Beekeeping in suburbia

Beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular throughout Queensland. Unfortunately, because many hives are placed incorrectly, bee nuisance complaints are also increasing.

Give careful consideration when placing hives so that bees do not create a nuisance on adjoining properties. This will help to protect the beekeeping industry and preserve the right of individuals to keep bees. Also become familiar with the contents of 'The code of practice for urban beekeeping'.

Legislation

Some local authorities prohibit beekeeping in certain areas. Before you begin, check regulations with your local council.

Under the Apiaries Act 1982, you are required to register as a beekeeper.

Find out how to register.

Hive placement

  • Face the entrance of the hive so that bees fly across your property. If this cannot readily be done, consider placing barriers. These can be in the form of hedges or shrubs, or instant barriers consisting of shade cloth fixed to a trellis, 2-4 m high. Bees will fly up and over these structures and should not worry neighbours.
  • Keep hives as far away as possible from roads, footpaths and parks.
  • Provide water for your bees. Bees prefer a sunny place with capillary moisture, for example, wet sand or gravel, the edge of a concrete pond, or floating waterweeds. If you establish these places, there is much less chance of bees visiting neighbouring swimming pools. Remember that in very hot weather, bees use a large amount of water to maintain temperature and humidity within the hive.

Other precautions

  • Keep no more than one or two bee colonies on a standard suburban allotment.
  • Use a quiet strain of bee and re-queen on a regular basis, that is, every one or two years.
  • Smoke the entrance of hives before mowing or using weedeaters nearby. These machines upset bees, and operators or people passing by may be stung. Wear a hat, veil and long trousers of a light colour.
  • Place a physical barrier between the hive entrance and neighbours' lights. On warm to hot nights, bees are attracted to house lights, particularly fluorescent ones. If the windows are not screened problems can occur.
  • Avoid working bees when conditions are poor. If conditions are such that bees start to rob, they become savage and the potential for trouble increases.
  • Cooperate with your neighbours when working bees, and ensure they are not working or relaxing outdoors at the time. Try to make hive manipulations as quick as possible to disturb the bees as little as possible.
  • Make sure you regularly supply your neighbours with honey.
  • Do not keep bees near horses confined to a small yard - sweaty horses and bees do not mix.

Cooperation

If you have a problem with your neighbours about bees, try to sort it out by consultation and cooperation. Information contained in the 'Code of practice for urban beekeeping' is useful to help neighbours resolve problems. Negotiation is the best option, but if all fails, contact the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry apiary team.

Dispute resolution

When the department receives a complaint, an inspector visits the site and interviews the complainant and beekeeper. The inspector will determine at that point if there is a valid problem caused by the bees. Further action may follow. Options are discussed with the beehives' owner to reduce disruption to neighbours. If these options are implemented and the problems reduce, no further action is necessary. However, if the beehives' owner is unwilling to cooperate and the site is deemed unsuitable for beekeeping, resolution may only be found in legislative directions to make the site a prohibited apiary site, this is viewed as a last resort.

Generally disputes can be resolved through good technical advice on properly locating the apiary, or other factors such as suitable hive numbers for particular sized land parcels, and good husbandry practices.

Further information

Last updated 17 May 2012