Mixing with the neighbors

Many hobbies can be enjoyed alone or with the participation of a few other like-minded folk. In situations like this, it’s not particularly difficult to simply enjoy in isolation or with a supportive other, with no impact on anyone else.

Beekeeping is a little different.

You will have no direct control over where your bees fly or what interesting places they visit. Generally this creates no problem. Bees just get on with their business and, even when many are out foraging, they often go unnoticed by anyone other than you.

Beehives in the city

However, in some situations things are not quite so straightforward and there is the possibility of disgruntled or aggressive neighbors, opposed to your beekeeping. There are two general scenarios that can lead to issues like this:

  • Real and valid concerns related to where and what your bees do
  • Neighbors with a negative or aggressive attitude to beekeeping, without any particular reason other than fear of bees

Of course, the former can be a reason for the latter! But although everyone has different circumstances, there are approaches the beekeeper can take to proactively minimize or mitigate these two factors.

Can I be a beekeeper without stressing my neighbors?
Yes, beekeeping should not be a stressful pastime. It offers a real sense of peace and being at one with nature. There are ways to calm the nerves of others.

Important note: For many, this lesson will be a false alarm! Not everyone has issues with neighbors – in fact, the majority of beekeepers operate in peace and all is good in the world. For those beekeepers, this lesson may seem  overkill. It is intended, though, for those beekeepers with the potential for neighborly problems.

Facing Facts

Bee PR

Let’s face it, not everyone has a positive view of bees. Thankfully, awareness of the amazing benefits of bees is on the rise and that’s a good thing. More people today at least listen when it comes to the idea of beekeeping and that can help enormously with the discussion.

But for some, the first thought is often that of the venom-filled sac our girls carry around! The other main thought is of bees swarming and the mistaken idea that they are specifically out to find victims, rather than the more peaceful and normal intent of simply finding a new home!

These are the more negative impressions of bees and beekeeping. As a general rule, they are misplaced and misguided. Bees only sting when they feel threatened and swarms are docile bees, full of honey and on their way to a new home.

Yet things can occasionally take an unfortunate turn and it is a mistake to assume these things cannot happen. So a respect for these concerns is in order and we look below at how to discuss them with neighbors.

Allergies

Perhaps the most valid concern is when someone nearby is known to be allergic to bee stings. Put yourself in the position of someone who is indeed allergic to bee stings (it’s around 2% of the population), only to find their neighbor wants to install one or more homes for these stinging, flying threats!

What if my neighbors are allergic to bee stings?
This should be discussed carefully with the neighbor while bearing in mind that being stung by a bee can happen even when there are no beehives in the immediate neighborhood.

Legal concerns

Regardless of how your neighbors feel, you should be aware of legal regulations for the keeping of bees. Generally, authorities are more aware of the value of beekeeping than in the past and in most places you won’t face an issue. There may sometimes be a need to register your beehives, though.

Water

Water is as essential to bees as it is to us, with the difference that we wouldn’t want to walk into the neighbor’s yard and start drinking uninvited! If the neighbor provides easy access to water like, oh, a swimming pool then there are situations when your bees might be tempted. This needs to be considered.

Drinking Bee

Pesticides

The factors above are mainly about the problems, perceived or otherwise, that your bees can cause your neighbors. But the reverse is also at play, when your neighbors freely use pesticides dangerous to your bees. This also needs some thought, particularly since this is less within your control.

In this case, an awareness of pesticides that cause problems and a gentle, thoughtful discussion with – hopefully – an understanding neighbor can work wonders.

Spraying pesticides

Opening the dialog…maybe

Initiate the dialog

When you decide to keep bees you have a decision to make about how transparent you will be with the neighbors. To some extent this is dependent on the proximity to neighbors. In many cases, a beehive can be positioned out of sight of the neighbors, which is a good move anyway, regardless of your relationship with neighbors. However, given the mobility of our bees there is often an obligation to bring this up with the neighbors.

Generally, PerfectBee suggests that an open discussion with your neighbors is the way to go. If you go down the “open and transparent” path, the first course of action is to educate your neighbors.

  • Have a positive discussion about the benefits of bees, including how it will help the local environment – especially your neighbor’s garden!
  • Listen well and address any concerns they might have
  • Bring up the idea that the neighbor might be interested in watching, even if from afar. Most folks are curious and will be interested to see the bees as you install them or undertake an inspection.

Some beekeepers have even been known to create pamphlets to hand out to the neighbors when questions are asked. This is rarely necessary and, quite frankly, has the potential to make the question of bees seem much more of an issue than it might be otherwise.

Keep it quiet

Another approach is to install a beehive first and answer questions second. This somewhat more cavalier is based on the idea that if the hive is out of sight, there’s a good chance neighbors may not even be aware of the bees. If that is the case, why not say nothing and answer any questions after the fact?

