‘Give Bees A Chance'; Council Moves Beekeeping Ordinance Forward
The food of one of every three bites you take is a direct result of honey bee pollination, Casey Beck told the Casper City Council on Tuesday.
The growing interest in urban agriculture, especially for beekeeping, matches the growing demand for locally grown and organic foods, Beck said.
She values the time she and her children can spend watching bees working plants and developing their colonies, she said.
And in her final plea to urge the council to approve a zoning change to allow city residents to keep a limited number of hives on their properties, she invoked then punned John Lennon: "Give bees a chance."
Beck was among five urban apiary proponents. No one spoke against the proposal.
So by a 7-1 vote -- council member Craig Hedquist was absent -- council approved the ordinance on first reading. Council member Steve Cathey cast the lone "no" vote.
The proposal already had received the approval from the city's planning and zoning commission on May 26.
According to the proposed ordinance, hives must have removable combs that can be inspected, beekeepers must comply with Wyoming Department of Agriculture regulations; hives must be set back at least 10 feet from neighboring properties; beekeepers must have six-foot barriers for hives located within 25 feet of another property so bees will fly up and over neighboring properties; and beekeepers must offer adequate water so bees don't seek water elsewhere.
Bee colonies not in hives, swarms and abandoned hives can be relocated or destroyed.
In reviewing the proposed ordinance, City Manager John Patterson noted the concerns that honey bees may pose a danger to public health because of swarming, stinging or interfering with people's ability to enjoy their own property.
But the proposed ordinance, based on similar ordinances across America, handles those concerns, Patterson said.
Tate Belden of the Natrona County Beekeepers Association took that reasoning further when he said that being stung by a honey bee is extremely rare unless someone annoys it.
Swarming happens during the reproduction cycle when bees are looking for a new home, and they don't care about people at all then, Belden said. "That's when they're most docile."
Council member Daniel Sandoval asked about a worldwide phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder during which worker bees die off. CCD poses a threat to the food chain.
Belden said that has happened locally. Last year, some local beekeepers lost 60 percent of their bees.
However, urban colonies appear to have better survival rates than commercial beekeeping operations and could help save agriculture, he said.
After the meeting, Belden said that people living a mile away from a hive will see their own plants benefit because bees will travel to find plants that they can work and pollinate.
Buncky Loucks, another proponent of the ordinance, said he has pear trees that had lots of blossoms but very few pears last year.
The pollination rates are low because of a lack of bees that are vital for food production, Loucks said. "We need them for our survival."