Is Backyard Beekeeping Allowed in Washington State?

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a bee

Beekeeping is totally legal in Washington State, whether you're doing it for fun in your backyard or as a business venture. All you need to do is register your hives each year with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. However, the rules for backyard beekeeping can differ depending on where you live. This means that whether or not you can have bees buzzing around in your backyard in Washington State all comes down to your specific location and its regulations. 

So, before you go ahead and set up a beehive, it's a good idea to double-check with your local health department or zoning laws. In this blog post, I'll be sharing some info on a few Washington State municipalities and their rules when it comes to backyard beekeeping.

Seattle

As I mentioned before, beekeeping laws can differ depending on the city in Washington State. In Seattle, for instance, beekeeping is allowed as an accessory use. The City Code states that no more than four hives are permitted, each with only one swarm on lots smaller than 10,000 square feet. Additionally, the hives must be at least 25 feet away from any lot line, unless they are placed 8 feet or higher above the ground next to the lot.

Spokane

Residents of the RA, RSF, RTF, RMF, and RHD zones in the City of Spokane who own single-family residences are permitted to keep bees in their backyard. As outlined in Section 17C.310.130 of the City Code, the number of bee colonies allowed is one colony per 4,350 square feet of lot area, with a maximum of eight colonies. Colonies must be positioned at least twenty-five feet away from any property line, except in cases where a colony may be located within ten feet of a side or rear lot line, provided it is situated at least ten feet above the grade of the nearest adjoining property line.

Tacoma (Pierce County)

If you reside in the City of Tacoma, you must adhere to the regulations outlined in the Pierce County Code regarding backyard beekeeping. According to Section 8.94.030 of the County Code, all honey bee colonies must be registered and kept in movable-frame hives. Hives can be placed less than 25 feet from a property line if they are situated behind a 6-foot high fence, which must extend at least 25 feet beyond the hive in both directions.

In urban residential areas, there are limitations on the number of hives allowed based on parcel size. For parcels ranging from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet, only 2 hives are permitted. Parcels between 10,001 and 20,000 square feet can have up to 4 hives, while parcels between 20,001 and 43,560 square feet (0.46 to 1 acre) are allowed a maximum of 10 hives.

Bellevue

In the City of Bellevue, there is a minimum lot size requirement of 7,200 square feet for keeping bees. On lots that are 15,000 square feet or smaller, a maximum of four hives, each with one colony, are allowed. According to the City Code, hives must be positioned at least 25 feet away from a property line. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Hives can be situated 8 feet or more above the adjacent ground level, or less than 6 feet above the adjacent ground level but behind a solid fence or hedge that is at least 6 feet high and runs parallel to any property line within 25 feet of the hive, extending at least 25 feet in both directions.

Kent

The City of Kent allows beekeeping as an accessory use, as long as it is registered with the State Department of Agriculture. However, there are specific regulations that must be followed. For instance, no more than four hives, each containing only one swarm, are permitted on lots smaller than ten thousand square feet.

According to the City Code, hives must not be situated within twenty-five feet of any property line, unless they are positioned at least eight feet above the grade immediately adjacent to the lot or less than eight feet above the adjacent grade and behind a solid fence or hedge that is at least six feet high. This fence or hedge must run parallel to any property line within twenty-five feet of a hive and extend at least twenty-five feet beyond the hive in both directions.

Renton

Backyard beekeeping in the City of Renton is subject to specific requirements outlined in the City Code. To engage in beekeeping, you must adhere to certain guidelines. The minimum lot size for beekeeping is 7,500 gross square feet, or 4,500 gross square feet if certain conditions are met. These conditions include keeping hives at least eight feet above or below the grade of abutting properties, or behind a minimum six-foot-tall hedge or solid fence that runs parallel to any property line within twenty-five feet of a hive.

Additionally, there are other requirements that must be followed. Hives must be located in rear yards, side yards, or on rooftops. They must also be positioned a minimum of twenty-five feet from an interior lot line, with each hive's entrance facing away from the nearest property line. Each hive should only contain one swarm and must be maintained to prevent overpopulation and minimize swarming. This can be achieved by requeening regularly to avoid becoming a nuisance. Furthermore, hives must be marked or identified to notify visitors, and a source of fresh water, such as a fountain, must be located within ten feet from the hives.

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