Urban Beekeeping

Reader Contribution by Lindsay Williamson

I don’t exactly live in the city and my bees aren’t on a rooftop. I’m not that cool. I do have bees though and I also have neighbors on all sides. When I first got into beekeeping, I worried a lot about neighbors and how they might react. Also, being a beginner, I worried that the bees might give them a reason to get upset. So, in hopes of helping and encouraging apprehensive beekeepers that are just starting out, I would like to share some wisdom I gleaned along the way that proved to be really useful.

Set Your Hives Up Early

One of the best tips I received while attending bee school was to set my hives up a month or two before I would install my bees. This allows an opportunity for nervous neighbors to voice their concerns while giving you the opportunity to start a conversation about bees and assure them there is absolutely no threat (there aren’t even bees in those hives yet). You can even give them a look at a hive and explain how it works. After this, they probably won’t even notice when the actual bees arrive.

Educate Your Neighbors About Bees if They Ask

I was pleasantly surprised to realize that most of my neighbors weren’t afraid of the bees as much as they were curious. At this point, most people have heard at least a little something about the plight of the bees and are interested in learning more. It’s a good idea to keep an extra veil and pair of gloves around if you can and invite curious neighbors to get a closer look.  

Ask for Cooperation

So many people are so used to spraying fertilizer, weed killer, pesticides, etc. that they don’t think or know about the harm it can do to people, animals and pollinators like bees. In fact, where I live, (much to my extreme frustration) some people seem to consider regularly dousing their grass in chemicals to be an essential quality if you’re to be considered a good neighbor. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to make the person next door stop using harmful chemicals but you can have a friendly conversation with them asking them to give you a 24 hour heads-up if they’re planning to spray something or get a regular visit from the exterminator (shudder). Chances are, if you ask kindly and explain that it will give you a chance to close your bees up for a day (which has to be done the night before) they’ll happily agree and it might even get them thinking about their lawn care practices without you having been confrontational, rude or preachy.

Give Neighbors Honey

Now this is a very important step in having bee-friendly neighbors! A free jar of honey every so often goes a long way in making your neighbors feel positive and possibly even somewhat invested in the health and success of your hives. Everybody loves honey and it’s the best way to thank a friendly neighbor for their help and cooperation. After all, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.