Thursday, April 16, 2009

Minneapolis is going to let us make it legal!

I would have preferred a photo of some one not wearing full beekeeping gear in the article, but the coverage in the Strib this morning was otherwise good. I don't wear protective gear when working the bees, unless I'm taking honey off them or going into the brood nest. So a photo of some one like me would have allayed fears greatly, instead of inflaming them with the idea that people need full bee-suits. Oh, well. The article is below, and I am mentioned toward the end. I was the only one testifying in a suit - the business kind - besides wonderful Dan Niziolek who heads up Minneapolis Animal Control. He and others supporting the reversal of Minneapolis' prohibition on beekeeping have rural roots and experiences with beekeeping. The inestimable Don Samuels, chair of the Public Safety Committee, as a child was forced to walk a gauntlet of beehives up the walkway to a country relative's home - it was terrifying for him as a child, but he had long ago put away his childish fears and listened with respect and good humor to all us crazy beekeepers, as did the rest of the committee members, including Diane Hofstede, who proposed the repeal.

Later in the afternoon, Mary and I went looking for the Lake Harriet Sage Thrasher, a desert bird, hopelessly lost. We didn't get the sage thrasher, but we did see thousands of honey bees, busily pollinating the pussy willows and maples throughout the park. The fees for beekeeping are high - $100 to start and $50 thereafter annually - makes we wonder if those already keeping bees will come into compliance.

Last update: April 16, 2009 - 7:32 AM

To bee or not to bee?

It's looking like the former, with a proposal to legalize beekeeping in Minneapolis advancing unanimously at City Hall on Wednesday.

City gardeners and hobbyists with cases of hives already showed up at a City Council committee to argue for a proposal by Council Member Diane Hofstede that would set the requirements for keeping bees in the city after a 34-year ban.

St. Paul has allowed beekeeping for decades, and the League of Minnesota Cities reports more cities are getting inquiries from residents.

"They're extremely important little creatures," University of Minnesota entomology Prof. Marla Spivak, whose research specialty is honey bees, told the council. Advocates listed benefits ranging from better pollination of gardens and fruit trees to the sweet reward of honey.

She and other supporters had to deal with a few common misconceptions to reassure the council's regulatory committee.

"They truly are docile -- beyond gentle," Nicollet Island resident Peat Willcutt said. Even swarms that occur when a colony of bees divides are relatively calm, Spivak said.

But the proposed ordinance includes a few safeguards designed to keep the neighbors calm, too. Consent from all abutting property owners would be required, plus 80 percent of owners within 100 feet of the keeper's lot. The bee area would have to be fenced, with flyways devised with barriers to get bees to altitude quickly when the hive is near a property line. Keepers would be required to get some schooling and a city permit of $100 initially and $50 annually.

Bees a balm to keepers

Most owners of a typical 40-foot-wide city lot would be limited to one or two hives. But isolated undeveloped lots could be approved for several times that many.

The council was lobbied by several city residents who admitted they're stealth beekeepers. Powderhorn resident and gardener Elise Kyllo keeps a couple of colonies, gets requests from friends for hives and asked the council to legalize her habit. "I'm fascinated by the creatures," she said.

Jacquelynn Goessling of the Kingfield neighborhood said keeping bees fits the city's initiative to encourage the consumption of fresh, locally grown foods. She's hoping pollination will buttress yields from her back yard pear tree and a nearby community garden.

Kathleen Connelly, a longtime city resident who's temporarily living just over the border of Golden Valley, said she's waiting to see whether the proposal passes before deciding where to buy a house. She now keeps her colonies in Zumbrota.

She called bee prohibitions a relic of efforts by developing suburbs to shed their agrarian pasts. With hiving season at hand, the city hopes to accept applications by June 1 if the measure passes as expected on April 25.

"This is very intriguing," Chairman Don Samuels told the crowd before the unanimous vote. "You made a believer of me. I'm kind of envisioning my beehive."

Steve Brandt •


twinsetellen said...

yay! Now on to Minnetonka!

RuthieJ said...

Congratulations! This is good news.
Marla Spivak is coming down to Rochester next week to speak at our Zumbro Valley Audubon Society meeting. I'm sure she'll touch on this bit of good news about bees.