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Need straight answer about backyard beekeeping

Newark, DE

My wife took up an interest in beekeeping about a year ago, and has been active in local societies, reading up, learning and so on, in preparation for starting a hive in our backyard this spring. The hive is set up, the bees are in, and our backyard is now unusable. The hive is in one corner of the yard, nice location, "perfect spot" as described by the local bee gurus. But no matter where I go in the yard, I have bees in my face, in my hair, crawling around on my clothes. I was trying to work on some garden soil this morning, about as far away from the hive as you could get, and the bees were such an incredible nuisance that I gave up and went in the house. My question: IS THIS THE WAY IT'S GOING TO BE? While I might get used to it eventually, I certainly can't expect my neighbors to have to put up with this. I am very frustrated and angry with this situation, specifically that nobody ever alerted us to the "truth" of what this is like. But I'm willing to bide a little time if this is some kind of temporary behavior.

Framingham, MA(Zone 6a)

How long have the bees been in your yard? They may still be exploring the new territory. I was able to put in a new garden bed right next to the hive in my back yard with only the occasional exploratory sniff from the bees in August (bees arrived in April). Now that they are established, they only get t-ed off if you stand in their flight path or actually disturb the hive itself. It's recommended to wear light colors, no scented aftershave, perfumes, etc. If it makes you more comfortable, can you wear some of the bee gear (hat & veil)?

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

I was getting them all in my face the first few sunny days this spring. Like when it's still really winter but just one day is really warm? So there wasn't much in bloom for them to eat, plus they didn't know where anything was. We're in full-blown spring now, and they're all about their business and barely noticeable.

If you haven't chatted with the neighbors, I would suggest doing that, just to be proactive. By putting the hive in the corner of your yard, you may have legitimately just been picking out the best spot. But what you also did is put it the closest to the neighbors. Some folks will choose to perceive that as dumping your mess on them. Just let them know what's up, share your excitement, offer some honey - make them feel part of the adventure.

Hang in there. From everything I know, a backyard hive is very doable. Keep us posted...

Framingham, MA(Zone 6a)

My neighbors did not even know the bees were in my yard until I gave them some honey for Christmas. Now my daughter wants chickens. They will definitely be noticed!

Newark, DE

Thanks for the input. We've been scouring various sources for info, and a couple of ideas came to light. A local keeper noted that her bees are also very "busy" at the moment and also pester her constantly in the yard - she thinks it is because there are a lot of spring trees in bloom and the bees are very intent on gathering while the gathering is good. Others suggest that being a new hive, they are just settling in and exploring, as noted above. We're ok in the front yard, but back yard is completely off limits until late evening or early morning, and along the sides of the house you have some time to work, but eventually they find you. We've checked with a couple neighbors, and so far they haven't had issues... fortunately, but then again, they haven't been out in the yard much yet. What surprised me the most is that once they "lock on" to you, they absolutely will not go away. My wife had some bees pestering her all the way down the block as she tried to walk the dog, and all she did was walk out the side door... nowhere near the hive or even in sight of the hive. What's a reasonable amount of time to expect them to "settle in"?

Pickens, SC(Zone 7a)

I think one issue is "how big is your back yard " ? If your bees are bothering you more than 50 feet away from the hive... requeen and hope for a calmer bee ! I am able to do whatever I want within 25 ft of the hives.

West Plains, MO(Zone 6b)

Hello, halcon - did you ever resolve your problem with your pestering bees? We are about to receive our bees in the mail next week. We are new to beekeeping, too; but have been researching like crazy. I am hoping our bees don't behave that way.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

charlotteda makes a good point about the Queen. Although it was many years ago that I had hives (I had 8 on about one acre). The entire colony will take on the temperament of the queen.

I knew a beekeeper that used to wave his hand over the open hive and if the bees flew up at him, he'd requeen, sometimes over & over till he was satisfied (that's obsessive!).

We used to take only a small amount of the honey so as to leave the bees with some. The replacement sugar water is never going to offer them the nourishment that their own honey will & we always felt that as hard as they were working, they deserved to at least have some of their own honey. But that's me. Not everyone feels that way.

Good luck & try to stay with it. I think once you see them pollinating everything in your yard you'll be really glad you did.

