When Honeybees Move In
You’ve found yourself living next to a beekeeper; now what? Should you be concerned? Will you get stung? Can you expect more honeybees in the yard? Will your flowers and fruit trees be happier? If you’re unfamiliar with bees, it’s understandable that you may have questions about the hive next door. Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions.
Honeybee Neighbour FAQs
Are Honeybees Allowed?
Before going further, it might be worth confirming that beekeeping is permitted in your municipality. While urban beekeeping has been on the rise, not all municipalities permit hives. If beekeeping is permitted, it’s worth looking into the requirements and regulations surrounding beekeeping in the region. Guidelines and licensing are often put in place to reduce liabilities and ensure proper animal husbandry.
Where I’m located, in Edmonton, beekeeping is permitted, provided that residents license their hives and register with the provincial government. Here’s a link to the City of Edmonton’s Urban Beekeeping guidelines. Try Googling your city or town to see if they allow beekeeping.
Interested in keeping bees in Edmonton? I’ve written an article covering all of the required steps.
Edmonton Beekeeping Guidelines
- Colonies can only be kept in the backyard.
- Hives must be at least 25m from public spaces (Parks, Churches, schools, etc).
- Hives need to be at least 3m from the property line OR behind a 1.5m tall solid fence.
- Beekeepers can keep 1 hive and 1 nucleus (small colony) per site. Permission for a second have can be requested after several years of experience.
- Good management practices must be adhered to.
- Beekeepers must make their sites open to inspection by animal control
- Adjacent neighbours must be notified (permission is not required)
- Beekeepers must have received training or demonstrate sufficient knowledge.
- Hives must be registered with the Province (annually).
Is Having a Hive Next Door Dangerous?
Honeybees are very docile and uninterested in doing anything but collecting nectar, pollen, water, and propolis (a sticky resin from plants). Though the odds of being stung aren’t zero (they never were), you’re unlikely to experience any problems. Generally, the only time honeybees sting is to defend their hive. Most bylaws mandate that hives need to be at least 3m from the property line or separated by a 1.5m fence. With these guidelines in effect, it’s very unlikely that the hive will feel threatened.
While honeybees can obviously fly over fences, they tend to fly high off the ground unless foraging,
Will There Be Bees In My Yard?
Probably not. Bees are efficient pollinators and forage over vast areas (up to 10 kilometres in every direction). Though you’ll have visitors to your flowering plants (vegetables, perennials, fruit trees, etc.), it’s unlikely you’ll notice an increase in bees. Worst case scenario; you may have some surplus fruit to give away in the Fall.
One exception may be if you have a water source in your yard. Like all living things, bees require water for survival and will search for it in the landscape. If you have a leaky tap, birdbath, pond, or puddle, they will use it. While some people love watching the bees collect water from their yards, others are less enthusiastic. Aside from fixing the leaky tap, your beekeeping neighbour should place a water source for the bees near their hive. If the bees ignore their water in favour of yours, sugar can be added to the preferred site to entice them to use it. They generally stick with a water source once the bees acclimate to it.
Is The Hive Next Door Helping to Save the Bees?
Honeybees are experiencing many challenges from new pests and diseases, climate change, and pesticides. Don’t get me wrong, bees are having a hard time, but the bees struggling the most are our native bee species. What’s worse is that non-native honeybees can be seen as competitors with natives.
I’ve Heard About Swarms – What is a Swarm?
Swarming is how honeybee colonies reproduce. When a hive runs out of room, the queen and half of the bees, with as much honey as they can consume, will leave in search of a new hive location. Though swarming sounds scary, the bees are extra docile and only concerned with finding a new home. Swarming bees will generally settle on a branch and wait for scouting bees to find a suitable home. When a home is located, the bees will leave the limb and fly to their new home.
While beekeepers prevent swarming by managing the colony’s growth, it can still happen, and if it does, there’s a chance that the swarm will come to rest in an adjacent yard. If this happens, call your beekeeping neighbour and ask them to create a plan to re-hive the swarm. This is a relatively simple process.
If you don’t have your neighbours’ contact information, report the swarm to a local beekeeping group.
Is Swarming Common?
No. And yes. With proper hive management, a beekeeper can ensure enough room within a hive. When done correctly and consistently, a beekeeper can prevent swarms from occurring. That said, even without backyard bees, swarms happen in the city. Each year, dozens of swarms are reported; some are from backyard hives, but many are from natural colonies located in the river valley.
If you are a beekeeper, consider joining the Edmonton Swarm Catchers List.
Should I be Worries About the Hive Next Door?
Outside of having an anaphylactic allergy to honeybees, there’s very little reason to worry about a hive next door. If the beekeeper follows municipal and provincial regulations and animal husbandry, it’s unlikely practices proper that you’ll notice any difference.