Can you keep Bees in your Backyard in Illinois?


Many cities and counties throughout Illinois allow the ownership of backyard chickens. However, numerous may not. Below is a an overview of just some of the most populous areas in the State and their laws regarding the ownership of beehives on residential lots. These areas include:

  • Cook County
  • Will County
  • Elgin City

Cook County

Cook county is a massively important county in Illinois. The rules for beehive ownership are stated in the Cook county code. Below is the relevant extract from it:

E. Beekeeping. Bee colonies may be kept on residential and commercial zoning lots, provided they comply with the following regulations:

  • 1. Colonies must be registered with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
  • 2. An adequate water source shall be provided between March and November.
  • 3. Apiaries shall be located in the rear of a zoning lot.
  • 4. Apiaries shall be setback no less than ten feet from an abutting lot line.
  • 5. Apiaries shall be elevated a minimum of one foot above grade.
  • 6. When kept on zoning lots of less than ½ acre apiaries shall be enclosed by a barrier of a minimum of six feet in height.
  • 7. When located on zoning lots of less than ½ acre the keeping of bees shall be limited to a maximum of four bee colonies. ‘

If you would like to read the entire piece relating to keeping bees and other animals on residential property then you can click here. Please make sure to contact the county for the most up to date rules and if they apply to specific areas in the county.

Will County

Will county is a highly populated Illinois county. This county bordering Indiana has grown quickly in the last two decades.

The piece below has been taken from the code which shows the relevant rules and regulations. If you want information residential beehive ownership from a city within the county then you will need to contact them directly, as their laws may supersede the county laws.

(3)   Apiculture/beekeeping.         

(a)   General regulations. All beekeeping activities shall comply with the following:            

  • 1.   State registration. The beekeeper must register the colonies and maintain valid registration with the Illinois Department of Agriculture or as otherwise required by the State of Illinois.            
  • 2.   Illinois Bees and Apiaries Act. All beekeepers shall be in compliance with the Illinois Bees and Apiaries Act, including, but not limited to having all hives accessible for state inspectors to check on a routine basis on their practice and schedule or as needed.            
  • 3.   Fences. Any fencing used for beekeeping shall comply with § 155-14.90 Fences and Walls.            
  • 4.   Water. Each beekeeper shall ensure a convenient source of water is available to the bees at all times during the year so the bees will not congregate at swimming pools, pet watering bowls, birdbaths, or other water sources where they may cause human, bird, or domestic pet contact.            
  • 5.   General maintenance. Each beekeeper shall ensure that no bee comb or other materials might encourage robbing, are left upon the grounds of the apiary site. Upon their removal from the hive, all such materials shall promptly be disposed of in a sealed container or placed within a building or other bee-proof enclosure.           
  • 6.   Maximum size for a single hive shall exceed 20 cubic feet in size.           
  •  7.   Setbacks.                a.    Where there is a wall, lattice or solid fence, dense hedge or bushes, or similar barrier between the subject property and adjacent property, no setback from the property line is required.  Where there is no existing barrier between the two properties, hives shall be set back at least five feet from the property line.                b.   No hive shall be closer than ten feet from a dedicated road, sidewalk, or path.            
  • 8.   Flyway barriers. Any hive within 20 feet from the principle building of an abutting lot or from a dedicated road, sidewalk, or path, shall have a flyway barrier consisting of:                a.   A lattice or solid fence, wall, or dense hedge or bushes at least six feet in height in front of the hive openings such that the bees fly upward and away from neighboring properties or dedicated roads, sidewalks or paths. An existing barrier described previously in this section may be acceptable.                b.   Set no more than five feet from the hive openings.                c.    Extend at least two feet in width from either side of the hive opening.’

The entire Will county code of ordinances can be found here.

Elgin City

According to a dedicated webpage on the Elgin city website you can’t keep bees without a permit from the city or having an inspection carried out. Some of the specific rules are also outlined including:

  • If a property is under one-quarter acre then two hives can be kept. This raises to four hives over one-quarter and eight over one acre.
  • Within 10 feet from the hives, water must be placed.
  • A six-foot flyway barrier has to be installed if hives are within 20 feet of a property line.
  • At the gate area entrance and walkway at the rear of the yard, a sign that says “Bees on Premise” must be displayed. Please ensure that the sign is no more than two square feet.
  • Residents will need to register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture after hives are inspected, approved and acquired.

If you would like to read the entire ordinance, feel free to by clicking this link.

Conclusion on Illinois Backyard Bee Laws

There are different laws for backyard beehive ownership in Illinois depending on what city/county you’re in. In Cook county, when located on zoning lots of less than ½ acre the keeping of bees shall be limited to a maximum of four bee colonies. In Elgin city, if a property is under one-quarter acre then two hives can be kept. With that being said, you can have four hives over one-quarter and eight over one acre.

To find out more about residential bee hive 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:

  • Cook County Code of Ordinances § 8.7 (2020)
  • Will County Code of Ordinances § 155-10.10 (2019)
  • City of Elgin, Ordinance No. G50-17 (2017)

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