Mpls. City Council legalizes beekeeping

Unanimous vote Friday amends existing ban.
April 26, 2009

Bee enthusiasts have reason to celebrate.
The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to legalize keeping honeybees in the city on Friday, ending a 34-year-old ban.
Beekeeping is necessary to protect worldwide food production through crop pollination, said 3rd Ward councilwoman Diane Hofstede , who introduced the ordinance. The measure comes at an important time, as bee populations are dwindling rapidly, she said.
Those who wish to keep hives on their property must purchase a $100 permit and fulfill regulations such as getting approval from neighbors, meeting an educational requirement, installing proper flyway barriers and renewing their permits annually for $50.
But beekeeping has been going on in the city despite the ban for years, some locals said.
David Nicholson, a Minneapolis resident and active proponent of the ordinance , said he knows a lot of beekeepers in the city.
“This just kind of brings the code in line with current practice,” he said.
The ban was put into place when people were first moving into the city and wanted to get farm animals out, Marla Spivak, entomology professor and researcher in the University’s Bee Lab , said.
“It’s just an old relic and it’s really outdated,” she said. “We need bees back in the city to help pollinate our gardens.”
Most urban beekeepers are hobbyists who marvel over the intricacies of bees’ social behaviors, Spivak said. Bees are also used to make honey and pollinate gardens.
Without bees, there wouldn’t be as many apples, vegetables would be misshapen and less tasty and there wouldn’t be as many flowers, she said.
The practice has been legal in St. Paul for decades. Bill Stephenson, St. Paul’s Animal Control supervisor , said it has provoked very few complaints.
“A lot of people have this fear of the unknown,” he said. “But we’ve experienced beekeeping here so we’re comfortable with it.”
Another Bee Lab researcher and entomology professor Gary Reuter said people’s fears about beekeeping are unwarranted.
“It’s just that people don’t understand,” he said. “They somewhere along the line grew up thinking that bees were out to attack them.”
The biggest draw of beekeeping is just being able to watch the bees go about their lives, Reuter said.
“It’s a little bit like having an aquarium,” he said.
The ordinance passed through the Public Safety & Regulatory Services Committee April 15.
At Friday’s City Council meeting, Hofstede and 2nd Ward councilman Cam Gordon added amendments. The changes included removing the ordinance’s indemnification clause, which would have alleviated the city of responsibility of complaints arising from beekeeping.
Gordon said the indemnity clause made beekeeping seem dangerous. Hofstede amended the ordinance so that rooftop hives will not be required to have flyway barriers.
Nicholson said people have no reason to be worried if their neighbors are keeping bees.
“They probably will never know the difference in their day to day lives,” he said, “except that they may get free honey during the harvest season.”

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