Beekeeping in the City of Milwaukee
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Use this document to apply for a beekeeping permit.
Use this sheet to draw and submit your beekeeping plan.
This brochure contains information bee-keeping regulations in Milwaukee.
Importance of Honeybees
The honeybee (apis mellifera) is a critical pollinator for flowers, fruits and vegetables. This is of great benefit in the city where pollinating insect populations are usually significantly smaller than in rural areas. Managed colonies of bees help to increase the yields and the quality of a large variety of plants found in backyard gardens, municipal parks, and flowerbeds. Hives of honeybees are currently established in most every major city in the United States. Beehives are successfully kept in small back yards, on balconies and rooftops in congested urban environments with little, if any, impact to adjacent property owners. In addition to the benefits of plant pollination, the honey, beeswax, pollen and other hive products are high in nutritional value and are a local, renewable and sustainable resource.
In 2010, the City of Milwaukee passed an ordinance (Chapter 78-6 Milwaukee Code of Ordinances) allowing people to keep up to two colonies of honeybees on private property within the City limits. A permit and inspection is required. Permit applications may be obtained below and submitted to DNS. A simple map of the apiary and surrounding area with dimensions must be provided. Neighbors within 200 feet will be notified and given an opportunity to voice any concerns they may have. You might also be required to get written permission from your immediate neighbors, should your hives be within 50 feet of their dwellings or certain structures. Proof of beekeeping competency must be provided.
If you plan to keep honeybees in the City of Milwaukee, it is best to talk to your neighbors ahead of time, and explain the behavior and benefits of beekeeping. Be prepared to address their concerns, as your neighbors will have a voice in the permit approval process. Beekeeping in the city should utilize best practices to avoid creating problems for your neighbors. With some planning, beehives can be safely located in close proximity to homes, gardens and other places where people spend recreational time. You will be responsible for monitoring your bees on a regular basis for the health of the hive and to ensure that you have not created a nuisance to others. Limit your beekeeping activities to times when it will not interfere with your neighbors’ activities and enjoyment of their property.
Honeybees are naturally gentle and non-aggressive. They may sting if they perceive a threat to their colony, but only as a last resort as the bee will die shortly after depositing its stinger. While foraging for nectar and pollen away from the colony, honeybees are completely docile and only concerned with the tasks they set out to do. In most cases, people living in close proximity of beehives will never know that the honeybees are around.
Wasps, Hornets. and Yellow Jackets
Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets are normally bright yellow and black, and are normally aggressive. They are often mistaken for honeybees. They nest in the ground, or above in a grey paper structure. They will sting without provocation, and can sting repeatedly. Wasps and hornets can be eliminated with common wasp sprays, and the use of soapy water in a spray or drench. The City does NOT remove these nests. For problem infestations, contact your local pest management firm.