Locust Grove, OK(Zone 7a)

I just started beekeeping this year and haven't noticed this problem. Perhaps it's the type of bees you have? I often sit by the hive and watch them flying in and out, and they ignore me. In fact, one of my dogs and 2 of the cats like to nap under the tree right next to the hives and are never bothered. "Beeing" a part of our local beekeeping association has helped me with a lot of my questions. Good luck!

Suncook, NH

My husband and I have been working with bees for three years now. We're in zone 5b in New Hampshire. We have three acres, two of which are in white pines. The third acre surrounds the house in gardens and lawn. We now have two hives situated about 100ft from the back door and right next to my largest flower garden. Bees, when they leave the hive, take off like the Millennium Falcon leaving the ice planet. Ten to fifteen feet from the hive, they are way, way over your head. They fly in a three mile radius. That's a circle of approx. 6000 sq acres. Unless your yard or your neighbors has their super most favorite food in the world and/or a swimming pool full of water, they shouldn't be bothering you. We have two lawn chairs set up just outside the bear fence and sit there in the evening to watch their comings and goings with no problems. My only two close encounters of the worst kind were both my own fault. The first was weeding the bee yard of too high grass. It was windy and in the shade. I weeded about45 min. with no problems. Then the shade moved on and the breeze died down and I was hot and sweaty. Mind you I was in my bathing suit and shorts. As I sat to the side of the hive so as not to disturb their flight path, I realized I was breathing rather heavily. Bees don't like that. They also don't like sweaty, smelly people. I realized this at the same time I noticed a mob of annoyed bees heading my way. I didn't get stung, but they did chase me all the way to the back door. The second time was while I was weed whacking said large flower garden. Again with no problems. Until I worked one of the corners and several seconds later had a handful of "bees" all around my head. I never really got a good look at them, what with all the slapping and running. But they did seem a lot bigger than my girls so I'm pretty convinced they were Yellow Jackets.

Suncook, NH

A brief continuation; Once again chased back to the house but this time with one very painful sting that took a week to heal. Honey bee stings smart but resolve pretty quickly. Another indication it was probably a few Yellow Jackets resting in the leaves. So the point of all this is that for the most part you really have to rile the girls up a lot to get a bad reaction from them. Odors, moving too quickly or aggressively; killing or injuring them during hive inspection should be avoided. It was early in your season and it could be you had a newly hatched brood doing their orientation flight and just being dopey and confused. They probably won't be hanging around the yard or you as the season progresses. They'll be way too busy! So just hang in there - it'll get easier. PS check out all the bee keeping videos and tutorials on Youtube. Some bad ones, mostly good ones. Have Fun!

Oberlin, OH

One of the first things I ask anyone approaching my hives is are they wearing any cologne or perfume. Bees are attracted by smell. Anything from bug repellent, sunscreen even strong soap can attract bees. Before you go out think about what you might have on. Do you use strong smelling laundry detergent or fabric softeners? Hair products? I can walk, garden, shovel and mow around my hives. Unless there is an obvious issue in the hive (they are in need of more space) and they are "hot" they don't bother me at all.
It doesn't sound like they are stinging you at least not the first times. I'd do a couple of things, really pay attention to how much you are scented (it's amazing how many smells we layer on with out giving it much thought). Plus ask your wife to check the hive to see if they are running out of space. It's a new one so that would be my first thought rather than any illness. Bees get cranky if they don't have enough room to store nectar or lay eggs. While she's checking the hive she should pay attention to how the bees are reacting. Is she getting bopped by a lot of bees. Are they behaving aggressively. Some hives I can pop in and out of with the ladies just going air borne. Others they will fly around and bounce off my veil (it's a get away from us sign without stinging). Then there will be that one hive where the ladies are bouncing off me and trying to actively sting. I've had one like that I put up with for a year before I decided to re-queen in hopes of a calmer gene pool. Good luck I hope this helps.

Marengo, IL

Some of my hives are aggressive, but they are also the most productive. I have had hives that are so nasty, I have had to re-queen them. I have had hives I can open and work without a veil.
You're probably not having problems now, but in the future, take some clothes that you have worn (the stinkier, the better) & hang them over or close to the hive.
Avoid the use of perfumes, body lotion, after shave, etc.

Redwood City, CA

My neighbor has kept hives at my house and there are definite differences between them in terms of aggressiveness. Some are completely mellow and a total delight. One hive, however, had to be sent away because the bees became irate about any activity near them and would chase you right out of the yard. So I would definitely vote for the re-queening suggestions if they continue to be aggressive.

