July 1, 2021

Dealing With Neighbors (028)

Dealing With Neighbors  (028)

A question from a book written 107 years ago comes up for discussion. “How do you keep your bees from bothering your neighbors?” Back then, it was mostly cattle and horses beekeepers were worried about Today? It’s the people in the house right...

How Close is YOUR Neighbor?A question from a book written 107 years ago comes up for discussion.

“How do you keep your bees from bothering your neighbors?” Back then, it was mostly cattle and horses beekeepers were worried about Today? It’s the people in the house right next door, their swimming pool, their bird feeders and waterers and the water for their pooch.

First, is it legal to keep bees where you are? Then how do you get along with your neighbors? Where are your bees? Do you have a fence? (It’s still true – Good fences make good neighbors.) No question when you have bees.  Fence or no fence, robbing is still an issue, all of the time. It was good advice to avoid robbing 107 years ago, and it is good advice today.

When you go to your bee yard, it’s hard to be subtle – smoker going, white suit, veil…neighbors are going to notice. Just how do you keep your bees will determine just how well you get along with your neighbors! In this episode, Kim and Jim discuss some finer aspects of dealing with neighbors!


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com


Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2021 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura


Episode 28 – Dealing With Neighbors


[background music]

Jim Tew: Beekeepers, I've got a pamphlet here that's 107 years old, related to beekeeping. It's entitled Answers to 150 Questions. Do you know that one of those questions is, "How do I get along with my neighbor?"

Kim Flottum: Well, that can be tricky sometimes when you've got bees and neighbors.

Jim: It certainly can. Some things just do not change. We thought we'd talk about this today on Honey Bee Obscura, where every Thursday we talk about a different topic in beekeeping. I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: We're going to talk to you today as much as we can about our neighbors, and how we live with them.

Kim: Or don't live with them.

Jim: Or don't live with them.

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: Or don't speak to them or whatever.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world and engaging in an informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long timers, and those just starting their journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honeybees.

Jim: It is intriguing, Kim. You know 107 years ago what the question was, was what do I do if my bees sting my neighbor's cattle and the horses? I don't know that I have to worry about that much right now.

Kim: Yes. Cattle and horses are anymore almost a non-event. I think probably the only time we run into that is when you've got an outyard and you want to fence around the hive so they don't come up and scratch but next door probably not going to be an issue for hardly anybody. I'm not going to say nobody.

Jim: When you were saying that I was thinking I do have specific instances. Number one, where you and I are here in the Midwest, we do have Amish friends and Amish beekeeper neighbors and I've wondered how their horses deal being around bees and whatever. Some time at the proper time, when I find a good Amish friend, I'm going to ask him how his horses react to being around bees.

Kim: Because they're always there. I think probably more than horses and cattle anymore, it's when you're in an urban or semi urban situation, what you've got to worry about is robbing.

Jim: Robbing?

Kim: Yes.

Jim: Bees and people or both bees and people?

Kim: [laughs] When you've got a robbing situation going in your backyard and you've got one or two colonies robbing a weak one there, you get a lot of venom in the air, walks down the street and suddenly you've got neighbors getting stung down the street. That's one thing to worry about neighbors, I think.

Jim: You know that robbing thing, I can't get off the subject. Every time you and I chat I want to wander off in the wrong direction. That robbing thing really I've been spending a lot of time on that in my bee culture articles. I've really learned a lot, enjoyed a lot. It's really tricky to control that. You're exactly right. If you put three, or four, or five colonies side by side and you do things exactly right, because 107 years ago, part of the advice was control robbing. Well, I'll challenge any beekeeper to control something as basic as robbing. It's up there with swarming. You can restrict it, but when those bees go crazy, you don't really have any control over them at all, you're right.

Kim: If you've got neighbors you've been getting along with for all these years, it's probably going to be less of an issue than if you get that grumpy neighbor that you just assume not be outside when they're outside.

Jim: Yes. There's people right now who are saying, "I got to go find something else to do. I'm going to listen to something else. I don't have any neighbors. My closest neighbor's two miles away." Well, you people should listen to this because the rest of us have some real headaches to deal with.

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: When I put on that bee suit, and light that smoker, and pull that veil up over my head, the neighbors take note, "Oh my stars, what is that crazy guy doing back there now." Kim, at that point, every yellow jacket, every bumblebee, every paper wasp is my responsibility. Anything that stings those people suddenly became my purview because he's over there working with those bees and your stand out. When you put that stuff on, you stand out, it's hard to be discreet.

Kim: Well, the first thing you got to do without a doubt before any of this happens, is it legal to keep bees where you've got beehives? Does the township, or the county, or the city say yes or no, or yes, under these conditions? You got to find out first what you can and can't do?

Jim: You know Kim, the thing that's so frustrating about that is it's all over the page. Some locations are really liberal, and you can keep bees, and they like bees there, and they're of helping nature, and the ecosystem, and the very next village over, the very next city over is paranoid. "I'm allergic to bees. Every time I'm stung, I have to take Benadryl and we can't have bees here, they're dangerous." That village just right next door to you will completely ostracize your beehive. It's not that it's unfair, it's just people's fear, and you won't take that fear away from them.

