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Apr 14, 2009 06:18 PM

Anybody got a beehive?

Hope this isn't "pushing the envelope" in the new forum....Some beekeepers used to keep some in an abandoned orchard behind my house, but the city bought the property, and now it's a flood control thing. I recently saw a show that suggested even one hive can "help" ( with pollination and the mite issue). Anybody doing this? Anybody know how to get started in N. California?

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  1. No worries!

    Discussion of beekeeping, raising laying hens and other food for personal use are also fine here on gardening. We don't aim to be the place to discuss large scale agriculture or even running the family commercial farm, but if you're raising food for you and your family, it's probably okay.

    1. This may or may not apply to you, but the FIRST thing to do is check zoning and local laws.
      Some places will not allow you to keep bees within city limits or within a certain distance of your own or other people's dwellings or outbuildings, public buildings, roads, etc.
      The same applies to poultry or other "livestock."
      It would be a shame to go a lot of trouble researching and possibly spending money on acquiring the equipment and bees only to receive a large fine or have the hive seized by the authorities.

      Call your County Agricultural Extension Agent. You can find that through your State Department of Agriculture or the State University.

      1 Reply
      1. An article about semi-legal urban back yard beekeeping here in Orange County CA:

        1. Oh, I wish wish wish I had my own beehives! I can't have them (*) but I hope everyone else who is interested in bees can get two hives. (Two is always better than one where beehives are concerned.) Backyard beekeeping makes your garden so much better if you have have any fruit or bee-pollinated veggies (squashes, onions, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, and much more). It really helps your neighbors' gardens, too.

          There are how-to classes around the country (including the great one I took at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul). There are lots of good books, too - I like "Beekeeping for Dummies," but there are many others.

          But after you check on laws with the Dept. of Ag, the best resource is your local hobby beekeeping club. They can help you find good getting-started information, as well as tips on local regulations. Most importantly, this group can help you find a mentor, which every beekeeping novice needs.

          The California State Beekeepers Association is for commercial beekeepers, but they have a nice list of affiliated clubs in California:


          I hope you go for it!


          (*) Why I can't have my own bees: Backyard beekeeping is illegal in Minneapolis, although it's completely legal in St. Paul (4 blocks from my house), as well as in most of the Twin Cities suburbs. However, even if it were legal, I don't have enough sun in my yard to warm up the bees on all but the hottest summer days. But I took the class "Beekeeping in Northern Climates" anyway ---- I can always dream. (One of my dreams is to keep bumblebees - they're native and tend to be in many yards anyway, especially the messy ones. Of course, you can't harvest the honey, but you get a better tomato crop with bumblebees around. But I digress....)

          6 Replies
          1. re: AnneInMpls

            Apparently bumblebees are great pollinators, work in very cool weather, and are gentle (not hot tempered). But they are solitary and I wonder how anyone can domesticate them in a hive, although apparently it can be done.
            Does anyone know how to get a colony of bumblebees going?

            1. re: jayt90

              Bumblebees are really hard workers! In the summer, I see them in my garden until quite late at night - they're out much later than the honeybees.

              But they're social insects, not solitary ones. Like honeybees, they have an egg-laying queen surrounded by female workers and a few male bees. But unlike honeybees, they live in a nest, not a hive. And there are many fewer in a colony - in late summer, a bumblebee nest (which is often on or under the ground) can have up to 100 bees, compared to honeybee colonies of 40,000 - 100,000 bees in a hive.

              Also, there are a few strains of "cranky" bumblebees, though you're right that most are quite gentle.

              In my opinion, bumblebees are smarter than honeybees, because they don't make more honey than they need. But they die out each winter (except for the queen, who burrows into the ground to hibernate), so the nest must start from scratch each spring. And the queen "hatches" the first few eggs by setting on them just like a mother hen....

              Oh, I just *love* bumblebees. But I'll try to contain myself. Suffice it to say, if you've got these charming native pollinators in your garden, do whatever you can to encourage them to visit often! For general bumblebee lore, see "Humblebee Bumblebee" by Brian L Griffin.

              If, like me, you want to "keep" them (which basically means providing a bumblebee-friendly environment and hoping that they move in), either google "bumblebee nest box" or read "Befriending Bumblebees" by Evans, Burns, and Spivak.


              Actually, I believe that one can actually purchase "cultured bumblebees" - they're sold as pollinators for huge commercial greenhouses that grow tomatoes. Bumblebees are by far the cheapest method of pollinating our supermarket tomatoes.

              For more fascinating bumblebee facts, including the plants that bumblebees like best, see .


              1. re: AnneInMpls


                i am so excited that bee keeping is now, or is about to be, legal in mpls!!!

                woo-hoo, buzz-buzz!


                regarding sun in the yard-- many beekeepers i know like to situate the hives atop buildings on the warm, sunny roofs do you have a garage or shed that would work?

                1. re: soupkitten

                  Hooray! I am so very, very jazzed that we can keep bees in Mpls at last!!! But, alas, I still don't have anywhere to put them, unless the apt next door lets me use their roof. So I'm trying to talk a neighbor into keeping bees - my raspberries really need bees (the fruit was really wimpy last year).

                  For this year, I've hung up an orchard mason bee house, and am looking into an an observation bumblebee nest box (it's supposed to have a discrete "viewing window" :-). Native pollinators are great, too!


                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    hmm. another thought, next year maybe: get together with a community garden, and site a hive at their site? seems like it would be a mutually beneficial relationship. i think my neighbor is planning to keep bees ASAP and hopefully i can get in on that action :)

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Bees like flowers, the more the better (think of alfalfa fields, acres of buckwheat, or sunflowers.) A community garden doesn't offer a lot, and the bees will go further, up to 2 km. in search of back yard flowers. If there is a lot of nectar to be gathered in the area, then several racks of comb honey can be harvested. More , if there are several hives. The important thing is to get a surplus of nectar in May and June, and the bees will store it upstairs in the comb racks. Not every area can provide enough flowers early in the season, but it it is worth a shot to find out if you can get fresh comb honey.

          2. We don't have hives but lots of flower gardens and perennials. It seems the bumble bees love things that are purple. We also attract tons of regular bees and have no problem with pollenation.