Guidelines for Responsible Beekeeping

The purpose of this set of guidelines is to establish a reference for good honeybee management practices.

Areas of Beekeeping Management to Consider

  • Siting, Screening, Barriers, Fencing and Flyways
  • Hive Carrying Capacity
  • Colony Temperament and Behavior
  • Considerate Hive Management
  • Swarming
  • Provision of Water
  • Disease Control
  • Our Values


Hive placement is one of the most important decisions a beekeeper will make. The amount of sun and shade a hive will receive throughout the day, availability of
water, availability of screening, and the proximity to neighbors and/or public areas
are major factors to consider.

Screening, Barriers, Fencing and Flyways

Care should be exercised to direct the bees' flight path to avoid neighbors and the public. As bees can easily be directed to leave their hives in an upward trajectory, locate screenings, foliage, shrubs, trees, fencing and barriers that will help to
minimize human and animal contact.

Hive Carrying Capacity

Beekeepers are advised to closely observe their apiary locations to determine the carrying capacity of the area - both the immediate area and roughly three miles in
all directions – and to limit the number of hives accordingly. Signs of oversaturation in an area include slow colony growth, poor honey production, and excessively defensive behavior.

Colony Temperament and Behavior

Bees that are consistently defensive should be relocated or re-queened.

Considerate Hive Management

Beekeepers should perform hive manipulations as quickly as possible with minimum disturbance to the bees following these guidelines:

  • Work hives when forager activity is satisfactory, when calm, warm and foragers are out.
  • Avoid working hives when neighbors are nearby or the bees are defensive.
  • Robbing leads to defensive behavior, avoid working hives when robbing is a risk.


Honeybee colonies should be managed to minimize swarming. Beekeepers who learn of a nearby swarm should take reasonable measures to see that swarms from their hives are retrieved to prevent it becoming a nuisance.

Provision of Water

Beekeepers need to provide a suitable source of continuously available water for their bees such as a water bucket, bird bath, fountain or similar.

A water source should be in place before new colonies are installed.

Disease Control

It is incumbent on beekeepers to monitor and manage disease and pests to ensure colony health. Beekeepers should take remedial action to prevent spread of disease.

Our Values

The Beekeepers' Guild of San Mateo County encourages sustainable beekeeping and supports efforts to increase locally adapted bee populations through propagation of the healthiest productive local stocks.

We advocate protection of the bees' habitat and the planting of pollinator friendly flowers, trees, shrubs to provide an abundance of pollen and nectar for honey bees and native pollinators without the need of excess water usage.