The success of this philosophy depends on various factors, including the ability to place a hive in a less-than-obvious location. In many circumstances it works just fine and the first sign the neighbors have is either the extra color in their garden over the warmer months – or you knocking on the door with a jar of honey. As a general rule, it’s difficult for a neighbor to pick a fight if s/he’s been unaware of the beehive in the year since it was installed and you come offering gifts!

That said, PerfectBee recommends an open discussion with you neighbors, to answer their questions and put their mind at rest. But we also agree that the “just do it” approach can be viable in some situations too, providing it’s legal and has no impact on your neighbors.

Addressing concerns

Legal

Check and make sure you understand whether you have the legal green light, including registration where necessary (which is more likely in an urban environment). Initiating a discussion with a potentially difficult neighbor is likely to be an exercise in futility if s/he has the law on his or her side. Before you set down the path of becoming a beekeeper do a little homework. It doesn’t take long and can potentially save a lot of wasted time, effort and angst.

A quick note – if local regulations do not allow beekeeping that’s a tough break but please respect the law. Inconsiderate and law-breaking beekeepers help no-one. You are also a bee sting away from inviting a legal discussion you really don’t want!

What if its illegal to keep bees where I live?
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation then consider being the custodian for hives placed legally on someone else’s land.

Placement

You might love the idea of beautiful beehives decorating your yard in their own way, but don’t flaunt it! Even if you have the neighbors on your side, there’s always the chance of a new, less accommodation neighbor, moving in.

Additionally, passersby don’t really need to see your beehives. Therefore, consider placing your hives in a quiet space, away from the glare of the public.

Beehive in urban garden

Pesticides

This can be a difficult discussion. First, you really have no control ever where your bees travel. Even if you have an accommodating neighbor willing to switch to a more bee-friendly pesticide, the next house down the road may be the issue. All you can realistically do here is to discuss with those within your immediate scope of influence and hope your bees find plenty of foraging resources within a close area.

Of course, the other potential problem is a sensitive or aggressive neighbor who doesn’t take too kindly to be being told to change the pesticide he’s been using for years, just to suit your bees! Quite honestly. at this point this become more of a human relations challenge than anything else and that’s a little beyond the scope of this lesson!

Realistically, the only way to potentially “win” this discussion is through calm, reasoned discussion in the hope that you can relay the benefits of bees and perhaps encourage your neighbor to take an interest. If the neighbor is still taking a contrary view then he holds the “weapons” (the pesticide) and you’ve likely lost the discussion if it is turned into an argument.

Water

It is a beekeeping best practice to make sure your bees have easy access to water. Generally it’s very easy to do this in your own yard. Do just that.

Without an obvious water supply, bees are skilled at finding water nearby, such as around neighbors swimming pool (the one with all the small kids enjoying the sun)! Just do what all beekeepers should do anyway, namely make it really easy for your bees to find water.

Bee drinking a water drop

Enjoying the bees together

If things are looking good and you have managed to gain the support of your neighbors, reluctantly or otherwise, take advantage of this when you install your beehive and install your bees.

Bring up the bees proactively with your neighbors and invite them to play a role.  When you are installing that package of bees, it’s great if you have a couple of neighbors 15 feet away and absolutely fascinated with the idea. In fact, ask them to take photos or a video. That often seals the deal! You might eventually get the knock on the door from a neighbor, telling you about the switch to a more bee-friendly treatment of his plants!

Mission accomplished!

Honey

And then there is the payoff.

To be fair, we are asking our neighbors to trust us and to accept these stinging insects into the neighborhood. So if they are responsive and understanding, then what better way to say thanks than a jar of glorious, sweet, “home-made” honey.

19 thoughts on “Beekeeping and the neighbors”

  1. My neighbor recently moved in 5 hives. We live in the country. Where he put the hives is less than 1/4 mile from my house. Today I noticed a couple of bees inside my house. Within about half an hour, my house was so full of bees we had to leave our home! How do I get rid of them? I want to go home!!

  2. My neighbor put up a bee hive 2 feet from my fence and we are concerned of getting stung when we mow and also when our animals are in the area. We were not contacted about this and have several family members who are very allergic to stings.

  3. How do I kill my neighbors hive without going on his property? I keep getting stung when working in my yard. They are super aggressive and actively come after me. I have a 3 year old and a wife that’s allergic. These things have to go.

  4. In the, hopefully, near future I plan on having a few hives on my future property in northern New Jersey. Since it gets very hot and humid in the summer months we’re planning on purchasing a house with a pool. I know the concerns with this and am wondering if it’s just a bad idea or if there are steps I can take to keep the bees away such as a watering hole or bird baths to act as a buffer?

  5. Our new neighbors are renting an NCC property and they recently installed bee boxes throughout their property. We are property owners and my husband is deathly allergic to yellow jacket bees like children are to peanut butter. We are very uneasy about this as we haven’t discussed with them and we don’t want to offend them but we don’t want them around to increase his chances of getting stung much higher.
    ADVISE PLEASE AND HURRY!

