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Is it safe for me to have a beehive?

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frichieb 

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Hi all,
I am intersted in building a beehive for my back garden. Iv'e done a bit of research on the internet and gathered a few plans. I would be very grateful for any one to offer me advice as to what to do concerning what type of bees to have, what (if any) legistation there is concerning keeping bees.. i.e if my neighbour gets stung by a bee, will i get sued. And any other hints and tips you have to offer.
Sorry if i come across as being a bit thick, but i am new to this but i would like to 'do my bit' to reverse the decline of the humble bee.
Many thanks,
Rich.

I live in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
 
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tonybloke 

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Hi Rich, welcome to the forum.

I'd advise that you meet ( + Join) your local Beekeeping Association before you get any bees. You can then find out how you are 'with bees' ( as being with an open hive full of bees can be intimidating for some)
rgds, Tony
 

Skyhook 

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Hi Rich, and welcome. The answer to is it safe depends rather on the detail- how big is your garden, how close will it be to your neighbours when they are sunbathing etc etc. I had bees in my garden last year and will again next (they are having a little holiday at the moment), and I know quite a few people who do have them in their gardens without problem. However they can turn nasty, in which case it's as well to have somewhere else to put them until they get it out of their system. If you join your local association, they may have an apiary site you could use for emergency fallback.

It's a fascinating hobby, and if you want to get involved I wouldn't say a word against it. However I think the plight of the honey bee has been slightly over-hyped by the media- in this country at least beekeepers and farmers are capable of maintaining the numbers. There is a general decline in pollinating insects, and I would suggest that if this is your main concern, a good alternative would be providing plants and nest boxes for bumblebees, lacewings etc.
 

Moggs 

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Hi all,
I am intersted in building a beehive for my back garden. Iv'e done a bit of research on the internet and gathered a few plans. I would be very grateful for any one to offer me advice as to what to do concerning what type of bees to have, what (if any) legistation there is concerning keeping bees.. i.e if my neighbour gets stung by a bee, will i get sued. And any other hints and tips you have to offer.
Sorry if i come across as being a bit thick, but i am new to this but i would like to 'do my bit' to reverse the decline of the humble bee.
Many thanks,
Rich.

I live in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
Hi there - and welcome.

Your queries will be answered in great depth in various threads here but, in the nutshell:

On making beehives - precision is important - see 'beespace' which is critical to the success of any beehive.
On back gardens - I personally wouldn't recommend this practice until the level of experience allows 'reading' of the bees' temperament and intentions. There are certain occasions when bees will get very tetchy and their defensive reaction is to sting. A small percentage of the population shows hyper-sensitivity to bee venom which may result in anaphylactic shock, which can kill. OK, such a person can get stung anywhere by any bee, but will bees in your garden add to the risk?
On legislation - yes, there is. Primarily concerning the control of disease and statutory requirements. Other legislation applies - insurance should be a key consideration for you.

I would advise much reading and research, hang around here, talk to many beekeepers (two beekeepers, three opinions!), handle bees.

Good luck.
 

greatbritishhoney 

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Hi Frichieb,

Welcome to the forum.
I'd echo what Tonybloke says, but I'd go further - I think it's essential that you join your local Beekeepers association before you get your bees. It is by far the easiest way to meet other beekeepers and gain some valuable "hands-on" experience with bees as well as a wealth of knowledge and expertise.
Most BKAs are friendly and keen to accept new members.
 

alanf 

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I am interested in building a beehive for my back garden.
Most of the beekeepers around our way are suburban: in the garden, maybe an allotment. Ask around at your local BKA, most run courses in springtime which, at least gives you some idea what's involved. The numbers joining mean that even if some of the long-standing members are unhelpful there will be other recent starters you can learn with. If you're unlucky to have an entirely unfriendly local BKA join a neighbouring one instead (easier in metro land, I know).

There's no specific legislation forbidding bees anywhere but you do have to be considerate to neighbours because they could constitute a 'nuisance' and draw local authority attention if you don't take at least basic precautions. Things like highish fences to avoid direct flight paths and doing your best to avoid inflicting swarms on them all help, as does choosing when to open your hives and being prepared to replace the queen if a colony is not proving gentle.
 

madasafish 

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Welcome fricheib..

