10 Urban Beekeeping Tips

Some might seem obvious, but reading these 10 urban beekeeping tips will make you a better beekeeper.


| GRIT's Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey 2011



Rooftop Beehive

Zan Asha works her rooftop beehives.

Zan Asha

As a third-generation beekeeper, I can attest to the many fun and rewarding aspects of beekeeping. As an urban New Yorker, I also can tell you that you can keep bees, even in the city. Just follow these urban beekeeping tips, and you’ll be well on your way to beekeeping bliss!

1. Make sure it’s legal to keep bees in your area. Although places like Detroit, Chicago and New York City allow for bees, not all urban areas are bee friendly. Double-check your city ordinances to make sure you are cleared to keep bees. Otherwise, you can be heavily fined. And, yes, it does happen – we know of one Brooklyn woman who was fined $2,000 for having two hives on her roof before it became legal to have bees! If you don’t own your own property, make sure you have the landlord’s permission to keep bees. Our bees are our landlady’s project for urban honey production, so we lucked out.

2. Research your new hobby. While bees aren’t classified as pets, they are still animals, and it’s probably good to have some idea of their basic care before you jump in as a keeper. While this sounds obvious, I’ve heard of young, new keepers getting bees because they are the new, trendy, green thing, with no idea how to actually care for them. I’ve been lucky to have my mother’s beekeeping advice, but I also have turned to other sources, and there are plenty of books, beekeeping classes, and even YouTube videos to show you everything from bee behavior to harvesting honey.

3. Make sure you have the proper space for your bees. Once we had permission to start keeping bees, it was time to find the proper spot to place the hives. Like their country cousins, urban hives should be situated near a water source (or be in a spot where a source can be provided), ideally underneath a shady area and with
a windbreak.

In our case, because we had so little backyard space, we decided to put our hives on the roof. We were lucky that our landlady is a green activist, and we had a green roof installed. Green roofs and light-colored roofs deflect heat, which create a far better environment for your bees. Tar applications on most city roofs and black-topped roofs, conversely, can reach temperatures of up to 120 degrees F, which is uncomfortable for the bees.

4. Be a good neighbor. Once we figured out where we wanted our bees, we told our most immediate neighbors of our plans. Unfortunately, most people only associate bees with stings, so it’s up to you to let your immediate neighbors know about your new insect project. If you are so inclined, you can leave pamphlets for them, or politely let them know about your project. Some people promise gifts of honey and candles at the end of harvest season to (literally) sweeten the deal.





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