Can you have Bees in your Backyard in California?


Like numerous states in America the laws surrounding ownership of beehives on residential lots are mainly decided on a city or county level. Below is a list some of the most populous cities in the Golden State and the residential beehive laws that they have. The cities include:

  • Los Angeles City
  • San Diego City
  • Long Beach
  • Redding

Los Angeles City

Ordinance No. 183920 from 2015 details the regulations regarding beekeeping ownership in Los Angeles. An extract below from the ordinance highlights the most important information regarding these rules:

Sec. 2. Subdivision 13 of Subsection A of Section 12.07 of Article 2 of Chapter 1 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code is amended to read as follows:

13. Backyard beekeeping, as an accessory use, provided that:

  • (a) The person who is the owner of or in possession of an apiary is registered as a beekeeper with the County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commission.
  • (b) The number of hives is limited to one for every 2,500 square feet of lot area.
  • (c) Hives are not located in the required front yard of a lot, including through lots.
  • (d) Hives are located a minimum of five feet from the front, side, and rear lot lines and a minimum of 20 feet from public rights-of-way or private streets.
  • (e) Hive entrances face away from, or parallel to, the nearest lot line adjacent to another lot.
  • (f) A six-foot wall, fence, or hedge is located between hives and adjacent lots, or hives are placed at a minimum of eight feet above ground level of the adjacent lot. The purpose of this provision is to provide a solid barrier to help direct bees over six feet above ground level when departing the lot to minimize interactions between bees and individuals in the vicinity.
  • (g) A water source for bees shall be provided at all times on the property where the bees are kept to discourage bee visitation at the swimming pools, hose bibs and other water sources from adjacent public or surrounding property. ‘

The full ordinance can be found here.

San Diego City

San Diego city allows a limited number of beeives on some residential lots. Below is a piece from its code that describe these regulations:

§44.0408 Beekeeping — Locational Requirements

(a)An apiary consisting of three or more beehives shall be located no closer than 600 feet from a building used as a residence, other than the residence located on the same premises as the beehives, and a minimum of 100 feet from the public right-of-way.

(b)An apiary consisting of two or fewer beehives may be maintained in accordance with the following:

  • (1)The apiary shall be located outside of all required setbacks as established by Chapter 13, Article 1 of this Code, or fifteen feet from the property line and 20 feet from all public rights-of-way, whichever is greater;
  • (2)A minimum 6-foot tall barrier shall surround the beehive leaving sufficient space to properly maintain the beehive except that the barrier shall not be required when the beehive is elevated at least eight feet above grade;
  • (3)The beehive is not visible from the public right-of-way;
  • (4)The beehive is in a location that is secured from unauthorized access;
  • (5)The opening of the beehive faces the most distant property line;
  • (6)The opening of the beehive faces away from entrances and walkways on the premises to the extent possible while ensuring that the entrance faces the most distant property line;
  • (7)The beehive structure is a pale color; and
  • (8)The beehive is requeened at least once every two years.

(“Beekeeping — Distance from Buildings” added 6–8–1977 by O–12084 N.S.) (Retitled to“Beekeeping — Locational Requirements“ and amended 2-22-2012 by O-20137 N.S.; effective 3-23-2012.)

If you want to read more about those regulations and study the relevant passages from that code, please click this link to be forwarded to the code.

Long Beach

The city of Long Beach has a dedicated webpage that highlights the rules around beekeeping in the city. A summary of the requirements are as the following:

  • Owners can’t have a beehive in their front yard.
  • Beehives can’t exist or be maintained within 10 feet of property lines.
  • To discourage bee visitation at hose bibs, swimming pools and other water sources on public or private property adjacent to a bee owner, the owner must have water sources provided to the bees on their property at all times.
  • If a person wishes to have beehives on their property within the limits of the city then they have to register with Los Angeles County. The registration then needs to shown to the Director of the Animal Care Services Bureau.

If you would like to see the webpage in full then you find it here.

Redding

Moving on to Northern California we see another city that has regulated the ownership of beehives on private residential property. An extract from § 7.08.010 in the code shows these rules:

Any person keeping bees must obtain zoning clearance from the Development Services Director and provide an affidavit certifying the following requirements will be met:

  • 1.Up to three colonies of bees may be kept on lots of at least 6,000 square feet developed with a single-family dwelling.
  • 2.Hives must be built with a combination of brood chambers and supers which do not exceed six feet in height above ground level, including any stand or rack the hive is placed on.
  • 3.Hives must be registered with the Shasta County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office pursuant to California Food and Agricultural Code 29040.
  • 4.Flight dispersion barriers (e.g. solid fences, walls, and/or hedges) must be at least six feet in height and be maintained in a good state of repair to the satisfaction of the Development Services Director.
  • 5.An appropriately sized water source for the exclusive use of the colonies shall be maintained on the same property where the colonies are kept. In the event there is a natural or artificial water source on an abutting residential property, the colonies must be positioned nearer to the on-site water sources than the off-site water source.
  • 6.Applicants shall provide a site plan or other information determined necessary by the Development Services Director to determine compliance with this section.
  • 7.No person shall willingly and knowingly keep Africanized bees.

If you would like to read more from the code, then click this link that will redirect you to the entire code.

Conclusion on California Backyard Bee Laws

Many localities in California allow the ownership of backyard beehives. In Los Angeles city, you’re allowed one hive for every 2,500 square feet of lot area. In San Diego, you can have three or more beehives located no closer than 600 feet from a neighboring residence building. In Redding, up to three colonies of bees may be kept on lots of at least 6,000 square feet developed with a single-family dwelling.

However, as you’ve noticed, the above article has only discussed some cities in California. To find out more about residential beehive ownership laws in cities that weren’t mentioned above, make sure to contact them directly.

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This article is written for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

  • Los Angeles City, Ordinance No. 183920 (2015)
  • San Diego City, Municipal Code §44.0408 (2012)
  • Longbeach.gov, Beekeeping
  • Redding city, Code of Ordinances § 7.08.010 (2020)

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