Could I put a beehive in my back garden?

This is a question I’m often asked. Well now… I live in suburbia and did put my first hive in my back garden, and they were a joy to watch. I would watch them every morning from my kitchen window flying out of and into the hive. At mid-day the young bees would circle the garden on their orientation flights for an hour or so before scooting back into the hive.  I used even look at them through binoculars to get a closer look without having to leave the house to see the, red, yellow, green and grey pollen (the colour depends on the flower source) on the foragers’ rear legs being brought in to feed the young.  I would often sit outside on a bench a short distance away and watch as they flew about busily collecting, pollen, nectar, resin and water to maintain the hive. They would fly near me and overhead and never bother me. Such joy.

First hive in-situ

Even my neighbours didn’t mind. I had told them early on about my hive and expected them to be horrified at the thought of it but they were very supportive.  There were no complaints of stings or even sightings of my bees flying, though there was one particular plant in a neighbour’s garden the bees seemed to love. All was fine for a year and a half.

The busy bustle at the hive entrance

During year two of the hives residency my novice beekeeping blundering showed up in classic style or maybe it would have happened anyway. Despite going to classes, having an experienced mentor, doing exams and even a full week away attending a beekeeping summer school  to learn all about how to manage bees, my little small hive got very big with lots and lots of bees (as it should). While I was on a short holiday that June it swarmed without me knowing.  Swarming is a natural thing for bees to do but without a queen a hive can get very cranky, very quickly, while they wait for the new queen to hatch and get mated. A week earlier I could sit out and watch them for ages, now suddenly I was a prisoner in my own house. I couldn’t go out the back garden without a bee launching an attack. Ouch!

Hives that swarm usually sort themselves out but it takes time, I didn’t mind giving them a few weeks to sort themselves and happily avoided going near the hive. What I didn’t know is that this lovely peaceful hive of bees had now extended it’s operations and had started terrorising the neighbours!!!!! 

The inevitable knock came on my door, my next-door neighbour, rubbing his sore hand having been stung by a bee he was removing from a little girl’s hair.  I was shocked, embarrassed and well and truly horrified!  I told him that I would remove the beehive immediately (well that night, one has to move bees at night time when all the foragers are back in the hive) and I did. It took 3-hours and I received 15 stings that night as did my mentor who helped even though we were both suited up.   Up to twelve months later I heard stories of other neighbours being stung during that time!!!!!!!!!!!!

So to answer the question. I would not advise keeping a beehive in a suburban garden.  I think that you would want to be a very experienced beekeeper and know exactly how to avoid being a hazard to your neighbours whether by a swarm landing on their property temporarily, or a swarm from your hive taking up residence in some awkward place on their property, or one of your bees giving someone a sting. You can be sure that if you have a hive in your garden a sting now and then (even when they are not queenless and cranky) is inevitable.

Relocation of the bees

Photo above is of my brave mentor armed with a smoker and suited up for the occasion but with no gloves! There is a nuc box temporarily on top of the beehive on the right of the photo. The hive is the one that was in my garden in its new home in a field far away from houses. We were also able to create a nuc from the hive with it’s extra resources and a spare queen. Two for the price of one. The cranky hive saga continued the following year when we had to move the hives again.. see Bovin Encounter.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *