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Monday, October 22, 2012

How Much Space Do I Need to Keep a Hive of Bees?

Q. I am just wondering how much space we would need to keep a hive of bees. I have a large backyard by Vegas standards with fruit trees, grape vines and a garden. And how do we keep the bees from being pesky to the neighbors?

A. I forwarded this question to our bee expert, Rodney Mehring, who teaches classes on beekeeping at the UNCE Orchard. Check with your local ordinances to make sure beekeeping is allowed in your community.
Beehives at the UNCE Orchard
You can keep a bee hive in almost any space or back yard. Some beekeepers that live in large cities will even keep bees hive on the roofs of apartment buildings.

The food resource in your back yard is nominal in comparison to the 2-5 miles from the hive the bees will forage. Bees will work the flowers you have on plants in your yard but will also work flowers all over the neighborhood.

There is a limit to the number of colonies a given area can support. Too many hives mean there is not enough food and some colonies will die over winter for lack of food storage. Some areas in Arizona may support 50 or more colonies in the desert. In the city you may be able to support even more.

Queen is center right marked with "17" upside
In Nevada deserts there may not be enough food to even support 1 colony. However it is unlikely that you will be keeping more than 2 or 3 colonies in a city back yard. There is more than enough food in your area of town for 2 or 3 colonies.

And how do we keep the bees from being pesky to the neighbors for example? The short answer is management. The Las Vegas Valley has the Africanized honey bee (AHB) and can make trouble with neighbors, their animals and even cause mortalities. The best way to keep your hives from becoming Africanized is to keep the queens in your hives “marked”.

If you know she is the queen you placed in the colony by her markings, then you know your colony has not become Africanized. If the queen you have in your colony is unmarked, then you should order a new queen from a queen breeder that does not have Africanized genes. Even our genital European hives can be a problem to neighbors.

Bee class at the Orchard for volunteers and future beekeepers
To help them from being a problem for your neighbors, keep the hive behind a fence or structure that is 6 feet or higher. This will force the bee to rise above neighbors heads and prevent unintended stings. Always put fresh water out for the bees otherwise you will force the bees to find water at your neighbors pool. Always communicate with your neighbors and give them some honey each year from your hives. This will “sweeten them up” to work with you.

If you are interested in learning more about beekeeping, Rodney will be teaching classes at the UNCE Orchard. You can get more information about future classes or contact Rodney at his website, www.lvbeekeeping.com .

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