Auckland suburbs are undergoing a bee revival as residents embrace the opportunity to host hives in their gardens.
This is great news for bees, for the plants they pollinate and for those who love them.
“Bees play an integral role in the pollination of food crops including backyard vegetable gardens and edible community gardens,” says Councillor Wayne Walker, Auckland Council’s Regulatory Committee Deputy Chair.
If you do have a beehive – or are considering getting one – it’s your responsibility to ensure the bees don’t cause a nuisance to other residents.
“Auckland Council has made it very easy to keep bees in urban areas with the Animal Management Bylaw. In many instances it’s about showing consideration for the people who live around you,” says Wayne Walker.
Bees can leave distinct trails of coloured bee excrement within a 500-metre radius of the hive. The colour depends on the pollen sources the bees are foraging on but is typically yellow to brown.
One bee isn’t a problem, but a healthy hive can contain between 5000 and 30,000 bees so the volume quickly adds up.
In fact, of the bee-related complaints received by Auckland Council, bee excrement tops the list. Max Wilde, Team Manager Compliance Investigations, says it’s a very real issue for some residents who struggle to cope with the fecal deluge on cars and dwellings.
“Bee excrement dries into a really hard waxy substance that can be difficult to remove. It’s not just a matter of washing it off – you need a water blaster – and when that happens over days, weeks and months on their property people can become justifiably fed up,” he says.
Auckland Council offers the following advice to those with bees on their property to help reduce the likelihood of problems.
Location is everything
Typically, when positioning a hive, the owner will choose to have it as far away from their house as possible. This often means that it’s then closer to their neighbour, who is more likely to be impacted.
If possible, do not allow hives to face children’s play areas, neighbours’ clotheslines or houses.
Providing a source of water near a hive is essential, otherwise the bees may get their water from a nearby swimming pool, birdbath or even wet washing on the line.
Unfortunately, once bees have found a water spot they’ll continue to use it throughout the season and, short of moving the bees, it’s difficult to correct this.
An adequate food source for bees is important for bee nutrition and preventing starvation. Bees rely on nectar and pollen for their food and without adequate food sources bees can become weak or starve.
While the public can be encouraged to plant bee-friendly plants, beekeepers should prevent overcrowding and manage bee stocking rates.
Wilde says that a stocking rate is about managing the number of hives in an apiary or in an area in relation to the carrying capacity of food sources for bees in the foraging environment.
“Bees forage in a radius of up to five kilometres from the hive, and having too many bees in a single area can cause competition between honeybee colonies.”
Wilde suggests that anyone living in a residential-zoned area should talk to their neighbours before getting a beehive.
“This will highlight any people with allergies, along with others who already have bee hives. It’s worth considering that any more than one bee hive on a residential property with housing located in close formation is likely to cause a nuisance.”
Manage the flight path
Bees will fly at head height for some distance from their hives unless their surrounding environment directs their flight path upwards and management of this is an important aspect of responsible beekeeping.
The good news is that bees can be encouraged to fly above head height if you place a flyway barrier 1m-2m from the hive entrance.
Barriers you can use to direct a flight path include:
- shrubs or trees
- a wall
- a hedge
- a fence.
Find out more
Beekeeping for beginners course, an 8-week course for those interested in keeping bees.