicultural Research & Extension Consortium) has a good pamphlet available to download as a PDF about suburban beekeeping, and a number of websites are available under that search term. There are many ways for beekeepers to reduce the possibility of nuisance and stings in the neighborhood.
You also can contact your municipality about whether beekeeping is allowed. If it is specifically permitted, there are usually rules about how big the hive can be and whether it needs to be registered with the state’s agricultural office.
Above all, give it a chance. The dwindling bee population worldwide is greatly concerning researchers, so homesteaders’ beekeeping can be a small but helpful contribution toward solving the problem. And, being on friendly terms with a successful beekeeper can have the positive side effect of receiving an occasional, and perhaps steady, gift of honey.
HOME TIP: Interested in beekeeping but don’t have a lot of money or space? Look up local beekeeping groups online or consider starting one at a community garden or other open space.
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