Colbert, GA

I want to start Bee Keeping and have a few questions. We have a wooded 1/2 acre that is in front of our house it is full of all different tree's and the ground is sloped there is a valley in the middle. Can I start the hives down in the valley of the woods? The garden will be right across the drive way not more then 1/3 of a mile. Or should I look for another place?

Framingham, MA(Zone 6a)

You have to keep the bees high and dry. If there is any chance of your valley getting waterlogged, it's not an ideal spot.

Sydney, Australia

I am asking questions about keeping bees because my brother's new girlfriend has a bee hive in her backyard. I am scared that the bees will be all over me too. When we went out in her backyard we went right up to the hive and they never came near us and were all going back and forth in the one direction.

Austin, TX

Although I applaud all of you bee keepers out there and know you are doing a great service, I am having significant problems with my neighbor. He has been keeping bees for the last three years. We have about 1/4 acre lots and are within the city limits which allows no more than 2 hives per residential lot. He has between 10-20 hives in his back yard and at one point, he was over 20 hives. We have a beautiful back deck and enjoy having friends over but the last two years that has been problematic as the bees have chased us out of our yard. The honey is delicious, but not worth the cost to my families quality of life. The backyard has been neglected because we can not mow, weed eat, or garden without being chased in the house. This means our property value decreases which in this economy is not a good thing. What is worse, several members of my family are allergic to stinging insects and I do not want to risk finding out if I have the same allergy as I almost lost my father to a bee sting. Is there anything we can do? I was thinking about putting up a 3-4 foot high row of bird netting above our 6 ft fence to block their flight path but that is an eyesore and honestly, I shouldn't have to. Any suggestions?

Framingham, MA(Zone 6a)

Spurlq- If your neighbor has way over the number of hives he is legally allowed to have on his property, you should bring this to the attention of the town/city authorities. I'm surprised the county bee inspector hasn't done anything yet - unless your neighbor is doing the whole bee thing illegally.
For your quality of living, I'd consider asking the neighbor first if he knows about the 2 hive per property restriction. If he does know and is just ignoring it, you can report him in good conscience. If he doesn't know, he's just been educated and should do all in his power to capitulate to the law of the city....
good luck and keep us posted.
PS: bees will fly through bird netting.

Redwood City, CA

I agree with Tamberlin. You obviously have the right to enjoy your property and your neighbor should not ruin your quality of life by having way too many bees. I know bees can fly through bird netting, but perhaps there's a very fine mesh you could put on top of your fence to encourage the bees to fly up, up and away. I say this only because I've heard they really do kind of "helicopter" above things and that one can try to divert flight paths in this manner. It sounds like there are probably just too many bees next to you for this to help, however. Good luck.

Midland City, AL

That many hives, that close together in that environment isn't healty for you OR THE BEES. .

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

If you're in the City of Austin, call 311 and report. (There's more to the ordinance than 2/quarter acre, so maybe easier to just let them work through the requirements with him.)

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

My daughter wants to put a hive in my back yard. I have a fairly large yard, but still just a yard with flowers and a pond. Will the bees go nuts around my pond water? My husband is dead set against this so if it goes badly after I override him, it won't be pretty. the most likely spot is in front of a fence that backs on a two lane street. Gets full sun and is almost the furthest spot from our house. but Damien mows the lawn and will be going by it frequently. I need to shut down this idea fast if there is any possibility it could go south on me. D is not the most --- uh, patient.

Astoria, NY

spurlyq, I suggest you talk to your neighbor before calling in the authorities. The "overcrowding" situation may be temporary, and you're sure to cause bad blood if you don't at least try to resolve the issue in person.

Rather than bird netting, you could try a sprinkler that shoots out a fine mist. Bees drown easily and don't fly in the rain. If you can arrange a wall of mist between you and the bees you might encourage them to go elsewhere. Also, you might find that electric gardening equipment "rials up" the bees less than gas mowers.

