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.