3.9 Be a Good Neighbor

Honeybees may be a fascinating project to you, but your neighbors may be a little less excited about the prospect of a beehive in the neighborhood. There are several steps that a backyard beekeeper can take to alleviate potential problems.

1. Fences or Hedges Make Good Neighbors

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Create a barrier around hives that makes it difficult to spot by neighbors and passersby.
  • Alter Flight Patterns – Bees tend to fly several feet off the ground, the same area that people occupy. A fence or hedge near the front of the hive forces the bees to fly above head level.
Hive setup with fence and water.

The apiary of a suburban homeowner.

2. Happy Bees are Good Bees

Make sure your apiary is se tup correctly and placed in a location that is suitable for honey bees.

3. Mean Bees are Bad Bees

While aggressive bees can be managed easily (somewhat) in rural settings, they should never be tolerated in urban settings. If you have mean bees it is time to requeen and introduce more gentle genetics.

4. Create a Local 'Watering Hole'

Honey bees need water for a variety of hive activities such as cooling the hive and diluting honey. If you don't provide ready, accessible water, they will go to the next closest 'watering hole' – your neighbor's birdbath or swimming pool.

5. Manage Swarming

While a swarm of bees is a great spectacle (and a chance for you to start another hive), it can cause great fear in the neighborhood. Practice swarm prevention by providing adequate room in the hive for brood rearing and honey storage.

Honey jar

6. Be a Fair Weather Friend

Bees tend to be more aggressive when hives are opened early in the morning, late in the day, during cold weather (below 65ᴼ F), in rain, or when the sky is overcast. Try to open your hive on warm, sunny days if possible.

7. Sweeten the Deal

Providing neighbors with a jar or two of honey from your backyard project is a great way to put people at ease. At the same time, explain some of your beekeeping activities to them to help them understand that you are a responsible beekeeper.