Thy neighbors’ bees

I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about beekeepers and their neighbors–usually threats, warnings, or fears of some type. Well, here’s one I can’t get my mind around. It was relayed to me last summer, soon after our new neighbors began tending their garden:

Wife to husband, as she pauses with trowel in hand: “Wow, there are so many bees around here! I’ve never seen so many bees. They’re all over the flowers. Do you think they will sting the kids?”

Husband to wife: “Don’t worry, hon. They’re the neighbors’ bees.”

Wife to husband: “Oh, I didn’t know that. Okay, then.” And she goes back to work, ignoring the bees. End of conversation.

Seriously, I don’t get it. Because they belong to us they aren’t threatening? They don’t sting? They’re kid friendly? Do they think I’ve given them instructions? “Mind your manners over there or no t.v. tonight!”

Does ownership make bees nice? Domesticated instead of wild? Civilized and orderly? Respectful of private property? Educated, perhaps?

Or are they still mean, threatening, and sting happy, but because they belong next door you take it in stride? Like neighborhood dogs, you accept them as a fact of life?

Yes, I am grateful, but if anyone can explain it to me, you have my rapt attention. The more I think about it, the curiouser it gets.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

knatolee
Reply

[via Twitter] @HoneyBeeSuite Hilarious! Maybe they think you are an expert bee trainer! ;)

Sam Smith
Reply

Lol, don’t complain too loud, at least ignorance is working to your advantage this time:) I live just outside of a tiny town and am fortunate enough to have nice neighbours. I walked into town the other day and found bees all over this one house, I don’t know why just that house. So this lady comes to ask me why all the bees (she probably knows I keep bees) and I tell her the season is early and no flowers are up so they are looking for food.

She then asks me if I am even allowed to keep bees this close to town. Let me say I live in farm country and her house is more then a city block away from my hives plus we have about an acre of land. Made me so mad, I don’t know what she expected me to say, “No, I’m not allowed to keep ‘em this close to town. I’m doing it to annoy you”. I find people are disproportionally afraid of bees; most have never been stung by a honey bee before and rarely by anything else but are terrified of them. When they are foraging you can kick, slap or flick them around and they wont attack you.They just fly off. If you get one stuck in your sandal though . . .

Sarah
Reply

I nearly slapped my cousin when he stomped on a bee on purpose. I’m still a tad mad about it.

ScoobyDoBee
Reply

Perhaps it was merely acquiescence. “Oh, they are the neighbors’ (those REAALY nice neighbors)…. so they aren’t going anywhere” (even if they DO sting) :)

Gretchen
Reply

I think it’s the assumption that they are domesticated instead of wild bees, which could be those crazy killer bees. Of course your bees aren’t domesticated, and of course our wild bees here aren’t Africanized bees.

Or maybe she’s just hoping for some honey this summer….

Gary
Reply

I personally tell my bees to only sting people over 1 kilometre away, it seems to work :)

My neighbour loves our bees as his vegetable garden has twice the production this season; it feels good to know that our bees are helping to feed the local area.

Thanks…Gary
Kiwimana

Wren Smith
Reply

I’m lucky I have nice neighbors. They welcomed my bees four years ago. Last year they put in a salt water swimming pool that my bees love. I try to make sure my bees have easy access to water, but think they must be drawn to the salt. Many of my bees drown in their pool and swimming and relaxing poolside with lots of bees can’t be fun for my neighbors and their young grandchildren. Any advice to managing this?

Rusty
Reply

Wren,

Short of putting in your own saltwater pool, I’m not sure. See if you can get a little of the saltwater (or whatever mixture they add to make the pool salty) and set up a watering hole for them (where they won’t drown) that has a similar chemical composition to the pool. It may divert a percentage of the ones going to the pool. I’m sure you won’t get all of them, but if you divert part it may be better for your neighbors.

That’s a tough problem to solve. Be sure to let your neighbors know what you are trying to do. They will probably appreciate your attempts to help even if they don’t work perfectly.

Wren Smith
Reply

Thank you so much Rusty. That sure sounds worth a try. Last year I used a small blue kids swiming pool with rocks in it thinking maybe the blue was part of the appeal. It didn’t work but this time I might put in some of the pool water…or something like it…and see what happens.
Appreciatively,

Wren

Bill & Diane Wallace
Reply

The bees belonging to a GOOD neighbor get a pass, up to the point a bare foot steps on one. From what I’ve read of your blogs you come across as a caring, compassionate and loving person, therefore your neighbors feel your bees are OK too.

Robert Monk
Reply

In yee olden daze villagers put their skeps each side of the front door so the bees got used to people passing. If your neighbours are in the garden all day perhaps they think of them as just scenery.

As for the saltwater pond, the bees need salt for electrolysis. You could get your husband to urinate at the bottom of the garden and this might prove more attractive At least if it does not work your plants will grow better!

Kait
Reply

I totally understand that. If you translated it, it might sound something like:

Wife: ‘There are a lot of bees here. They could be dangerous. Do you think we should get a pest inspector in and see where they are coming from?’

Husband: ‘They are coming from the neighbours’ place; she is a beekeeper; they are hers.’

Wife: ‘Oh. Well we know where they’re coming from, so there’s no point getting someone in. And we’ll have to get used to them and maybe educate the kids about them, because otherwise we’ll have to confront the neighbour and then we won’t get along and that’s no good because we have to share a space. Okay, so lots of bees is something we’ll be getting used to then’

Rusty
Reply

Very good, Kait. A perfect (and insightful) translation!

Wes
Reply

Love the website. I’m new to beekeeping. My neighbors love my bees. I did inform them they may not want to go barefoot when the white clover comes out. When I started this year I made them aware that I had bees. I informed them they are harmless and just to ignore them. They love them for their flowers and gardens.

Julie
Reply

I have had two neighbors on two different occasions ask about my bee hives and say they’re allergic to bee stings. I responded by expressing concern and asking if they had to carry an epi pen. One of them said he didn’t but should (acknowledging personal responsibility). The other just sniffed and said she’d never had to before. Then she said she would be sure not to plant anything in her garden that would attract them. Her backyard is the most flower-ful on the block. Since it took her a couple of years to even notice them, there doesn’t seem to be any real problem, only a perceived one.

John
Reply

I have one better.

I queried my neighbors about starting a hive. Most were receptive, except for one. This particular neighbor has always had issues with everyone in the neighborhood. They are the type of neighbors that have a dozen dogs that bark all day and all night, but expect the other neighbors to cut them slack. When the shoe is on the other foot, they are the exact opposite of what they demand from others.

In any case, the city approved my beehive request. So, I strategically placed my hive behind a 7′ screen. . . . As you might expect, the complaints to the city skyrocketed. Bee stings in the immediate area went up 10 fold over previous years. The noise was unbearable. We even had complaints of bears in the neighborhood. All of this caused by the bees. The city hauled me to court. The complaining neighbors showed page after page after page of medical bills from bee stings, paint damage to their cars (?!?), even the vet bill for a dog that was stung to death by my bees.

The case was closed when I simply told the court that I had not yet populated the hive.

Rusty
Reply

This is the funniest neighbor story I have ever heard!

John from Leeds
Reply

John,

I loved this story and suggested that our local beekeeping journal include it this month. (This is in Leeds, England.)

Our editor also loved it, but cited copyright reasons as to the reason why she could not, being scrupulous and careful.

Would you be willing to give permission for your story to be reprinted in our magazine?

John from Leeds

Rusty
Reply

John,

Absolutely, as long as I’m given credit. By the way, Bee Culture magazine (based in London) routinely reprints my articles (about 6-8 times per year) and there has never been a problem.

Marie pickering
Reply

Hi from the UK.

I love this story, as I also have had problems with a neighbour. I did a similar thing: I put the hives in the garden about 2 months before I got the bees and went out regularly in the bee suit. They also complained before I got the bees. They rang the environmental health department to complain but it was satisfying to be able to say I didn’t have any yet. I now have bees and I don’t think they have noticed any difference. It is all a little mad but what can you do when people have such fixed preconceptions.

Rusty
Reply

Marie,

That is amazing, but it doesn’t surprise me. People understand so little about the world around them . . . and they are so fearful.

Deeb
Reply

Perhaps they knew you were eavesdropping?

Rusty
Reply

Maybe!

Roy
Reply

I think this is the most personable blog site I have ever read. Thank you for all that you do and share!

So, my story is interesting and somewhat unique. I am in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland. There are townhouses, businesses and concrete jungle for miles. I haven’t begun beekeeping yet (I’m almost all set for this Spring), but I have already spoken to some of my neighbors about my future endeavors. The neighbor immediately to my left, is super excited and offered to plant bee-friendly plants for them in his garden. He’s awesome.

I’m a little nervous to talk about it with my neighbors to the right. They are somewhat older and they are hardcore urbanites. But I doubt they will even notice because they’re never outside.

However, directly next to them is a lonesome little lady who *swears* she’s allergic to bees. I’ve tried explaining to her that she has probably never been stung by a “honeybee” but she believes she has. I’ve gotten questions wondering if the neighborhood kids will be okay and things of that nature.

I guess this isn’t really a story because I’m not beekeeping yet. But I have to say, after all the research and networking I’ve done, I have not met anyone or read anything with a situation quite like mine. It is legal to have up to two hives on your property here (with a few minor stipulations). My hive will be on the second story roof (it juts out and I have access from a door on the third floor), well out of the way of the general public.

The point here; I have *many* more neighbors to worry about than most beekeepers. I’m nervous about swarming and such, since I’m already getting push-back from people. And in this city, people are either super friendly, or super not. I guess we’ll see! Just thought I’d share and help you county folk feel better about your situations. :-)

Rusty
Reply

Roy,

Some of us are “country folk” but many are beekeepers in New York City, London, Los Angeles, and Toronto. These folks have just as many neighbors as you do, if not more. There are two schools of thought on telling the neighbors. I’m of the school that says, “Say nothing, do your best to hide your bees, manage carefully, and hope for the best.” Once they find out (if they ever do) give honey every year as a peace offering.

The other school, of course, tells them upfront. But really, some of the ones that object the most would never even find out you if you didn’t tell them.

If you haven’t, be sure to read, “A tale of two neighbors.”

Roy
Reply

Thanks, Rusty!

I did read “A tale of two neighbors.” Cute story. But bears? That doesn’t sound like any kind of situation I will ever be in where I live. What I meant was, I haven’t read a lot online about urban challenges. Suburban, yes. But not deep in the city like I am. I know there are some beekeepers even in my area, but they aren’t sharing their information online and the few close by haven’t returned my emails.

I think I may opt for the first school of thought, hiding my bees. Hopefully I’ll get away with it! I look forward to sharing my experiences. :-)

Rusty
Reply

That’s good, Roy, because I look forward to hearing about them. I love neighbor stories!

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