Marengo, IL

A couple things:
Hang some of you & your families worn clothes near or over the hive. DON"T wear perfume, aftershave or bathe with scented soap. Who uses that anyway?
Feed the new hive a mix of 50/50 sugar water. If you don't have a "feeder" you can sprinkle the mix over the top of the frames. Or, sprinkle some powdered sugar over the frames.
This is THE MOST CRITICAL TIME for new and old hives. You HAVE to feed them.
When things start to flower, the bees won't bother you (I don't consider them a bother).
The "meanest" hives have always produced the most honey for me, but only when I get stung continually without messing around the hive will I "consider" replacing the queen.
If it is very dry place a pie pan of water on top of the hive.
When the dandelions start to flower, check the hive at least once a week. Add a super when you look down into the hive and see 7 or 8 of the frames are full. Keep checking through every week. If you don't provide adequate room for brood & honey , the hive will swarm.
You can start removing individual frames with sealed honey as early as July, but I usually wait until the end of August, do them all at the same time and "compress" the hives by removing supers down to 2 or 3.

Lafayette, LA(Zone 9a)

When I was young my father raised bees. He had two hives in our back yard, which was not very large and we kids (5) were always in the yard playing or fooling around. My mother would sometimes hang clothes on a line and the bees never bothered any of us. We would go with my father and lift the top of the hives and look inside without any type protection what so ever. However when we helped my dad with harvesting the honey, that was a different story; we wore long sleeves, long pants and a net type mask of some sore. My dad would burn an old piece of blue jean material as smoke to drive the bees lower into the hive so we could harvest the honey combs. Man, that was some good stuff.

But we have never had problems with bees around us. It maybe a new hives or newly located in that area. However, I think they will settle down and you're going all be one big happy family. Bonne chance!

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Bees have a foraging radius of several miles. I typically have 2 hives & seldom see more than a handful in my yard at a time.

Wakefield, United Kingdom

I think it's the type of bees that's the cause. I'm new to beekeeping, but I went on a course to learn before I started.

The course tutor sells subsidised bees to the students & he uses a placid bee, a european cross he's developed himself. They are so placid I can do anything around the hive with little problem. I regularly wasp swat without a suit on & I've only been stung twice. I always fully suit up when inspecting though.

I now have 2 hives, did have 3 until recently, but wasps got my queen. I've successfully united them with a small swarm, but they did become aggressive for a few days whilst they were getting to know each other.

My home is built on a quarter of an acre, they are at the bottom & I rarely see a bee (but there's nothing behind me but farmland/park for miles & miles) in my garden. We've left the bottom bit fairly wild, with a tiny wildlife pond for water for them. I have 4 dogs & they don't even bother them--the bottom bit is gated off.

Buford, OH

I am considering raising bees and have some questions. We live on 12 acres with no close neighbors. We have about 3 acres of wildflowers and have thousands of bees working the flowers in the summer and fall. Maybe 10's of thousands. You can hear the buzz when walking. They are extremely tame. You can take them in your hand (of course not mash them) and they just fly away. We have no close beekeepers that I know of. I assume they are in some of the dead trees in the old growth woods around us. I'm looking to buy a book and do a little reading. We garden about an acre and can most of our food. We have an orchard of about 50 trees. Would the wild bees set up in the hive?

Redwood City, CA

I'm not at all an expert, but I'm guessing the experts would recommend that you buy a hive with a known queen and known temperments .

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

The wild bees might possibly set up in a hive. But more likely, you have frequent "swarms" of the wild bees & you can capture those & put them in a hive already set up & they will stay put.

Framingham, MA(Zone 6a)

Sounds like you have a perfect set up!

Lexington, OH(Zone 5b)

Here's a question in different much time should I plan to spend tending a couple of hives? We have a great location but hope to do some traveling since my recent retirement. I don't want to start bees and then discover I can't leave them to their devices without risking detriment to them or losing my investment entirely. I know there are a lot of new diseases, etc., that are attacking bees. Just want to be a responsible beekeeper, not a "bee haver"!

Framingham, MA(Zone 6a)

My bee club suggests checking in on the hive once a week while they are getting established. this includes refreshing food and making sure your queens are laying. You can probably slack off a bit inthe summer, but should continue to check on them periodically to make sure your queen hasn't run off on you.

Lexington, OH(Zone 5b)

My queen might run off?!? I keep learning and being reminded that these are NOT domesticated creatures! I've bought a couple of excellent books and made a couple of local contacts...have decided to spend the next year learning all I can and may join a local club. Maybe next spring I'll be able to take the plunge. For the meantime, I've decided to plant a variety of bee-food plants and trees and keep hoping I'll see more bees!
I've found the beekeeping community to be the friendliest, most supportive and encouraging group of folks ever! Thanks for the input!

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

All very smart ideas, Janet. They can be intimidating at first, so the more you know, the more you will enjoy them when the time comes.

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