Feb. 16, 2023

Finding Bee Yards (113)

Finding Bee Yards (113)

It happens to most beekeepers are one point, where you have to find someplace else to keep your bees. A new, different beeyard. Where do you start? Whether you have too many in your backyard and need to put more someplace else, or the world changed...

It happens to most beekeepers at one point, where you have to find someplace else to keep your bees. A new, different beeyard.

Where do you start? Whether you have too many in your backyard and need to put more someplace else, or the world changed and you can’t keep them in your backyard any more, you need to find that place.

First off, what does a beeyard need to have to work for you? Access, definitely - year-round access. Gates, overflowing streams, unplowed roads, vandals, bear, cattle, and more – all pose potential problems.

First, check with your local club members or, drive around. Find a spot that meets all the requirements and find the land owner.  Now how many hives can you keep there? Are there limitations on when you can visit them? Can the landowner notify you if they spot a problem with pests or people and let you know?

Having to find a beeyard may never happen, but if it does, know what to look for, what problems can arise and make sure your bees (and you) stay safe.

We hope you enjoyed today's episode. Please follow today and leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you!


Thanks to Betterbee for sponsoring 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, All We Know by Midway Music, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2023 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 113 – Finding Bee Yards


Kim Flottum: Jim, I was in the store the other day and I ran into one of our local beekeepers and he asked me, he says, "I got to find a different bee yard. I got to move my bees out of my backyard. I got a development going up and I can't keep them there, where do you go to find a bee yard," Is what he asked me. I had to stop and think a minute because it isn't just finding an empty field. There's a whole lot that goes with finding a bee yard that's safe for you and for bees and neighbors and all that. Have you ever been looking for a bee yard?

Jim Tew: I have. In my long beekeeping life, I've had yards come and go. Sometimes, Kim, they fall on your lap. Other times you've got to really go out there and hustle to find them.

Kim: Yes, finding a bee yard. Hi, I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: Today, we're going to at least begin to look at how do you find a bee yard? What are the things you need to find? What do you want to avoid if possible? What's the best bee yard you can find given where you live?


Jim: I like the way you weasel-worded that. We're going to begin to discuss this because you know that too, a lot of beekeepers, you just put them in the backyard. I've had people tell me in the past that the reason they don't keep bees is they have no place to put them. It's all over the page, isn't it, Kim?

Kim: It is.

Jim: From bee yards that are just right there and convenient, I got a good place for them, or do you know anybody where I can put some bees there.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura, brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today podcast. Each week on Honeybee Obscura host Kim Flottum and Jim Tew, explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world. Get ready for an engaging discussion to delight and inform all beekeepers. If you're a long-timer or just starting out, sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honeybees.

Kim: That's probably one of the biggest questions that you have. I can get my car and drive around my neighborhood or my county or wherever how far, well, let's back up a half a step. How far do you want to drive to get to your bee yard? Once you make that determination, then you look at a map and you draw a circle and you say, "Okay, I don't want to drive more than five miles from my house," so you got to a circle that's got a radius of five miles and then you start looking what's in that radius. You go driving around, maybe. What about Google Earth? Is that going to show me how to find a bee yard?

Jim: [laughs] Oh, can you key in Google Earth bee yards? That's an interesting thought, I had not thought about using Google Earth, but I'm sure those GPS programs are going to be handy for finding the yard again.

Kim: Street View would probably at least give you a start.

Jim: Yes. Well, you're right. Normally, I don't just go riding around looking for a bee yard. When I'm riding around in life, I'm always looking, "That'd be a good place to put bees. Look, that's an organic farm. I wonder if I should ask that guy if I can put bees there. Where are we exactly?" Then I try to backtrack. "Oh, I'm 22 miles from home. That's a bit of a ride but that'd be a good place for a yard." Kim, what we're describing is that it's reasonably random. If you don't own a farm or own your own property or have a suitable backyard and you've got to find a place to put them, it's a random process where you just talk, look, listen, ask, explore, have failures until you finally hit one.

Kim: Okay, I'm looking at a field right here. Maybe that's a place I could put them, it's close enough. One of the things you got to think about is, it may be close but how far off the road do I have to go to be able to put them on that piece of land? Is that a mile? Is it 10 yards? Will they be visible from the road? Then you got to think about theft and people messing around with them. The first thing is how far, okay, I found a place that might work. Can I get there 12 months a year? That means driving, turning off the road on that track that goes into the field or the driveway, whatever it is. That's one thing. Who owns the land?

