Urban beekeeping is gaining popularity. City folks are seeing the value in some of the practices that are commonly found on the family farm. Backyard beekeeping gives city-dwellers the opportunity to increase production of their gardens with pollinating bees and enjoy the added benefit of harvesting organic honey.
Some experts claim that “city bees” are healthier than their country bumpkin counterparts. How can this bee? In the city there is much less use of pesticides and herbicides. With neighbors landscaping gardens with a variety of flowering shrubs and plants along with herb gardens and raised bed urban gardens or container patio gardens, city bees enjoy a smorgasbord of diverse delight compared to bees living in the country. So, with greater biodiversity and a less contaminated environment, backyard beekeeping is a thriving trend.
City bees also grow fat and happy. Even in times of drought or during the depths of a long, hard winter, city bees still have plenty to eat as city dwellers change out their flower beds and garden plots with winter fare. Under a blazing sun that drives a merciless drought, compassionate city folk are putting out waterers for the birds as well as the bees. Country bees are just not that lucky.
If you are a successful urban gardener, chances are you will do great at backyard beekeeping. You may wonder, though, if it really matters, if managing bees is really that big of a deal. Well, if you love your garden, you will fall in love with bees. They will increase the production of your vegetables and invigorate your ornamentals. And to top it all off is the delicious honey that they will share with you in abundance, enough so that you can probably share with your neighbors and maybe even earn a nickel or two at the local farmer’s market.
If you are totally convinced that backyard beekeeping is just the thing for you, consult your local city ordinances. It’s rare that backyard beekeeping is prohibited but there may be some regulations concerning space or zoning for outdoor structures. So find out the details and then begin your backyard beekeeping planning.
Scout out the backyard. Size does matter. A half acre is sufficient for about two bee colonies. But, even if you have a yard that large, the bees are not the only thing using the backyard. There are also pets, kids and recreational activities to consider. So, as a beginner, start with one small hive and let your venture grow from there.
Be considerate toward your neighbors. Of course you would never put your loved ones at risk. You wouldn’t even be considering backyard beekeeping if a family member is seriously allergic to bee venom. But what about your neighbors? Are you putting any of them at risk? Be kind and ask. At least give them a heads up.
This is also the time when you can reassure your neighbors that you have a solid plan and that your prospective hobby is not going to become a neighborhood eyesore. The hives will have to be left out in the open but there many attractive options to hide them, disguise them and also discourage your bees from flying over to visit the neighbors. A 6′-8’ barrier of privacy fencing, lattice work with climbing vines, or shrubbery are all great ideas to keep the neighbors from having to look at your hives.
You may think that is an awfully tall barrier considering that the hive is less than two feet square, with a super stacked on top it’s still less than four feet high. So why have such a tall barrier? Well, if a bee does decide to do a fly-over and fly-by of the neighbor’s house, it will be doing so way overhead. This assures that, hopefully, no in-your-neighbor’s-face encounters occur with your bees. But, hopefully, if your backyard is filled with nectar offering plants and sufficient water, the bees will be too happy to go that far away from the comforts of home.
Also, you are going to want to elevate the hive off of the ground to help prevent moisture from seeping into the hive as well as discourage predators like skunks. This can be done with a simple lumber structure. An easier method is to use concrete blocks at each corner. Having it elevated also prevents honey collection from becoming a back breaking chore. So you will be adding to the height of the hive making such a tall barrier necessary.
Backyard beekeeping is a very rewarding hobby. Join this growing trend and bee-come a part of the club.