​Backyard bees: what you need to know about urban beekeeping

You don’t need a huge property to become a beekeeper. In fact, urban hives are becoming more and more common in New Zealand, driven by concern about declining bee numbers and an increasing appetite for natural and organic products.

But keeping an urban hive isn’t necessarily simple. Like any animal, bees require care, feeding and maintenance to survive. There are rules and regulations to obey, diseases to treat, and neighbours to consider.

Here are some of the major issues to consider before you start your backyard beehive.

Space and position

You don’t need a huge amount of space to keep bees, but you do need to think about whether your garden is suitable. Ideally, hives should be positioned to face north, and be protected from southerly winds. They should get morning sun, without overheating during summer. If your garden is particularly shady, windy, or damp, your bees may not thrive.

Keeping your neighbours happy

If you live in a dense urban area, you need to think about your neighbours before you jump into beekeeping. The two most common complaints from neighbours are bees dirtying washing and drinking from swimming pools. You can try to minimise these issues by positioning your hives away from clotheslines, and providing convenient water sources for your bees. Giving your neighbours the odd jar of honey can help too!

Own or rent

If you would like hives on your property, but don’t know where to start, you can rent them. There are a number of companies which rent hives to homeowners. They’ll even manage the hives and harvest the honey for you.

Bee bylaws

In New Zealand, most councils let homeowners keep hives, as long as the bees don’t become a nuisance. Legally, hives need to be registered and inspected for disease each year. Make sure you read up on registration and local laws before you start.

The more you know

Beekeeping can be quite complicated, particularly if you’re just starting out. It’s useful to have a network of fellow beekeepers around to discuss problems and share solutions, whether that means an online forum or a real life beekeeping club. These groups can also be useful resources when it comes to finding cheap equipment or a new swarm.