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Bees

photo of beekeeperIn January 2012, the City of San Diego amended its Municipal Code to allow residents of single family homes, community gardens and retail farms to keep and maintain two beehives. The specific regulations are in Chapter 4, Article 4, Division 4 of the Municipal Code and can be found by downloading the following provision: PDF icon Chapter 04, Article 04, Division 04, Beekeeping.

Where you locate your apiary is determined by the number of hives and several factors related to distance including zone setbacks.

bees on flowerFor specific information regarding the zone setback for your property, go to the Zoning Map application and type in your address. You will then receive the zone name for your property. A link to “More Info” takes you to another page that directs you to the regulations for your zone. When viewing the regulations, go to the Development Regulations Table for your zone and look up “Setback Requirements.”

You can also call the City’s Development Services Department at 619-446-5000, provide your address and request the name of your zone and the zoning setback information. Someone will return your call and provide you with the information.

Summary of Regulations

  • A beekeeper shall register the apiary with the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner within 30 days of establishing the apiary.
  • An apiary of three or more hives must be at least 600 feet from a building used as a residence and 100 feet from the public right-of-way.
  • An apiary of one or two hives must be located outside of all setbacks, or 15 feet from the property line and 20 feet from the public right-of-way, whichever is greater.
  • An apiary of one or two hives must do the following:
    • Locate the beehive in a secured area.
    • Re-queen the beehive every two years.
    • Locate the beehive so that it is not visible from the public right-of way.
    • Surround the beehive with a 6-foot tall barrier unless it is at least 8 feet above the ground.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Is a permit required to keep bees?

Beekeeping in the City of San Diego does not require a permit; however, as stated in the regulations beekeepers are required to register their hives with the County of San Diego Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures.

Why do bees sting?

Bees sting only to protect the hive.

How far do honey bees fly to get food?

They can fly 3 to 4 miles to collect nectar and pollen, but generally no more than 1 mile.

How much honey does a beehive produce?

On average, a hive can produce approximately 25 pounds of honey a season.

How long do bees live?

Worker bees live about 40 days. A queen bee can live up to five years, but for beekeeping purposes a queen is passed her prime at three years. The regulations require that the beekeeper replace the queen every two years.

Are honey bees responsible for all plant pollination?

Not all, but most. Honey bees are responsible at least a third of our food crops and even cotton crops. Other animals that pollinate include bats, butterflies and birds.

More Information

Additional information regarding keeping and maintaining bees can be found at the following websites.