When you picture an apiary, what kind of images come to mind? Do you see stretching farmland, fields of colorful flowers, and other elements of a rural setting? These locations make great homes for beekeepers and their hives, but that doesn’t mean beekeeping is limited to rural areas. In fact, urban beekeeping has been growing in popularity for the past several years. More and more city rooftops and communal gardens are starting to house the signature white boxes of thriving honey bee hives. If you’ve always been interested in beekeeping but thought it was off-limits because of where you live, we’re here to tell you otherwise. You can fulfill your dream of keeping a productive hive—and the honey it produces—with this complete guide to urban beekeeping.
The Perks of Urban Beekeeping
No matter where you live, there are endless reasons to start a beekeeping hobby. Honey bees play a vital role in the environment by pollinating plants and helping flowers and crops continue to flourish. This is particularly important in cities where there are less green spaces—and less wild pollinators to help those spaces grow. More cities and their citizens have started to push for rooftop gardens and other green spaces in their urban environments. These areas need the help of honey bees and other pollinators in order to succeed.
However, the benefits of beekeeping don’t end with positive environmental effects. It’s also a rewarding and fulfilling hobby. Beekeeping allows you to spend more time outside connecting with nature and some of its most fascinating creatures and processes. Finally, there’s always the benefit of harvesting your own raw, local honey. If you want, you can even turn your beekeeping hobby into a profitable side business by selling honey and other products from your hives.
Do Your Research
Has the idea of urban beekeeping captured your interest? Hold on—there’s still plenty you need to do before you run off and buy your package bees for sale. The first step to any successful project is research. The more you know about honey bees and beekeeping, the better prepared you’ll be to start this journey. In addition to learning about the ins and outs of honey bee colonies and how to manage them, make sure you read up on your city’s laws and regulations regarding beekeeping. Many cities in the United States allow beekeeping, but they all have different regulations. Your state or city might restrict the number of hives you can have or where you can put them. Make sure you look up your local laws before doing anything else. This will prevent you from making preparations you can’t follow through with because of your city’s ordinances.
Talk to Your Neighbors
Just because your city allows you to keep honey bees doesn’t mean your neighbors are going to be ecstatic about the idea. You don’t necessarily need your neighbors’ permission to start beekeeping, but speaking with them before setting up your hives is a nice gesture. Understand that people have a lot of misconceptions about honey bees, so your neighbors are likely to be wary of them at first. However, if you’re open, honest, and friendly about your desire to keep bees, you have a good chance of bringing them around. Point out that honey bees aren’t aggressive and that they only sting when they feel threatened. Your neighbors aren’t going to be around the hive, so they’ll be fine. You should also explain the benefits of having a local honey bee colony. If your neighbors have outdoor flowerpots or gardens, remind them that bees are extremely helpful for their plants. You can also offer them jars of delicious, local honey at the end of the season—it’s one of the best ways to share the benefits of a local honey bee colony.
Choose Your Beehive Location
Where you place your beehives is key to their success. You need a location that meets all of your honey bees’ necessities while making it easy for you to work in and around your hives. Rooftop gardens are popular hive locations for many urban beekeepers. This will keep your hives away from the general public while providing a lovely green space in which your bees can thrive. Just be wary of the forceful winds that can occur at higher altitudes. If your beehive is on top of a taller building, secure it with straps or install a windbreak so that it doesn’t topple over.
Additionally, you need to make sure your honey bees have plenty of natural resources. Bees are excellent foragers, but it never hurts to lend them a hand. Make sure a clean, safe water source is near the hive, and do your best to provide plenty of vegetation for them. If your rooftop garden doesn’t provide these things, you can also look into a community garden. These shared spaces have plenty of flowers and other plants to sustain your honey bees. Wherever you put your hive, just be sure to double-check any regulations about the shared space ahead of time.
Find Your Community
Even in the largest cities, a thriving beekeeping community will be waiting to welcome you into their ranks. Your fellow beekeepers are great resources for information and advice—especially when you’re just starting out on your beekeeping journey. You can learn a lot from books or online resources, but your local beekeepers are going to know the most about issues and ideas specific to your city. Plus, it’s always nice to meet new people and spend time chatting with your fellow honey bee enthusiasts.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like any new hobby, beekeeping probably won’t come to you naturally—at least not right away. Setting up your hive, performing inspections, addressing complications, and other aspects of beekeeping take time and practice to perfect. Remember that mistakes happen and that you’re not the only one to make them. Don’t give up after a bad experience or mishap. Instead, keep going and see what else the season can bring you. Rely on your fellow beekeepers for support, try again, and you’ll get the hang of it. Soon enough, you’ll be managing your hives and harvesting honey like a pro.
Now that you have this complete guide to urban beekeeping, are you ready to get started? Kelley Beekeeping is here for you every step of the way. We’ve got the hives, supplies, and honey bees you need to venture into the sweet, fruitful world of beekeeping.
Do you keep honey bees in the city? What are your pro urban beekeeping tips? Tell us all about it in the comments below!