Jim: That's always a tricky thing, isn't it? I don't know how to always find out who owns the land. Normally, I would just go ring a doorbell and hope that somebody would come to the door and say, "I'm not selling anything. I'm trying to find out if I can put bees on whoever owns this land." Then I got to talk fast because modern people are now going close the door in your face thinking that you're there and the dog's going crazy inside, right behind the screen door. Normally, I just go ring the doorbell. I think I would go to the county auditor's office or the city auditors and ask them, how do you find out who owns property? This has got to be a common question for both the county and the city.

Kim: Are they required to tell you?

Jim: I don't know.

Kim: Yes.

Jim: I've always been a doorbell ringer. I told you that, but doorbell ringing, not working, I would go ask. Here's the oddity, Kim. I'm really off the subject now. I would probably be very careful because the city I live in doesn't really have a bee ordinance. They just have a, don't ask don't tell thing. As long as the neighbors aren't upset, as long as the bees are not causing a problem, we don't really want to know. If I go downtown to all these county offices and city offices and really spout off, I want to put bees here, who owns that property? I don't want to awaken a sleeping dog.

Kim: Yes, good point. If you're able to find that out, you find out who owns the land and you've contacted them and you go back and you take a look and you actually drive up that driveway and you say, yes, can I get in here 12 months a year if I have to? Is it going to be muddy when it's rainy? Is it going to flood when it's in the spring? The next question is, "Okay, I know where this piece of land is, what's next to me? What's bordering this field that I'm sitting in or what's on the edge of the woods that I'm putting my bees in?" Of course, the big thing to think about is agriculture and here in Ohio, we got lots of corn and lots of soybeans.

Jim: All of that's going to be treated as you very well know, so I guess it's the old adage, you can run but you can't hide. You can avoid the fields you can see but if you do that Google Earth thing, go up Google Earth right by that potential bee yard and then look all around you, what the bees are going to see when they get their flight at altitude. At some point, I guess you just got to choose a yard but I agree, don't go right next to a source of pesticide application on a dependable basis, year to year, you're just going to sit there and break even all the time or have them even die.

Kim: Yes. Going along with fields that are treated, does this place have water? Would you drink that water? I guess that's what it comes down to.

Jim: The answer to that is no, I would not drink water anywhere that hadn't been treated by some system.

Kim: I got a creek that's 50 yards from my bees and there's a narrow strip of land, on either side of it is a county park, so nobody's going to build on it.

Jim: Yes, that's perfect.

Kim: Well, yes and no because a mile down the road there is corn, and that field to some degree drains into that creek and when it drains comes the pesticides that were in that soil. Enough to kill people, probably not, enough to kill bees, maybe.

Jim: This is a good point to take a break because I'm trying to think how to ask a question. I'll form the question while we hear from our sponsor.


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Jim: Well, Kim, you started by describing a really good situation, a creek running through county-owned property, city-owned property where no one's going to build but then you said then pesticides, so what did you do? Did you put the yard there anyway, or did you abandon that location because of the distant cornfield?

Kim: Given the choice, and that's the caveat here, given a choice, I would avoid it. Sometimes, that's it, that's the only place you can find and you're going to test it for a season and see what happens.

Jim: Yes, I wanted to see if you and I would agree, just try it for a season. It's too hard to find these locations anymore. Things are crowded, that means subdivisions and agriculture and industry and playgrounds. It's just really a hard time to find a really good location to put 10 hives of bees, is that what our goal would be for you and me or so?

Kim: Probably, the other half of that coin though, the other side of that coin is I'm looking for a place to avoid pesticides, but I'm also looking for a place that's got some food for my bees. What's growing on that plot or next to that plot? One thing that's coming up is, I'll use this term carefully here, climate change is changing agriculture. The USDA is beginning to encourage and, in fact, strongly encourage some farmers of some crops to use cover crops on their land, and no-till between crops so that you're not releasing a whole lot of carbon dioxide into the air when you plow next spring. Maybe that's something that you might want to think about, is there somebody in the county and I guess you'd probably go to a local farm bureau.

