Is Backyard Beekeeping Allowed in California?

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honey bees

Determining whether you can maintain beehives in your California backyard is contingent upon your precise location, as each municipality within The Golden State has its own set of regulations pertaining to urban beekeeping. Consequently, you need to reach out to your local animal control officers or consult your zoning laws prior to establishing a beehive in your California backyard. 

Furthermore, I strongly advise acquainting yourself with the intricacies of backyard beekeeping before embarking on this endeavor, provided it is permitted in your city. As examples, I have compiled a list of a few California municipalities that authorize backyard beekeeping.

Los Angeles

In 2015, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to grant residents the privilege of maintaining beehives in their backyards, subject to specific conditions. To engage in beekeeping within the City of Los Angeles, you must register as a beekeeper with the County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commission, as stipulated by City Ordinance. Furthermore, the number of hives allowed is limited to one for every 2,500 square feet of lot area. Hive entrances must either face away from or run parallel to the nearest lot line that is adjacent to another lot. Additionally, a six-foot wall, fence, or hedge must be positioned between the hives and adjacent lots. Alternatively, the hives can be elevated to a minimum height of eight feet above the ground level of the neighboring lot.

San Diego

In January 2012, the City of San Diego made an amendment to its Municipal Code, granting permission to residents of single-family homes, community gardens, and retail farms to maintain and keep two beehives. However, only the docile Apis mellifera species, commonly known as honey bees, are allowed to be kept. You must register your apiary with the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner within 30 days of its establishment. Several regulations have been put in place to ensure the safekeeping of these beehives. Firstly, the beehive must not be visible from any public right-of-way. Additionally, the location of the beehive must be secured in a manner that prevents unauthorized access. Furthermore, the beehive must be requeened at least once every two years. 

San Jose

If you reside in San Jose, California, it is a legal requirement to obtain a permit before keeping or maintaining any beehive on any lot or parcel within the city. The City Code prohibits the keeping of wild swarms of bees. However, you may be granted a beekeeping permit if the administrator determines that your activities will not negatively impact the residents of neighboring properties where beehives are maintained.

To obtain the permit, you must also declare, under penalty of perjury, that you will not keep more than two hives on any lot or parcel. Furthermore, you are not allowed to keep a hive within ten feet of any side property line on the lot or parcel where the hives are located. Additionally, you must maintain a distance of at least fifty feet from any dwelling unit, except for the one you occupy.

Sacramento County

In Sacramento County, CA, beekeeping is allowed on properties zoned as Agricultural or Agricultural-Residential, provided that the hives are registered with the Agricultural Commissioner. However, for all other properties in different zones within Sacramento County, beekeeping is permitted as long as the lot size is a minimum of 5,000 square feet. According to the County's website, ground level hives must be enclosed by fencing or a similar barrier to prevent unauthorized access. Similarly, roof level hives are allowed, but they must also be enclosed by fencing or a similar barrier to prevent unauthorized access. Furthermore, you must provide a permanent fresh water source within 15 feet of the hives, located on the same lot.

Long Beach

According to Long Beach Animal Care Services, the establishment or maintenance of more than four beehives on any residential property within the City is prohibited. Therefore, if you have plans to keep a beehive on a residential property in Long Beach, you must first register with the County of Los Angeles. Additionally, you are required to provide a copy of this registration to the Director of the Animal Care Services Bureau. It is also required that you do not establish or maintain your beehive in the front yard of your property or at a distance of less than ten feet from all property lines. Furthermore, the entrances of your beehive must face away from or are parallel to the nearest property line(s).

Santa Ana

In Santa Ana, California, you can keep bees in your backyard if you live in the general agricultural (A-1) zoning district or have a single-family residence. But, of course, there are some rules you must follow. According to Chapter 5, Sec. 5-7 of the Santa Ana Code, if your property is 6,000 square feet or smaller, you can only have up to 2 hives. But if you've got a bigger lot, you can have one hive for every 3,000 square feet, with a max of 5 hives. Your hives must be located in the backyard, at least 20 feet away from public roads or private streets, and 5 feet away from your neighbor's property.

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