Can You (Legally) Have a Beehive in Your Backyard?

There’s never been a better time to keep bees. You can help reverse the decline of the honey bee population. And in return, your bees will make honey and pollinate the garden vegetables and plants in your area.

But are you even allowed to keep bees in your backyard? Yes you are!

As far as we know, most places in the US and Canada allow beehives and raising bees in your backyard. Some places only have one rule: Just make sure they’re not an issue with your neighbors.

Other places, though, may have regulations you have to follow. And these regulations may even mean that you can’t have beehives on your property after all (because you don’t meet setback requirements and whatnot). They include:

  • How many beehives you can have
  • Where you can place the beehives
  • How you can sell bees, used equipment, and various beehive products
  • Requirements for permits, registration, and signage
  • Requirements for reporting pests and diseases

It’s a good idea to check your local laws about beekeeping before starting. You can usually find this information on your local government website. Otherwise, you can call your city hall to speak with someone who can tell you about the regulations on beekeeping.

In The City & Residential Areas

In Ontario, Canada – to give you an example of a local law – you’re allowed to keep bees on your property as long as you place the hives at least 30 meters (about 100 feet) from the property line. But as you can imagine, backyards in urban areas are typically so small that this 30-meter requirement brings you into your neighbor’s property!

Because of these kinds of restrictions, you may not be able to keep bees if you live in the city.

Residents in San Diego, California have better luck. They’re only required to place hives at least 15 feet (about 5 meters) from the property line. In Vancouver, Canada – to give you a third example – hives only need to be at least 3 meters (about 10 feet) away from the property line.

How Many Beehives Can You Have?

Again, this will depend on what your local laws say. “Up to two hives” seems to be the most common answer. If you live on a huge property, you’re often allowed to have more.

In San Diego, Calfornia, residents can have up to two hives. But they can have three or more if they place them at least 600 feet (about 180 meters) from their homes.

Residents in Vancouver, Canada can keep up to two hives on a property with an area smaller than 10,000 square feet, and up to four hives on a property with an area over 10,000 square feet.

Do You Need Permission to Keep Bees?

In our examples of Ontario, San Diego, and Vancouver, and probably most cities in the US and Canada, you don’t need a permit to keep bees. However, you have to register your bees. You usually do this by filling a form on a local government website, free of charge.

Besides being the law, registration gives you access to government assistance programs and entitles you to the services of a bee inspector who can help inspect the health of your bees. Also, you get alerts on any potential threats in the environment that may affect the health of your bees.

You’ll have to renew your registration to keep the records updated. It’s usually done every year. In Ontario, Canada, small-scale and hobbyist beekeepers can renew their registration every three years. Commercial beekeepers (who operate 50 or more colonies) must renew their registration annually.

While you don’t need a permit to keep bees, you generally need a permit to sell bees and used equipment. Someone will come do an inspection, and if everything is in good health and condition, you’ll get a permit for a one-time sales transaction. Keep in mind that disease and pest can spread from your hives and old bee equipment. That’s why permits are a necessary and important step.

Bee a Good Neighbor

Even if you can legally keep bees in your backyard, you still want to make sure your neighbors are okay with the idea. There could very well be someone in their family with a life-threatening allergy to bees.

If your neighbors hold a negative view of your new hobby, you can try to ease their concerns by talking to them or providing them with some reading material. And if all else fails, you can always try to bribe them with honey. 😉

Have Fun Out There!