Avoiding Urban Beekeeping Problems

Reader Contribution by Kim Flottum
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This post follows KimFlottum’s Urban Beekeeping article, posted last August..

OK, you’ve got a start: where to get equipment, groups to
join, classes to take, and mentors to hook up with. Now’s the time, before you
have bees, to take a long hard look at some of the rest of the things you need
to be thinking about.

Now’s the time to make sure where you are is zoned for bees,
if some level of registration is required, and any other legal items are taken
care of. Finding out later can be expensive, and painful. And will insurance of
some kind cover anything that might happen? A neighbor’s dog gets stung and you
get sued. Vandals destroy your equipment. And here’s one you can prevent, but
I’ll bet you never thought about… when bees leave the hive, they drop their
waste as they leave. This material is usually golden brown, sticky, and very,
very acidic. It’ll take the paint off cars, stain the siding on a house or
clothes on a line. Avoid this certainly, but if caught in the middle of a bee
poop battle…who pays to have that car painted? Plus, just having bees may cause
your homeowners insurance to be canceled. Find out before you need it.

Oh. What do your neighbors think of your new found activity?
Most don’t care a bit, some will be concerned but can be won over, and some
will become hysterical and run straight to the local council office demanding
your head on a municipal code platter. Find out before those bees arrive
anything that won’t work, or needs work when it comes to neighborhood

Where will the colonies go? Backyard, roof, balcony, maybe a
community apiary, someone else’s property? The cardinal rule for bees and
people is out of sight, out of mind. Consider painting them a color that blends
in with the surroundings. (Probably the greatest temptation in the world is two
14 year olds with an “I dare you” attitude.) Full sun if possible, on a hive
stand, that’ll hold four or five hundred pounds for late season crops, a screen
if at ground level so bees have to go up, up and away when they leave home, above
people’s heads to avoid close encounter of the honey bee kind. If in a yard, as
far from property lines as possible, or legal, and keep the front door aimed
away from sidewalks, doorways and where kids play. It’s all common sense when
you think about it.

Water, however, is a serious matter. On a hot summer day, a
full sized colony will use up to a gallon, even more sometimes of water a day!
Where will that water come from? They will get it, and if you don’t provide it,
everyday, they’ll find a swimming pool, several bird baths, leaky air
conditioning units or faucets, pet watering dishes, sprinklers in the garden… anywhere
and everywhere there is water. And, if there isn’t one good place, lots of
foragers will be looking instead of foraging for that honey crop you wanted. So,
supply water. Lots of it. And never, ever, ever let it go dry. Once bees can’t
get it where they could get it, they move on. Before you get your bees, get
your water source set up: a large pool, an automatic livestock waterer, a water
garden. Make sure there’s a place for the bees to land – floats, a beach of
sorts, something – and if stagnant, add a scent such as food grade peppermint
oil or Honey-B-Healthy, so they can find it at first, and can locate it later.
Water is the second biggest problem urban beekeepers have, and it shouldn’t be.

Kim Flottum presented workshops at the 2012 Pennsylvania MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. 

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