Kim: Even if you're legal you can be assessed as a villain in some situation. Knowing what you can and can't do legally is important, but knowing what your neighbors are going to tolerate, is probably going to be more important.

Jim: You're going in a good direction. The pivotal moment is when you're looking your neighbor in their eye. You're that close, and you're trying to explain this claptrap about the value of pollination-

Kim: Yes. [laughs]

Jim: - when what they want to know all about is the hysterical nature of mass things. At that moment, if you can't get along with that neighbor-- You and I've talked about this before, if you've got a bad relationship with that neighbor, getting bee hives probably won't make that relationship any better.

Kim: Exactly.

Jim: The relationship with a neighbor, the neighbor's personality, the neighbor's agricultural background, all those things are going to be important. Where the shrubs are, where the bees are, everything is a variable.


Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Honey Bee Obscura Podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com.

Kim: Believe it or not throw enters this discussion, good fences make good neighbors.

Jim: Yes. That's exactly where I'm going with this.

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: You cannot have a fence too high around your bee yard.

Kim: Exactly, right.

Jim: I like it anyway. Don't you just know that it must drive them crazy when you go back there and smoke-

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: -gently drips out over that closed fence. "What is he doing back there?"


Jim: We have to admit. Now, beekeepers, we have to tell you we do make unusual neighbors. Most people just put up bird boxes and bird feeders. Not us boy, we've got to have beehives back there.

Kim: Well, you just mentioned something that also needs to be mentioned here, I think, water. If your neighbor has got a swimming pool, or if your neighbor has got water dishes out for their pets, if your neighbor has got a bird bath, your neighbor's going to have some of your bees visiting.

Jim: Why would you even bring that up? My neighbor, bless her heart, she liked birds and squirrels. She had about eight or nine bird feeders out, and my bees would go to her bird bath, to her bird watering ornament. She complains, "Jim, your bees are coming over to my bird water and they can't get water." I went over to have a look. Kim, I must have had 3,000 bees there.

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: You'd have to be a suicidal bird to land there. I'm thinking, "Yes, this is what makes me be a good neighbor. This is why she enjoys living next door to me." Here's the sad thing. She says, "I'm just going to give you that thing. You take it-

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: -and I'll get another one."


Kim: Well, that's not a bad neighbor.

Jim: It was an old bird thing anyway. I took it, and I took the bees with me, and I took them but you know what happened, Kim.

Kim: Sure.

Jim: The bees were happy, they had two watering sources-

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: -now. Could it get any worse? Yes, in the springtime, the bees got in her bird feeders and tried to forage on corn dust. I even got in trouble then when they were not even around the watering device.

Kim: I've got a lot of bird feeders up, I've got 9 or 10 of them. I've watched birds gather on the branches next to the feeders watching the bees pulling the corn dust out of the feeder hole, and they're just sitting there, and they're just chirping at those bees. Chirping at those bees.

Jim: Well, in the summertime that's the only water. I've seen that. I like birds. I'm not a bird watcher per se, but I like birds, and it's hot in the summer. All down through the south, it's particularly hot. Quickly, quickly, quickly in some of those really hot areas, where they had to take in water for cattle. They had trouble getting the cows to drink the water because so many bees were there, in these hot desert areas, forage on water too.

Kim: I'll tell you a good way to go a long way to solving that problem is you supply the water yourself and you make it water that they can smell, and something that I found keeps the bees out of my neighbor's swimming pool is a washtub half full of water with a bunch of rocks in it with Honey B Healthy in it.

Jim: Oh, I didn't know all this.

Kim: I'll tell you what I do is, I keep that bottle of Honey B Healthy floating in that tub. It's always there. I never have to remember to bring it out, and they know what water smells like and taste like, and they never go to the pool.

Jim: Well, since you've done this, tell us what it smells like.

Kim: It's a minty, spicy.

Jim: Strong odor.

Kim: Not unpleasant odor.

Jim: Well, that's intriguing, and it's something that's manageable too.

Kim: Yes, it is. Neighbors, old neighbors. [chuckles]

Jim: The reason I got going on this was that this was a question 107 years ago in that booklet, and you just tell, and we're still here, and that question answer 107 years ago is just as bogus then as it is now. You ought to be careful, don't put him in the line of sight, put up a fence, do things right, prevent robbing. Yes, yes, yes. Same thing, same thing, and the bottom line is, put up the tallest fence you can, have as good a relationship as you can with the neighbor, be within the confines of the regulations that you're living in, and be fair with the people next door. They didn't decide to keep bees, you did.

Kim: If all else fails, find an outyard.

Jim: Find an outyard. I like that. Kim, I'll see you next week. Same time, Thursday morning.

Kim: All right.

Jim: We'll do something else. We'll talk about bees again. I have no idea what, but it'll be good. It'll be good.

Kim: Okay. See you then.

Jim: Bye-bye.

[00:12:41] [END OF AUDIO]