The first and foremost thing for any beekeeper to work with their neighbors is communication. Before you put bees on your property, it is a good idea to talk to at least your immediate neighbors. When they find out that you want to put bees on your property, most people are excited that they get free pollination for their gardens and flowers. They will also have all kinds of questions for you. Do your best to answer them. The ones that aren’t so excited about it usually have a fear of bees and again communication is the key. The more that you talk to them about bees and what to expect, the less fear they will have. Reassure them that the bees in their yard are interested in gathering nectar and pollen. They want to fill their purpose in life which is not to sting them. Fresh honey is also always a good way to win over all of your neighbors and goes a long way to have them appreciate the bees in the neighborhood.
When placing your hives, think about your neighbors by following some simple guidelines. They are:
- Put the hives away from the property line (if that is a challenge then at least face them away from your neighbors).
- Never have them facing your neighbors’ entrances to their property, house doorways, or any walkways.
- Build screens, fencing, or shrubbery at least 6 feet high so that the bees’ flight pattern will not be at head level.
- Make sure that your bees’ flight path is not going to go over an area of your neighbor’s yard such as the laundry line. This will cause the laundry to get stained by the bees’ bathroom.
- Make sure that you have a water source for the bees. This can be a pond, a drip hose, or even automatic livestock water devices such as for chickens. Just fill the trough with small pebbles for the bees to climb on. The neighbors typically don’t appreciate the bees chasing off the birds trying to use the bird bath or fighting their dog over its water dish. Your water source needs to be established before any other source. You can do this by communicating to your neighbors and having them drain the birdbath or water the dog in a more protected location while your bees get trained to the source you provide.
- Make sure that you don’t overwhelm the neighborhood with bees. If you only have a quarter of an acre to an acre lot, you should only put 1 to 5 hives maximum (this really depends on the set up of your yard).
- Do not work your bees while your neighbors are out having a family picnic etc… Again talk to them and let them know when you are planning on working your bees and figure out a good time that works for both of you.
- Don’t leave your broken or bad frames or hive bodies lying around the yard. (Don’t have it look like an apiary junk yard!)
- Requeen an aggressive colony immediately.
- Be a good beekeeper and maintain your hives. You always want to prevent swarming for your own production of honey but especially when you have neighbors that are not comfortable around the bees anyways. A swarm will get them excited really quickly.
Tell them how to protect themselves by placing a hand over their face if they get a bee with an attitude. Also, tell them that swatting at any bee just gives it a worse attitude. They can duck their head down, cover their face, and walk away and usually the bee will leave them alone. Again, communicating with your neighbors goes a long ways. You might think about getting an extra set of gloves, hat, and veil and invite them to come watch you work the bees. You would be surprised at how giving them a knowledge of bees and seeing it firsthand calms any fears they might have had.
Don't know how to approach your neighbors? You can find a sample letter to give to your neighbors here: Sample Letter