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Urban beekeeping – tomorrow on RNZ

  • April 29th, 2015

My urban beehive is a cautionary tale. Wellington City Council told me to remove my hive because of neighbour complaints. Their demands and orders would have scared me if I had not been a lawyer.

It is like with chooks and dogs. People are no longer expected to tolerate the minor inconveniences that once went with living alongside neighbours. They demand that the Council use its coercive powers to keep them safe, even from fears and irritations our ancestors would have scoffed at.

Bee flights over the houses below us on the hill left little yellow waxy spots on their windows (which we also got). That is a particular issue in spring when they are gearing up for the big pollen feed to grow the colonies and produce new queens and drones.
In years past when most people dried their laundry outside it was a known downside of having bees nearby. I do not diminish the issue. It would be irritating if you derived no benefit from the hive.
I offered honey to the people I thought were complaining  though the Council would not tell me who, even so I could go and offer honey.
I surveyed the neighbours. Our nearest neighbours were all in favour of me resisting the Council threats. One was sensibly direct about her unhappiness with the spots. A couple did not respond.

I tried to get a nearby site or two, where I could move the hive so the flight path would not cause the problem. I think the Hawker St Monastery garden would have been perfect, and troubled nobody. But they were scared of liability if the bees stung someone.
Eventually friends volunteered from a 10 acre block but I wanted the bees handy. I liked looking into the hive.  I loved the pohutukawa honey from our neighbourhood. I wanted our feijoas fertilised. A hive on the other side of the harbour would not do that.
Still, I could understand the neighbours’ upset. Despite the honey as recompense, one became very unsweet, so I gave the hive away. Respect for neighbours trumps.

I have to satisfy myself with the 500 or so hives on my land in the Wairarapa. I sold my hives to the beekeeper two years ago, so don’t own them now, but we are fairly involved in making it a good bee habitat. We are planting trees to feed the bees protein in spring, and placing hive sites where they might thrive.
Eventually we will be planting selected manuka seedlings, to extend the flowering season.

RNZ wants to talk to me about bees early tomorrow afternoon. Maybe we’ll discuss the story above.


  • Bill Mockridge
  • April 29th, 2015
  • 12:31 pm

It’s a pity about the bees Stephen
Some neighbours are of the yuppy type and won’t tolerate anything
However I think fejoas are actually fertilized by birds. Usally blackbirds on my trees. They eat the little ‘petals’ around the flowers.


  • Roger Strong
  • April 29th, 2015
  • 5:54 pm

That’s a shame about the bees-here in the country we don’t have to worry as the bees have plenty of space and we all appreciate them.
The other day I did the most amazing deal and swoped a dead possum for a nice pot of honey! Our neighbour who has bees spotted me on my quad bike taking a dead possum away for disposal and wanted it for fishing and so offered me the honey! I do help her as well but hunting down and poisoning wasp nests of which there are far fewer this season than ever before.

  • alwyn
  • May 5th, 2015
  • 1:36 pm

The French seem to handle this sort of thing in a much more sensible manner.
The Luxembourg Garden in Paris, surely one of the most crowded gardens in the world, has both a group of beehives and an orchard. I understand that the honey and the fruit is served in their dining room to Senators who meet in the Luxembourg Palace.

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