Tips on Public Relations for Backyard Beekeepers

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photo credit: aussiegall via photopin cc
photo credit: aussiegall via photopin cc
Keeping bees in urban areas is an increasingly common practice among gardeners and environmentalists. Not everyone in your neighborhood, however, is going to appreciate your new hobby. Many people immediately associate bees with painful stings and may object to a “dangerous” hive on their street. Taking a proactive approach to educate and inform people can reduce neighborhood concerns.

Due Diligence

Before you order a hive and bees, be sure you’re legally allowed to do so. Check your city ordinances and municipal bylaws. Some communities completely prohibit beekeeping, while others have highly specific restrictions. Be sure all paperwork and licensing is properly filled out before you order or build your hive.

Keep the Neighbors Informed

Contact your neighbors and tell them of your plans. Carry some information pamphlets and discuss the advantages of having a hive in the neighborhood. Do your research well in advance, so you can speak with some authority. Compared to, say, earning a dental associate degree, researching urban bee issues should only take a few hours.

Gardeners should be the easiest to convince, but expect some resistance, especially from neighbors with small children. If you’re in the U.S.A., point out a healthy population of sedate European honeybees lowers the risk of more aggressive, africanized bees establishing themselves in the neighborhood.

Be respectful and reasonable. If a neighbor has a bee sting allergy, for instance, you should probably rethink your hive. If neighbors have questions you can’t answer immediately, do some research and get back to them with an answer as soon as possible.

Avoid Potential Issues

Take steps to avoid potential conflicts. For instance, a hive requires a nearby source of water, preferably in a shady area protected from the wind. If you don’t provide this, or if the water source dries up, the worker bees will forage further afield, possibly congregating around dripping water faucets or a neighbor’s water feature.

A healthy hive may swarm in the spring. This is normal bee behavior. In response to over population the old queen and a portion of the hive leaves to find a new home. Neighbors can be alarmed by bee swarms, especially if the swarm alights on a tree or house.

First Swarm of the seasonPractice swarm control management. If the hive does swarm, you may have to go out in beekeeping gear with smokers and boxes to gather the bees, which can then be given to other beekeepers. Seeing you in your beekeeping equipment taking steps to control a swarm reinforces your reputation as a concerned neighbor who takes responsibility for his or her bees.

Bribery: The Urban Beekeepers Friend

After you harvest a hive’s honey and beeswax, don’t neglect your neighbors. A jar of honey or a couple of beeswax candles show your appreciation for their understanding and help keep you (and your bees) in good standing in the community.

photo credit: dphiffer via photopin cc
photo credit: dphiffer via photopin cc
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