You don't really need a big yard, but if you don't have a big yard, some other things might be necessary, and there are probably some things to be aware of.
Probably the biggest one is that you need neighbors who don't freak out.
You won't want to be milling around the hives all the time, so you should have at least a little space between you and the hive(s). I would say that a fifteen foot radius that the bees can call their own (and most importantly that you concede to them in your mind) is plenty.
It would be good if you have some flowering plants/trees fairly accessible. These can be neighbors' of course, but if the only ones nearby are neighbors and if they notice the source of the bees and it bothers them, then it could be trouble.
Need to know: They can swarm, and they might land on some part of your house if it's close. Not a big problem, but might be unnerving.
I kinda like to keep 'em 30+ feet from the house. Probably my 30 feet from the house and 15 foot radius is a little generous, but I think that will keep everybody relatively comfortable.
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