I started beekeeping last year by going to N Staffs BKA and finding I could handle bees and beestings.. - Both an essential.

I then made my own Top Bar Hive - very easy - and CHEAP - and bought bees and off we went. Now have six hives..

You need to look at siting hives - as above - and do some form of simple risk assessment ,, horses next door could be a problem...If you have difficult neighbours.. Is anyone next door scared of bees or worse.. suffers badly from stings...

We asked our neighbours before we started and said we would give them honey which we duly did and asked them to watch out for swarms - which they did... They did not mind and indeed their grandchildren play next door with no issues.

Types of bee? Gentle preferably locally sourced (not essential).. And I would suggest - based on my experience - not Carniolans as they are gentle but very swarmy..

Borrow some books form your local library .. Staffs has a huge supply of books on beekeeping - request them online... And read about bees - lots...

Very interesting and absorbing...
 

beeatshellards 

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welcome Rich, I agree with all of the above, arming yourself with a few books is a good thing, but getting hands on experience is essential, before you have your own bees try to find a mentor and join your local association who will guide you ,most associations have beginners lessons , and Im sure you will gain a good grounding to start you off . happy beekeeping
 

NickLeech 

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We kept our bees in our small suburban garden in the first year. As they were a 5 frame nuc they merrily went about their business and ignored us as they grew in number. Having the bees in garden was great for a beginner as they are convieniently to hand and were a real joy. Our neighbour only got stung once.

Second year it turned into a full blown colony and was pretty grumpy around swarming time. Of course we messed it up and they did swarm which is quite a disconcerting sight to see in a small area (fortunately the nieghbours were out).

Now they live in the local association apiury were they can get on with it and I can sit in my garden. So my tip is to have a back up plan of where to keep them if your garden does not work out.

I still consider myself to be pretty new at beekeeping and one thing I have learnt is not to be too inventive as when I do experiment it often goes very wrong. I would stick to a standard self assembly hive as it is one less thing to go awry.
 

the naked beekeeper 

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Bees + Garden = Big NO NO IMO.

Quite simply bees and people aren't meant to mix in proximity.

They might be fine 364 days out of the year even.
But all it takes is one bad event, which you can never predict with a wild insect.
And it is just not worth the risk.

If you want to help..join your association, plant bee friendly plants, try and help someone with their hive, or even find somewhere isolated to keep a colony or two.

Good luck!
It's a fascinating and rewarding craft.

But bees are definintely not docile, sweet fluffy little things, as much as we love them!:)
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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Bees + Garden = Big NO NO IMO.

Quite simply bees and people aren't meant to mix in proximity.
Depends on you garden and your neighbours I think, yes they can get agressive but a lot of time they just go about their business- if you have a decent size garden give it a go but as a few have said - have a backup ready in case.
I've been doing this five minutes and already have three out apiaries promised if I want them - two hours ago yet another offer of an 'oven ready' apiary with shed and nicely fenced area slap bang in the middle of a Himalayan blossom heavy area (apparently the previous beekeeper passed away a few months ago) all i need now is loads of hives'bees and time!!
I think it's crucial you join an association though - had two people turn up at the association apiary last week for a taster, suoit and everything supplied - if they do decide not to give it a go the only thing they've wasted is a Sunday morning.
 

the naked beekeeper 

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A strong, powerful colony gone angry is a truly terrifying thing.

I'd never try it, nor recommend it.
 

bobster 

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I don't agree with bee+garden=no. You have to asses each possible location and the risks involved.

Many beekeepers (me included) keep bees in their garden quite successfully.

And there are a number of cases where out apiaries have had incident due to vandalism, disturbance by cows, barking dogs, horses etc.

As others have said find local BKAs (more than one) and see how you handle bees.

Oh, if you keep bees you will get stung. But the rewards more than make up for it!

Good luck

Bobster
 

derekm 

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Bees + Garden = Big NO NO IMO.