Jim: This was a good thing, right? I was waiting to hear if you said this USDA policy is good or bad, you never did but it sounds like it would be a good thing. Are you saying they're going to be putting pesticides on those cover crops? Are you saying that this is going to be an improved nectar source?

Kim: Yes, [laughs] both.

Jim: Okay, all right, I can't tell where you're going. [laughs]

Kim: A cover crop on a piece of land that doesn't get plowed every year or every season probably help, it depends on what they're using for cover crop. Of course, if they're using some grass, that's not going to help but if they're using a clover or one of the nectar-producing plants, you might be ahead of the game. Like I said, probably touch base with your local farm bureau. Do you belong to a local farm bureau?

Jim: I do.

Kim: They have their annual meeting, and I touch base with the people that are running it just to see what's changed in the county. There's another thing to look for is, "Okay, I'm looking at a sea of some crop, now, what am I going to be looking at in three months or six months?" You can find out because this guy that owns the land where your bees are, isn't the farmer.

Jim: Right, that's true. In many cases, the farmers leasing it, or who knows, Kim, it's all over the page. We're talking about hypothetical locations, it's all over the page. I guess as you and I talk, about 13 minutes into this conversation, you've just got to have some good luck sooner or later. You're just looking for good luck. The name of this segment should be how to find good luck, more than how to find a bee yard. Because at some point, you've just got to have something come your way that's going to work out reasonably well.

When you first started, you really touched some good points and you kept going, some of the things that's really been miserable in my life, it can be bone dry, asphalt hard during the spring, late spring, early summer, and it can be soggy, wet, nothing is going to grow across that ground in late winter, early spring. Either you just know that you got a yard that you could only get to 9 to 10 months out of the year or the other times you avoid it or you've got to have a vehicle that will do it. I have experienced with that, so you got a four-wheel drive vehicle.

It's been my realization that a four-wheel drive vehicle just gets you in much bigger problems. [laughter] No longer can you go get a four-wheel drive vehicle to pull your car out, now you gotta go get a tractor to pull your four-wheel drive vehicle out. That kind of thing, it's just you got to do the best you can. I had good luck years ago when I was trying to find new yards for Ohio State looking for oil rigs on farms, oil wells because they have a lane that goes right to them that the petroleum company maintains.

I want to say this in a way that is not derogatory but the kind of a scar upon the land and most of the time the farmer would be agreeable to having you put bees back somewhere above that pump. I'd never had the oil rig people complain. I think they're pretty hardy outdoor people. I don't know, they never complained. I didn't put them right up next to the equipment, they're way off to the edge. I had good luck with that for a while, because it had a bit of a road to it.

You mentioned a bit ago, the USDA having these policies many years ago. I don't know if it's still done now or not but here in northwest, Ohio, where they had the strip mine land that was being reclaimed, they would put vast amounts of yellow and white sweet clover on those mines. It was always good to go back to these reclaimed areas because in the spring of the year, there was hundreds of acres of the sweet clovers there, and an hour and again, Now I guess a different segment discussion sometime in the future is that presently many times now white and yellow sweet clover is listed as an undesirable plant.

I guess it's on which side of the fence you're on. Anyway, I would look for those kinds of places, I've got to find a yard here in my own life, in my backyard, I've talked about it, I've written about it, I've complained about it but I'm going to have a housing subdivision go in within 50 feet. No, maybe say 100 feet of my bee yard that I've had back here for 40 years. Even I am being pushed out. I guess it's a good time to say it no matter what yard you find, you need to be looking for another yard right away.

Kim: Right. Good advice.

Jim: Just so you got one in your shirt pocket when you lose the one you've already got.

Kim: Yes, when you get that letter in the mail from the developer that says, in six weeks, we're going to break ground on 24 new houses that you can throw a rock at from your bee yard you're going to be in trouble. There are some other things that need to be mentioned, I think, here. One of them is dealing with the landowner and making sure that because you got bees on his land, now his life has changed at least a little bit maybe and you don't want it to change at all if you can help it. If it's locked when you get there, it's locked when you leave, that's the gate rule. If you're driving in, you're not driving all over the pasture, you're just driving into where the colony sits, you're not tearing up--

Jim: Or driving over his watermelons seedlings. I did that one time at night and then you had to go back and apologize. I didn't know you had planted watermelons out there, I am so sorry, good heavens. Yes, I 100% agree with you, his life, her life should not be changed because we're there.

Kim: What do you pay him?

Jim: You take that question, Kim?

Kim: [laughs] Well, it's all over the map. I've talked to people that-- it's all over the map, and it kind of depends on how well you know him and does he like honey. That's the easy way out is a case of honey at the end of the season. You figure out okay, I'm at 24 or 12 bottles of honey, but look what I got for a whole year. You got to weigh the cost. I've never talked to a beekeeper who I had to pay cash but the world is changing.

Jim: On the rarest of occasions that good luck thing I told you a bit ago, if you had the good luck to find a grower or a farmer who actually wanted the bees there. They wanted the supplemental pollination service, so there was no money involved. In a way, I was doing them a favor. This was the old days so I was having to drive too far and the road was not accessible all the time to it. There were all kinds of reasons not to be there but he asked me to put bees there, so there's that on occasion. When you said it's all over the page, anywhere from nothing to more than you want to pay.

Kim: The other thing to think about kind of is as I said is there food nearby and that kind of works. In our part of Ohio, is there food from late March to early November. On any given year, bees are going to be flying from late March and is there something blooming within flight distance of that bee yard all that time or do you have an extra drought in the middle of-- I know down south, the season is over what, middle of July? Something like that.

Jim: Yes, by then, it's really hot already.

Kim: Is there some place there that would have a crop that bees could visit or could you plant one? Can you take 20 pounds of alfalfa seed and throw it on that field that isn't getting used across the creek over there, and you'd have alfalfa blooming for a good chunk of the year?

Jim: I got to get back to you on that. I think you may be doing that, I'm guessing now. I think you may be doing that for your personal enjoyment. I don't know that you could really justify planting major acreage with the cost of the equipment and the seed to really make a difference. You opened a can of worms when you mentioned the south. It's going to be really hot, and you're going to have a hard time finding anything anywhere. That's just going to be a reverse winter when there's not a lot going on other than what's in someone's yard, ornamental flowers or whatever.

That's where we are now. There are pollinator gardens everywhere. I was really intrigued to stop at the Tennessee Welcome Area coming out of Alabama, and they had pollinator gardens there. They had brochures and handouts, and they had instructions on how to build native bee nest. Boy, they were really into it. That's just a little island of resource there. If everybody would do that, then we wouldn't have to scrounge around so much to find these bigger sources.

Kim: I guess, to wrap this up here, if you're looking for a bee yard, the big points are access year-round, is it safe, and is there enough food there to eat for the number of bees that you're going to put on it? You solve those three problems, you're more than halfway there.

Jim: Yes. There are two things, Kim, that I have left to the very end of this segment because I did not want to go into them. Number one's interesting, and that's putting bees on a rooftop. Can you find a spot right in the middle of town or wherever and put bees on a rooftop? We didn't go into that. Maybe some other time. Secondly, the subject that I do not know what to do about is, what is my legal exposure when I put bees on someone else's property, and reverse of that, what is their legal exposure? I don't know, and I don't know how to find it out. I didn't bring that up in this segment because I had nowhere to go with it.

Kim: Good points though, and we didn't discuss them. I don't have a good answer. I think I'm probably going to have to find one though.

Jim: I wish you would research it. I've tried to. I had a landowner. I said I wasn't going to discuss it, and here I go, and we're out of time. I had a industrial landowner with 50 or 60 acres just laying there, weeds, undeveloped, no plans for it. I asked him if I could put bees there. His first question was, what's my legal exposure? There was no second question. I couldn't answer that, so he was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. That project ended there. Maybe some other time, Kim. Maybe someone's listening who's in the legal lawyering business who could give us and our listeners direction. I don't quite know what that means anymore in our brave new world. Now, with that, I've said too much. I'm done.


Kim: It gives me something to do this week. Till next week, Finding a Bee Yard. Not quite as easy as it might sound, but if the rules going in, you probably will have good luck if you're lucky. [laughs]

Jim: Okay. Thanks for talking, Kim.

Kim: See you next time.

Jim: All right. Bye-Bye.

[00:24:13] [END OF AUDIO]