That Time Of Year
This is the time of the year where I get a lot of phone calls and email from people who intend to start keeping honey bees. Many of them have some land and that it good, but it is those who live in town and have neighbors close by are the ones that concern me. Though most towns do not have regulations against honey bees they do have nuisance ordinances.
It’s not that honey bees are problematic. Most people can keep bees and the neighbors would never know. Stinging incidences mostly happen at the hive and within a few feet of it. The problem is when the bees swarm, which is the honey bees way of starting new colonies. In itself swarms are pretty safe. The bees have nothing to defend; they are just looking for a new home. I often collect clustered swarms without any protective gear.
Swarms come about when a colony produces a new queen. From egg to an adult queen is a span of only 16 days. Bees will often swarm a day or two before the new queen emerges. I inspect my hives every 10 days to look for signs of the hive creating a new queen. If the beekeeper doesn't know how to do this and isn't constantly up on it the hive "WILL" swarm. If the beekeeper isn't there to capture the swarm it may very well move into a nearby house. All you need is a small hole or gap in the siding or trim that is the size of a pencil and the bees will find it and start a new colony which may cost thousands of dollars to remove. Though I check my hives constantly I still had two major swarms last year that I was able to capture.
All beekeepers have swarms, even the professionals. Bees are very good about hiding their queen cells. The few people I have had in my classes that keep or have kept bees in town always have problems with swarms and with their neighbors freaking out. They will be hard pressed to find insurance to cover their liability. I have a farm policy that covers me for any problems with my livestock that isn't available in residential policies. If your neighbors really want to keep bees I'm sure they can find someone with property owners out in the country that would be happy to accommodate them.
In conclusion I don’t believe it is a good idea to keep honey bees if you live in town or in a neighborhood where others live near by. By doing so it may be more of a disservice beekeepers. In the last few year I’ve captured at least ten swarms in the city of Astoria and nearly as many in Seaside. I get a hero’s welcome when I remove the feared invader and I hope the colony came from some feral hive that’s been hunkered down in an old tree somewhere near by, but often I know it emitted from some back yard beekeeper who wasn’t paying attention.