Quite simply bees and people aren't meant to mix in proximity..
)
Please quantify proximity. Is it 5m, 25m, 100m , 1000m ? 2m 5m high fences?
 
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tonybloke 

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I keep some colonies in the back garden, approx 10 metres from the back door. I did have one colony get a bit 'grumpy' during an A/S situation, these were moved to an out-apiary straight away.
you need to have an alternative site!!!
 

derekm 

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Out apiary? : our association apiary is
only 100m into a wood from houses. My sister in law wants bees in her garden. She's fortunate to be able to site them from 15m to 250m away. Does she need an out apiary? Is 25m away with 2m screen ok?
 
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circe 

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As many have commented - you need a plan B - ie either an out apiary away from people or someone who can take the bees away if they become a problem. It's not just aggression, they soil washing and cars with cleansing flights and some neighbours just don't like bees (or their neighbours either!) so you need a back up plan. I have a colony in my back garden cos they are gentle - but the moment I can't dig my veggies without followers, or compaints about soiling, they get transported to the out apiary. I had to move 2 colonies from my garden cos of soiling of cars (not mine) & following - so you have to be prepared. And then there is keeping swarming under control .... I don't think there is a limit to following if they want to - I've walked up someone's field, over 200 m with the colony followers going right back to the beekeeper's house! Definitely get some knowhow from your local bee keeping group - discussion boards are excellent, but there is nothing is quite as instructive as hands on help from good experienced beekeepers
 

mystil 

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I could not recommend enough for you to go to some lessons with your local BBKA association. They are usually brilliant people who know their stuff. We learnt alot from them and when everything goes wrong (as it will) they are on the end of the phone ready to help. Also you will be insured if you join.

Re garden: I cannot recommend enough asking your neighbours if they mind having bees close to them. How big is your garden and how far away is your neighbours boundary in the area you are thinking of putting a hive?

Your neighbours are going to find out if you live close to them that you have bees. The noise alone will alert them to the hives (as they did ours).

We have a 6 foot boundary all the way around the area the bees are to protect the neighbours. Ours have swarmed so you need to be prepared to speak nicely to your neighbours about coming into their garden to collect "their" bees.

Also the minute they get tetchy they will need to go to an out apairy, so be prepared to have a site ready and the equipment to move them.

If I had to chose between nice neighbours and my touchy bees, I would chose the neighbours and move the bees.
 
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gavin 

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Please quantify proximity. Is it 5m, 25m, 100m , 1000m ? 2m 5m high fences?
0m - Much of the time, no problem. Especially *before* an inspection you can walk right up and you'll be ignored. After one you might be harassed or stung.

5m - Much of the time, no problem. Pretty much the same as the above. In a very secluded spot with very high barriers and folk only occasionally passing by, it may be OK.

25m - Line of sight with a tetchy colony, a single bee flying straight at you and stinging is a possibility. Not with most colonies or most of the time, but some of the time. Behind a tall barrier helps. With half a dozen average local mongrel stocks, classic artificial swarming, open line of sight at 10-15m, and people regularly moving around unprotected, then I'd say that stinging of the innocent could be an annual event. At 25m it would be less frequent. Add a high hedge or fence (3-5m) and you reduce it but don't eliminate it.

100m - Most people would regard that as safe. However at my work I remember an occasion where people were getting stung that far away across a field from a set of colonies and the whole field was placed out of bounds. I was attacked about 50m away over a 5m high hedge. It turned out that there was a lot of robbing going on.

Bee poo splatter radius? Cars and washing in early spring might be vulnerable up to 50m away.

Get the mildest of highly bred queens and you might be totally safe at 0m even when working the colony .... until the queen is replaced by her daughter. So full colonies in gardens that are not very large nor very secluded? I don't think so.
 

Poly Hive 

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Hi Frichieb,

May I add to the general welcome.

Bees in the UK are actually thriving so dinna be taken in by the woe is me message in the media. As happens so often if you see a story in the media that you know about it tends to be to say the least inaccurate.

Beekeeping can be expensive so get some hands on experience first before spending serious money.

Bees in gardens are in my opinion not a good mix.

PH
 

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