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City Council Abuzz Over Residential Beekeeping

Currently, no specific city code exists—and council members are mulling whether to outlaw or allow the practice.

Should your neighbor—or you yourself—be allowed to keep a bee colony in the backyard?

That's a question that has the St. Louis Park City Council buzzing these days, as council members discussed the issue at length during a Monday night meeting.

Currently, city code doesn't address residential beekeeping one way or the other. A proposal brought forth on Monday as part of a larger change to local wildlife regulations would have enacted an outright ban, but council members said they weren't ready to go that far. 

“I think we need to look at it and study it further," councilwoman Julia Ross said.

Council will do just that—Ross and the other four members present Monday voted unanimously to pull out residential beekeeping as a separate issue, to be discussed, debated and voted on at a later date. The other wildlife changes, which added further restrictions to which wild animals residents can feed, passed.

All of this doesn't mean council necessarily will support residential beekeeping. Councilwoman Sue Sanger for one raised some concerns about creating "neighbor disputes."

City inspections director Brian Hoffman echoed Sanger's thoughts.

"There is no argument that bees are healthy for the environment,” he said. "(But) whether it's an actual hazard or not, it becomes a nuisance. It may not appeal to everyone.” 

St. Louis Park resident Nick Slade disagreed, saying the restriction on residential beekeeping would be "a solution in search of a problem." Slade added that he used to keep bees when he lived in Minneapolis and he didn't worry about himself or his young son getting stung.

“You’re not going to eliminate bees (and) you actually need them," he said. "You’re not preventing anything (with this ordinance)."

Gary Reuter, a bee researcher at the University of Minnesota, said the honey bees that would be kept in backyards are actually pretty tame, adding that people often get stung by wasps or hornets, not bees.

“I’m not opposed to reasonable restrictions, but just flat out outlawing it, to me doesn’t make sense," he said.

Hoffman said in other cities that allow residential beekeeping, restrictions include things such as minimum setbacks from property lines and required fencing.

Council will likely discuss the issue in more depth later this summer.

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Laura Olevitch June 19, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Please do NOT outlaw beekeeping in Saint Louis Park. That would be such a step backwards for our progressive community. Why is this up for discussion? Have there been neighbor disputes? I have been keeping bees in Park for four years now and have only had support and positive feedback from my neighbors.
Michael Rose (Editor) June 19, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Laura, city staff reported last night that a resident has expressed concerns about being stung due to a neighbor's bee hive. Don't have other details beyond that. Would love to hear more about your experience keeping bees. Feel free to blog here: http://stlouispark.patch.com/blog/apply, or you can email me a letter to the editor at michael.rose@patch.com (same invite applies to folks against this idea)
Sean Gilbertson June 19, 2012 at 02:42 PM
They should absolutely not allow beekeeping in St. Louis Park. It's dangerous, and there is no controlling bees once they're loose. If one hive of bees gets loose, the entire neighborhood will be infested, and who is going to pay for the cleanup and medical bills? This is a rural, industrial activity. If people want to keep bees and raise chickens, they can go buy a farm.
Daniel June 19, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Beekeeping does not need to be banned. This seems to be more of a revenue play by the City Council. Watch for a beekeeping license to be required as a solution. There are enough ordinances about poorly kept properties which are not enforced. Beekeeping is not an issue at which the City of Saint Louis Park needs to examine. I have more problems with cats that are allowed to roam free than bees that will only help my foliage.
Joe June 19, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Sean's response, based entirely on fiction and fear mongering, is exactly how erroneous information and rumor feeds into the anxiety and ignorance of a population. I kept bees for several years on the 27 hundred block of Quentin Avenue with no incidents, just as a number of other beekeepers in the Park have done. I suspect Sean doesn't know any beekeepers, has never seen an apiary, nor understands anything about the gentle nature of, say, Carniolans. Sean most likely doesn't realize the existence of wild hives throughout the Park, the countless and critical benefits of honeybees, and likely confuses a public misperception of their danger with that of the more aggressive wasps and yellow jackets. Many reasonable and intelligent communities have managed to integrate beekeeping in a practical and reasonable manner; St. Louis Park should do the same.
Mike P June 20, 2012 at 10:52 PM
I suspect that Sean and most people can't tell the difference between hornets/wasps and bees. Perhaps the council is trying to find solutions in need of problems. I suppose the fire department could look for bee hives while looking for fire pits
Emily B June 24, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Honeybees are not dangerous. They will defend their hive, but will not attack people like a wasp or yellow jacket. If there are hive setback rules, then no one but the property owners/bee keepers should be anywhere near the hives (unless you feel compelled to trespass). If we're seriously concerned about "bees" on the loose, then we should ban all outdoor consumption of meat or soda because those definitely attract yellow jackets. I'm not sure what Sean's comment about a neighborhood being infested is referring to. Bees are social creatures which are biologically inclined to return to their own hive. The whole point of bee keeping is so they go out in the community (neighborhood) to collect pollen, helping pollinate our veggies and fruits and making honey. I also have a concern that a ban would affect things like the apiary at the Westwood Nature Center, an important place for kids and families to learn about wildlife, including bees. I agree with Reuter from the UofM, make the rules so people feel safe, but a ban just does not fit our new commitment to being a Green Step City.
Emily B June 24, 2012 at 04:10 PM
As much as I love it as a nostalgic childhood memory, I think too many people watched "My Girl" and were traumatized by watching Macaulay Culkin get stung to death and are forever ingrained to believe that all bees are killers, all the time.
Jack Donovan October 15, 2012 at 08:04 PM
What a total shock -- our hapless nanny state mayor can trust people to keep bees in their back yards...honey bees aren't stingers, mr mayor -- wake up and smell the honey, honey...and I agree with daniel and mike p -- the city administration will come up with yet another fee to pay (a fee to have a fire pit, please)...afterall, someone has to pay for all the perks city staff enjoy! Nanny state, here we come!

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