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- Impact -
of Bees in Urban Neighborhoods

Many San Francisco neighborhoods consist of row houses that are approximately 20 ft. wide. The bees from the resident owned hives come into neighboring yards and sometimes into homes in large numbers. Some residents and their children have life threatening allergies to bee stings.  A bee hive can have 30,000 to 80,000 bees which increases the chances of a bee sting.  Although the number of stings might be low, the life threatening result cannot be minimized. Thousands of bees come into surrounding yards regularly to forage. We have talked to a family that has had to flee inside when the bees swarm. Her daughter has life threatening allergies to bee stings and has gone to the emergency room twice. The beekeeper is unsympathetic.

Residents call 311 to get help only to find that the city has no regulations yet to protect the citizens and control beehives being placed in residential neighborhoods.

Many beekeepers are not aware of the impact of bringing man-made beehives into residential neighborhoods. Just a reminder that we are not talking about the bees in agricultural areas where crops are grown. We are talking about backyard hobbyists man-made beehives being brought into San Francisco and placed in dense residential areas. Professor John Havernik of SFSU encourages planting bee friendly gardens rather than bringing more man made hives into the city.

Novice beekeepers are not educated on the complexity of beekeeping. The queen can lay up to 3000 eggs a day. A hive can grow very fast and the neighbors feel the impact. Some hobbyist's bees get mites and diseases that are spread to other nearby hives. Some of the backyard hobbyists beehives have acquired a disease that makes them attracted to light at night. Bees have come into homes at night.

While most people are aware of the impact of bee stings, very few people are aware of the bee excrement  impacting property and quality of life. (See exhibit B and C) It is shocking to find out that bees can make such a mess. Many residents in San Francisco and the bay area are experiencing droppings on their, houses, windows, cars, outside furniture and their skin and clothes. The droppings, which contain honey and wax, are not easily washed off, costing the residents time and money. This is having a negative impact on our quality of life and damaging our property.

Many residents are unaware that the yellow dots all over their cars, homes, clothes and bodies are bee droppings. With the proliferation of urban beekeepers, San Francisco residents are becoming aware and there will be an increase in the number of complaints filed. Beekeepers admit that the feces is hard to clean off if not impossible. They seem to forget that the residents that are affected did not choose to participate in their hobby.

In this article A UC Davis bee geneticist says .."bee feces can fall on the clothing of a passerby." Even Cobey, who researches bees, knows the pitfalls of falling bee poop. "It’s tough to remove.."

People are being injured and quality of life is being impacted. We feel we should have the right to protect our health, our property and bodies, from these man-made hives that are being brought into the city and especially into densely populated neighborhoods.

Some residents say they never had a problem with bees or their droppings and swarms until they were brought into their neighborhood by bee hobbyists. Some of our residents have lived here over 40 years.  One resident, said that the bees from his next door neighbor have swarmed in his yard. He was afraid to go outside.  While he was talking about this, bee excrement landed on his head.

We have spoken with beekeepers about the intensity of having their bees swarm and forage in residential neighborhoods. They will say that bees are docile while swarming. They recommend not making any gestures toward the bees or they might become aggressive. But it is hard for a child (or adult) to not swoosh the bees away.

Another resident had a hive next door. There were so many bees in her yard that she could not go in her backyard. Her grandson has life threatening allergies to bees and could not play in the yard. She is an avid gardener and ended up cutting down her flowers to try to keep some of the bees out. Finally the beekeeper moved the hive so she could use her home and property like she has the right to, but what about the beekeepers who won't move their hives?

Many hives are within 10 ft of neighbors homes and outside living space. The number of beehives near residential communities should be monitored and considered. We could have never imagined that the proliferation of hobbyist beekeepers could have such a negative impact. Since there is no way to control where the bees go, the neighbors end up bearing the responsibility and cost of the large amount of bees and bee poop. People are concerned about the negative impact on property value.Since they will have to disclose the nearby impactful beehive.

There are many responsible beekeepers in San Francisco and their beehives never create a problem. If they do get complaints they will usually move the hive voluntarily. In the past the San Francisco Department of Health would ask the owner to move his or her hive. Unfortunately there are some beekeepers that are not following the beekeeper's code of conduct.

Beekeepers and the City Officials have to understand that if the bees flight pattern is over the neighbors home, they can become impacted by the droppings and bees. Bees do not get rid of their waste within the hive. They relieve themselves when they leave the hive to forage. Bee flight patterns can be unpredictable. Residents just want the city officials to be able to have a recourse when and if the hives become a problem.

Most cities have ordinances in place to protect residents. Most of these ordinances were made before people were aware of the bee dropping problem and the fact that they will invade neighbors properties. The subject was not as prominent as it is these days with the proliferation of bees being brought into the city.

This is not a problem like a dog in the distance barking. The bees are physically affecting our bodies, clothes, homes and property. Bees cannot be contained or trained. They will choose a food source and fly to it daily. Just as San Francisco has ordinances for animal husbandry, we need to have an ordinance for beekeeping.

Many beehive owners will say that it could be coming from feral hives, but all of the residents in the neighborhood have declared that it started when the hives were brought into the neighborhood. If there was a feral hive in a yard the resident would notice the hive and most likely have it removed. There are feral hives in the nearby parks, but the exorbitant amount of bees and droppings started when the hives were brought into the neighborhood. Many times you can see where they are coming from.

The SF Bee Association is a voluntary group and will remove swarms and also try to get a beekeeper to move the hive to another location if a neighbor complains. They have a code of conduct asking beekeepers to respect neighbors.  While that is great, it does not always work.

Many Beekeepers do not understand the impact because he or she is not affected. The bees will fly past their homes and begin dropping on neighbors. Or the beekeeper parks their car in a garage and does not know how it feels to pick up a client in poop covered car. Or to be in your yard and have bee poop land on your clothes and skin. We want to create an understanding and some empathy with Beekeepers about the affect of their bees on their friends and neighbors. We have heard the bee owners minimize these concerns. Some beekeepers have said "Who cares about a little poop." But when it lands on your body or a guest, and you cannot sit outside, it is not "a little poop."

It is hard to believe that someone could put their hobby before their neighbor's health and complaints.

The City Officials must understand that if the bee's flight pattern is over the neighbor's home, they can become impacted by the droppings and bees. Residents just want the city to be able to mitigate when and if they become a problem.

People are being injured and quality of life is being impacted. We feel we should have the right to protect our health, our property and bodies, from these man-made hives that are being brought into the city and especially into densely populated neighborhoods.

See the possible solutions page.