    1. Hi I am writing from the UK so this may not be quite accurate, but as I understand it yellow jackets are wasps not bees. Now, I’ve gone through a venom desensitisation course because I was allergic to BEE venom (it took several years) and the immunologists were very clear: being allergic to wasp venom is a different allergy to honeybee stings. So don’t panic.

  6. Our neighbor two properties down said he would be getting some hives. He asked us not to use our fire pit for family recreational purposes because the smoke would kill the bees. Can the smoke go that distance (about 150 ft) when the wind blows that direction kill the bees?

    1. I have hives on a communal garden area in the UK (“allotments”). We did a huge bonfire of garden detritus (wood, twigs, dried plants) about 60-80 feet away and I watched as the smoke drifted across the hives from time to time, it was a windy day. The bees weren’t bothered AT ALL.

  7. I live in the country no one close. The land is put into the crp program that is 80 acres on one side and 40 on the other. I have dogs and horses. This bee person put the bee hives close to my fence line. I spray that fence line and I have an electric fence up. I have concerns about this deal. I do not own the crp just the acreage.

  8. I collect cans and store them on my property and about once a month I take them to be recycled. Would the bees be drawn to these cans because of the sugar content?

  9. My neighbor has sixty hives. We now can’t enjoy the outdoors in the summer. And it’s from all of the bee poop.
    All over our vehicles, lawn furniture, windows , our deck , literally anything outside gets plastered with bee poop.
    Does anyone know of a way to make the bees fly a different flight path. The hives are probably one thousand feet away from my property. HELP

  10. Thanks again for this info.

    I have asked the neighbors on either side of me if they had any problems with my taking up beekeeping. Both said no and one wants to actively be involved!

    I am a bit concerned though, as the other neighbor has a swimming pool. I have read that honey bees don’t like dryer sheets — and I was planning to give them a box and ask them to hide them around their pool. Is this a good idea?

    We have a little creek (drainage ditch) at the end of my property, a fountain birdbath and I will ensure other sources of water too.

  11. Joany, this question is becoming more common all the time as more and more folks take up beekeeping. Its a fair question and I appreciate that you are wanting to be diplomatic about it. So here’s a couple of thoughts.

    Bees are attracted to the chlorine smell of a pool. If your neighbor would provide a water source early in the season before you fill your pool so the bees are accustomed to using the water source on your neighbors property it may help with that issue. This would mean getting on board with your neighbor of course but it sounded like you would be willing to talk with them.
    Next, I would tell you not to worry about the bees around your flowers near the walk way. Naturally, one could accidentally fly into your hair and sting but since honey bees are not aggressive (they are defensive) I would not be concerned about them as they are not near their hive and have nothing to protect. That said, I have not of course seen the situation and if its too many bees to be comfortable with then I’d probably retract what I said above. In my own experience, we have had raspberry bushes for decades and I have never once been stung while picking berries. I’m in the bushes gathering berries and the bees are flying around the flowers and there as never been as issue. I actually enjoy them being around.

    Finally, if the situation is just not comfortable for you, (and only you can decide this) you would not be alone in finding yourself in this situation. Its becoming more common all the time and personally I dont care for it because it makes beekeepers look bad. So if you need to approach your neighbor there are a couple things you can do to arm yourself with information. Check your city/county code to see if bees are allowed and if they are, what are the restrictions – how many hives, how near a neighbors property, etc. This will help you understand what grounds you have if you need to approach your neighbor. Secondly, you may also want to look into the nuisance laws. Many times beekeeping may not even be addressed in local codes yet you would be able to do so under the nuisance laws most likely.

    Its my hope you and your neighbor can work things out. Most the beekeepers I know are wonderful people and would be willing to work with you, so visiting with your neighbor may work out just fine. If not, and you feel there is no other solution, make yourself aware of the local laws and codes and take the action you believe is necessary.

    I hope you find this helpful and best of luck resolving this matter.

  12. Shawn Broderick

    I have two potential beekeeping issues to point out! 1: your neighbor has 50 hives and no beneficial habitat for them. You have 2 hives and a beautiful lush bee paradise you created and maintain for your bees. The neighbors 50 hives dominate your property and your bees get minimal benefit. 2: Same conditions and your beautiful bee paradise also has stone fruit(peaches/nectarines/pluots/plums) that because of the 50 hives and the excessive pressure on the forage your fruit gets attacked and damaged by the bees.

    1. I would love to know if anyone has an answer to this as well. While I am very pro bee, my neighbors concrete property has all of the hives hanging around all of our bushes and flowers, and often dead in the pool water. They would be fine however the plantings are tight around the walk way and we all walk very slowly and calmly, which really isn’t great for your own yard enjoyment.
      Question: if we asked the neighbor to have less bees, would that be a fair request?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *