bee stories

A tale of two neighbors

Beekeeper vs neighbor stories abound, but this is the best yet. It was sent in by “John” attached to the post “Thy neighbors’ bees.” I’m presenting it here because it’s too funny to be buried in the comments section.

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.


  • No way!! That is brilliant. LOVE that. Rusty knows I’ve had my own trials and tribulations about bees and neighbors. But she doesn’t know that said neighbors felt so hated after the ordeal they moved off the mountain and far, far away last week! We have lovely new neighbors very savvy about nature and our environment. 🙂

  • Great story. Long before I kept bees I was a neighbor to bees. We used to live in the hills above San Diego, and in the agricultural off-season a man kept hives down in the canyon below. All the bees ever did was come sip at the drip lines in our orchard, so I never really understood why every summer he’d present us with a small case of honey and an earnest thank you for tolerating them. But I’ve certainly made sure my next door neighbors (whose water garden serves as my own bees’ oasis) always get some jars of honey and an earnest thank you for tolerating them.

  • In the city in which I live, every neighbor within 150′ of the property line must give written permission before you can apply for a hive permit. Unfortunately, I have a neighbor like the one in the story. I just wonder why the city doesn’t also give everyone else on the block the right to veto her owning a gun — a little more deadly than a hive, and yet . . .

  • This is a great story and I think rings a bell with all of us. Tolerance is the key to happy neighbourhood living. When we put in a hive last Spring I was anxious to provide plenty of watering spots, that is, ponds to deter them from drinking at the neighbour across the road’s pool. They thankfully drink continually from several buckets grouped together in our yard … but this nieghbour has late parties at times, at the front of their house. Thoughtfulness is sometimes a one way street!

    • Merryn,

      I agree. There are many who have never tried to view the world from another person’s perspective.

  • Why do you people raise these bugs?

    Some of you may have 20 acres to place your bees, that’s great.

    We live in a urban area with lots of 120×65′. I have a property owner behind me that has his hives 20 ft from my back door of my house. I had to drain my fountains, cut all my roses & flowers back and stop using my own backyard. My cat has been stung and I have at least 12 stings now and counting.

    Most of you keepers are responsible but this one makes you all seem like idiots. He lives at [address deleted].

  • Mistress Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow?

    Beecause of our damned ol bugs!

    I believe that ignorance is a choice.
    But an open mind leads to an open heart.

    It’s funny how many hornet’s nests can live up in the eves of one’s house and oddly no one is stung or bothered much – but as soon as a honeybee hive is in a neighborhood – all hell has broke loose.

  • My own hive is about 12 feet from my own back door and my bees never sting me, my children, or the dogs we babysit. It doesn’t make sense that they would be such a problem. Could it be a bad hive?

  • I doubt that many of the stings are from honey bees. More likely yellowjackets; they will sting you just for walking near them. Honey bees only protect the hive. I have two hives and I only get stung when I pinch a bee while turning a frame, etc. I stand right next to the front of the hive watching them -come/and/go- with no problems.

    I believe some people just let their fears guide them, instead of learning.

    Great site Rusty!

  • What one sees as a problem another reap from the problem. Those who know the taste of raw honey love my bees. Those who complain never see a bottle. But slowly they will come around and love honey to and the bees that work so hard to produce it. More flowers, more fruit, more vegetables, more mead and more friends of bees.

  • Brilliant response to the crank. Perspective is so important. I really appreciate your stories. Thank you for sharing.

  • I started keeping bees a couple of years ago. All of my neighbors know I have bees and none seem to care. One of my neighbors, who we get along with quite well, came over while I was out in the yard to let me know that my bees were using his bird bath as a water source. I was quick to ask how he knew they were my bees and point out that none of my bees were wearing collars with name tag. He laughed and retorted that while that is true, my bees are the closest ones to his house, so he assumed they were mine.

    I explained that bees were not like dogs and you can’t train them to only drink out of one bowl. I explained that I have water sources out in my bee yard, but I guess those bee’s find your water more to their liking and there wasn’t a lot I could do to change their mind. I told him that if it concerned him that much he can feel free to swat them, although I could not be held responsible for what happens if he missed, as they are after all just bugs. We parted ways with a chuckle. Later that year, I showed up on his doorstep. He greeted me and asked what I needed. As I handed over a large jar of honey, I simply stated I was there to pay my water bill.

  • I have the best bee neighbor ever! Behind my clinic is a residential area, and in my neighbor’s block wall is a colony of feral bees that have lived there for years (on his side) despite our triple digit summer weather. I like to go out and watch them on my lunch hour. Decided to set up a bait hive to see if I could catch any swarms the wall colony threw. He called me one Saturday “There are about 5000 bees on your hive!” Sure enough, bees had all bearded up on the outside of the hive. Lynn even pointed out the queen and helped me, barehanded, with the lid while I was filming, I caught the queen and put her in the hive, but swarm absconded (dangit rookie mistake shoulda put her on house arrest for a bit) For his trouble he gave me some produce out of his giant greenhouse. 🙂 He’ll get the first honey if this trap-out I am doing for fun and an ordered queen works out.

  • I have a single hive that I built a 6 ft tall fence around in my tract home back yard close to the community brick wall. Behind (and below) that is a fairly busy street.

    To my knowledge none of my neighbors know I have bees. I keep it a ‘secret’ because suburban beekeeping is currently illegal.

    I keep water available for my ladies but they don’t seem to enjoy it. They DO seem to like the moist ground in my garden after I water everything. Possibly it’s the minerals in the soil… who knows.

    Anyway, my neighbors will know I have bees this autumn because they will be receiving gifts of fresh, raw honey!

  • A number of people have told me that my hives in the backyard need more sun. I said, “Well, my *front* lawn has a southern exposure and it would have been perfect but then everyone driving by would know, the kids walking by to get to the elementary school up the street would be tempted, etc, etc.” I think it’s best to be discreet about your beehives if you live in a residential neighborhood, unfortunately. As for my hives’ placement, they will be in full sun during the winter months after the leaves have fallen off the trees – I am hopeful this will be a good trade-off for not having full sun in the summer. Good luck to everyone with cranky, nosy neighbors!

    • Mary,

      I live in the woods. My bees live in the woods. My hives haven’t been in the direct sun for decades. In any case, left to their own devices, honey bees hardly ever chose places in the bright sun—it’s humans that do that. We think we know best what the bees need, but the bees have different ideas. I think summer shade and winter sun is perfect. Why? Because in the summer they spent all their time trying to cool themselves and in the winter they spend their time trying to warm themselves. As always, logic is more useful than know-it-all beekeepers.

  • Thanks, Rusty, for your vote of confidence! It seemed logical to me too but hey, I’m a newbee so what do I know?! In New England we have rough winters, but in the summer we can have a string of 90+ degree days with high humidity – it makes me cringe to think of the wax comb inside holding pounds and pounds of honey with bees on it. I watched my yard during the winter for the spots that had full sun during the day and placed my hives there. In the summer they have dappled sun and shade off and on as the sun moves across the sky. And I have seen them out and about this week quite early in the morning even though the hive was in shade. I think it will be ok. 8 )

  • It gets better. A year+ into the beekeeping project, the stakes have never been higher. The routine deception has grown to astounding levels. I have now been to court 4 times, been before city council at least a dozen times.

    My empty hives still set in my yard. I put on my beekeeping apparel once a week and tend my empty hives. It has grown to hilarious levels. I even purchase raw honey from a fellow beekeeper and give to the neighbors as gifts.

    I am recorded and photographed like a celebrity being stalked by the paparazzi. They are collecting “evidence” I suppose. But to date, the hives are all vacant, sealed up so no errant bee swarm can use them as a home.

    The stings are still at apocalyptic proportions, but only in one small yard in the neighborhood. Mountains of dead pets, billions of dollars in hospital bills, even dogs and cats getting along with each other.

    I have addressed the city council, began educating them, and have even had the pleasure of escorting the new mayor to a bee farm (out of the city). I have got to know some of the city council members quite well. One even has chickens in her yard. The mayor is very interested in urban beekeeping. The best thing is since the number of stinging incidents is so high in my area (the last 18 months has set records) I, and several entomologists have concluded that it MAY be due to the fact that there are so many aggressive feral bees in the area. The solution proposed by these entomologists is…get this…wait for it…WAIT…they propose adding more docile domesticated bees to the environment to help dilute the aggressive feral bee population. i.e. They say urban apiaries are the cure for the record-setting number of bee stings in our neighborhood.

    So, at the prompting of the mayor and 2 city council members, I have written a rather lengthy document on urban apiaries and their impact on the cities that allow them. I have taken the liberty of writing and proposing a new city ordinance and I have asked the mayor to appoint a special volunteer board to address issues with apiaries within the city.

    While I may never get to populate my hives, I am opening the way for 200,000 other citizens to do so.

    • John,

      You need to send us a photo of your non-hives, just for the record and so we can see the pretense in action.

  • The latest on the non-hive bee invasion. Last week I managed to get the bee ban lifted ENTIRELY. WOOOO HOOOO! In my city, it is no longer illegal to keep bees!

    Not only that, but the city is looking at hiring beekeepers to pollinate the city parks!!

  • I am in the process of researching for a new novel I’m writing, The Beekeepers Daughter. Your information about neighbors is delightful and informative. I’m also writing a children’s picture book about a neighbor that keeps bees. I’m learning so much and have been in touch with a master beekeeper here in Sarasota to help me get my facts right. Thank you all for helping the ecology and providing wonderful honey.

  • I’m about to set up my first hive in the garden (‘back yard’) of a house in a semi-urban village in Latvia (Eastern Europe). “Semi-urban” meaning close to but not part of the capital and with relatively large properties. We have neighbours on three of five sides.

    I have dutifully checked with each neighbour to guage their reaction and liked most of all Alexander’s comment (he’s a Russian seaman with moderate English): “Wonderful! They will f**k my new fruit trees.”

  • As a newbee in Pa, I was happy to find this site, I have laughed and almost cried over some of these posts. I am in a farm area with nothing but fields and orchards all around us. I will have my first hives this spring and looking forward to this. I guess I never knew how lucky I am. The only neighbors we have are cows, chickens, and deer. And the usual wildlife critters. Some good and some not so much. I look forward to checking this site out and will supply all with information on my new adventure and how the girls like it here in Bedford County Pa.

  • I’m a newbee with 2 hives started this spring with nucs from Wisconsin. I live on about 300 acres way out in the country in north-central Arkansas. My hives thrived this spring while white clover was blooming, but now they go nowhere but to sugar-water feeders even though I have roughly 6 acres of mixed peppermint and spearmint in full bloom and I have roughly 1 acre of wildflowers I planted just for the bees all within a few hundred yards of their hives. What’s going on here? Do the northern bees not like the menu available in the south? Do I need to remove the sugar water feeders? If so, how do I prevent them from starving?

    • VW,

      If those flowers are in bloom as you say, I would take down the feeders. They won’t starve as long as there are flowers available. You want them to behave like bees, and also you want their winter stores to contain honey, not just stored syrup. The syrup doesn’t have all the nutrients that honey contains, so it’s best they put up honey for the lean times. If you go into a severe dearth without flowers, then you can feed.

      • How long after removal of the feeders should I wait before becoming concerned if I don’t see the bees showing up on the mint or wildflowers? I’m afraid I have some lazy bees . . .

        • VW,

          You might not see them on the mint or the wildflowers if they find something else they prefer. Honey bees always go for the sweetest, richest source of nectar that is in bloom at any given time. If that is further away, they may still go for it. Remember any colony will easily forage in a two- or three-mile radius. Maybe you need a hive scale, so you can tell if the colony is putting on weight.

  • I am a first year beekeeper and read several horror stories and articles about neighbor reactions. So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I talked to my neighbors. One enthusiastically thanks me because she was planning to plant some fruit trees, another immediately wanted to plant some more flowers in their garden for my bees. A third has emailed me lovely photos of my bees on his flowers (I’m not sure how he knows they are mine 🙂 ). I am keeping my fingers crossed that when someone finally moves in to the long empty home next to ours they will at last be tolerant.

    I was not able to harvest any honey this year, but hope to be sharing some with neighbors next fall. I have thought of buying some jars of local honey and peeling the labels off so I can pretend it is from my hive.