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rooftop beehive

Where to Put Bees When You Have No Yard

getting started keeping bees

So many people have told me that they wish they could keep bees, but they don't have the space for them. "Rubbish!" is what I tell them. When I first started keeping bees, I lived in a studio apartment. It was on the 13th floor of a building in downtown Philly. I put the hive on the roof of the parking garage next door and it was great! No neighbors complaining my bees in their pool or stinging their dog. 

I strongly recommend people to keep bees somewhere other than their backyard. Unless you have a large yard and your neighbors are far away, it's a liability. If you have kids, there's always a chance a friend will come over who doesn't know they're severely allergic to bees or your curious dog will put his nose in the entrance. Not to mention that when you harvest honey or make candles, hundreds of bees from your hive will be at your door. 

Everyone in my family except for the 18 month old baby (knock on wood) has been stung many times at the house because of my bees. My husband and dog are used to it, but not everyone will be as understanding.

There are lots of places you can keep bees other than your home. Here's a few that either worked for me or for a beekeeper I met. Don't be discouraged if someone says no, just keep looking.

Businesses

I've never met a business that didn't want to boast that they were helping the bees. B Corps are businesses that go through a certification proving that they help the environment. If you have one near you, start with them. 

Resorts and Hotels

I keep bees for a hotel near me. They pay for the equipment and pay me a monthly fee. They keep all the honey. It's works out well. They love being able to say that they use their honey in the kitchen and they give away honey to guests. If a hotel doesn't have the outside space for the hives, see if they have a rooftop you can easily access.

Office Parks

Office parks usually have a lot of unused outside space. Just make sure you can access it at night and that they don't spray herbicides.

Botanical Gardens & Parks 

Cemetaries are a great place to put your bees! I know someone who did this and it was genius. There's hardly any foot traffic and lots of flowers. 

I had bees in an ethnobotanical garden. Any kind of garden would be happy to host bees. When I contacted the garden they said they  always wanted bees but no one on staff had the time to learn how. 

You may be able to get your hives into a park or community garden. However, this can be tricky. Often they're owned by the city or county and they can be difficult to get a hold of.

Schools

I know beekeepers with hives on the roof of a school. Some schools have a campus where you can keep bees. Depending on if you have the extra free time, a school may let you keep bees there in exchange for teaching the students about bees. Another possible option is to have the school pay for the hive and you work with the students to care for the hive. Some schools have a garden program and would love it if a beekeeper was willing to put a hive on their campus.

Rooftops

Any building with a rooftop you can access by stairs is a possible place you can keep bees. There were bees on the roof of Notre Dame cathedral up until their recent fire. The possibilities are endless in the city.

Zoo

Many zoos have beehives. There is one zoo in New York that has bees by the bird section because the bees are food for the birds! Not exactly what the beekeeper is looking for, but hey, everyone has to eat.

Farms & Other Properties

My bees are on farm land. They have the acreage for the hives and it's far enough away from the house that it doesn't bother people. The neighbors are far enough away that they don't even know there are bees nearby. Here in Hawaii, people with ag land will get a tax break if they have at least 5 hives for every acre on their property.

 

Make Some Rules

Before you put bees on someone else's property, make sure everyone is on the same page. This is so important. Avoid headaches later on or someone telling you at 4pm on a Saturday they want your bees gone ASAP. A beehive is very heavy when full.

Step 1 Their Terms

Do they want honey or are they just happy to help the bees and get free pollination? What's in it for them and what do they expect? What do you think is fair? I will give someone 2 - 16oz jars of honey if they ask every year, but I won't share more than that since they are getting a tax break and pollination on their farm. Some people will offer more if places are harder to find. I'm also putting 20 hives on their property so 32oz of honey is no big deal. If there's just one hive, 32oz of honey is a lot more to give away.

Step 2 Your Terms

Usually you will check your bees once a week. However, sometimes you see a problem and have to go back the next day. If you need to move bees, you will do this at sunset. Make sure they're ok with you coming as often as needed and later in the evening occasionally. 

I have one customer who makes me call and schedule an appointment with the bees. I really hate doing this, but they pay me, so I put up with it. I would stay away from places that want you to call before you come. Not just because of the extra hassle, but these people usually end up adding more rules later on and I end up just moving the bees to another location so I never have to talk to them ever again.

No spray! You cannot put bees on a property that sprays RoundUp or any other herbicide or pesticide. It doesn't matter if it is organic. I've had quite a few students lose their hive because their neighbors sprayed their garden and it killed the hive. 

I hope this helps you to realize that beekeeping is possible no matter where you live! Don't let it stop you from giving it a go. 

 

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