I know lots of people with hobbies. I used to be a big gamer. My buddy loves his boat and just wiping it down when he can’t be out on it. My girl, she loves natural cosmetics. Then there are “us”. The beekeepers.
We’re not like most other hobbyists.
In most cases, enjoying a hobby alone or with people of the same interests and mindsets, is common. It is for precisely this reason that many of us enjoy our hobbies; they’re an escape into a world that we care about and that may not be as “busy” as the rest of the world that we leave on the perimeter of consciousness as we enjoy our hobby.
Beekeeping is a lot different.
Picture it this way: if your outdoor hobby is gardening then you lay down a plot, plant your seeds, control where your garden grows, etc.
With beekeeping, you have no control over where you bees fly or the places they visit and inspect for nectar-bearing flowers.
Also different is that your “hobby” is mainly independent. While your bees are foraging and flying, the rest of the world mostly pays them no mind and is unaware that they are there.
That being said…it can get pretty dicey if your urban beekeeping hobby starts to ruffle the feathers of those around you. Mainly, your neighbors. Neighbors can become disgruntled and straight aggressive when they’re not down with this beekeeping thing you going on.
Some have very substantial concerns land valid concerns about where your bees are going, what they’re doing, and why you’re doing it. “I’m (my kid) (my spouse) is allergic…” are all legit concerns.
Others just have a negative attitude towards beekeeping and bees. They just fear bees. (An idea that’s been fed by media and lore).
(Beekeeping shouldn’t be stressful! It has great potential to be peaceful and bring you further in-tune with nature. It’s best to calm everyone down about your bees as soon as you can!)
Issues Neighbors Have with Your Backyard or Rooftop Beekeeping
A Bad Rep
This is a simple one, the majority of people will have a negative opinion or view of bees. Although awareness of the importance of the honey bee and other pollinators is growing, there are still those that won’t be comfortable around bees…ever. However, for our benefit, most people today are willing to listen.
Most people see bees as nemesis. Biting, stinging insects that swarm and attack. This hugely inaccurate and misguided. But it’s some people’s reality.
Never disregard a neighbor’s legit concern. Things do happen and it’s best to keep everyone aware and friendly in case it does.
2% of the population is allergic to bee stings. This can be painful and deadly to the person with the allergy and it could be your neighbor who you just told you’re putting in beehives.
Now, put yourself in their shoes. They come to you and tell you they’re starting a King Cobra farm in the adjoining yard “but don’t worry…it’s gonna’ alright”. See?
Sure, you can tell them that bee stings can happen any time, whether close to a beehive or not. Of course, the presence of a beehive will slightly increase the chance of being stung and anyone who tells you different isn’t thinking straight. Put a new pool in your backyard and even though the water has no malice or ill-intent…you could still drown in your backyard all of a sudden.
Legal, Water and Pesticides
As we discussed in our Urban Beekeeping Guide, making sure that you can actually, legally keep a hive in your backyard is something that you need to check.
Despite what your neighbors want or care about, you might not be exactly “street legal” when you start beekeeping anyway. Did you check your local laws? Most have calmed a bit since the importance of keeping the honey bee is paramount to human existence. But you may need to register somewhere.
Then there is the issue of being near an adequate water supply as it is as essential to bees as humans. If your neighbor has a water supply (like a pool or garden pond), guess what? Your bees are going to be drinking from that heavenly oasis!
And the opposite can be the same: What if your neighbor is using pesticides that are dangerous to bees? This is something that else that could be discussed.
Open the dialog
It’s best to go transparent with your beekeeping and address any issues or questions that your neighbors have right away. You might be tempted to go the “my property, my business route” but unless you can keep your bees out of your neighbor’s yard, it’s best to discuss. Some beekeepers even try to involve the neighbors. This educates and dispels nervousness at the same time.
The payoff in all of this (despite saving the world!) is honey, right? Well, if all fails, offer that skeptical neighbor some of the first batches of honey from your hives. Invite them over for honey-glazed, barbecue chicken or tofu. There’s not a better way to say we appreciate your patience with our bees than a little bit of honey!
Raise Bees. Know Bees. Bee Cool. Save the Earth.