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City Council could be buzzing on Wednesday

The City Council on Wednesday will hear a proposal to make it easier for residents to raise honeybees.

City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune filed the proposal to make honeybee raising allowable under a city ordinance, rather than a forbidden use under the city zoning code. Louijeune cites the importance of honeybees for not just agricultural pollination but for helping urban plants better reproduce - which in turn could help improve the urban environment through increased oxygen production and reduced erosion by healthier plants, not to mention increase the stock of locally produced honey.

Over the years, a number of hobbyists across the city have set up hives. The InterContinental Boston has a rooftop apiary, and uses the honey the bees make for dishes at Miel, its French restaurant, whose name means "Honey" in French.

The measure sets out a series of proposed regulations, including a minimum distance between hives and homes, steps beekeepers would have to take to keep bees from flying into windows or doors of any close nearby buildings and a maximum hive size of five feet in height and 20 cubic feet in inside space. Also, no hives at all in front yards.

Enforcement would be up to city Animal Control and ISD, starting with a warning, and followed with fines for subsequent offenses.

The council normally submits proposed ordinances and zoning changes to a council committee, which then holds at least one public hearing before issuing a recommendation for action to the entire council.

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Comments

I think it's an "apiary" not aviary.

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Fixed.

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The measure sets out a series of proposed regulations, including a minimum distance between hives and homes, steps beekeepers would have to take to keep bees from flying into windows or doors of any close nearby buildings

Lol good luck. Just like the whole howdee doo about extra dwelling units, or people selling baked goods out of their houses, this is going to be so many layers of red tape and regulation and zoning exceptions needed that nobody who cares about rules is actually going to be able to do it, and people who don't care about rules will just do what they want as per usual.

Anyway, honeybees are invasive and are already the best supported of the bee species. Sure, if you're building a garden on top of a 10 story building in the middle of Comm Ave or some zero-green-space, get a little hive, but people out in the suburban neighborhoods would be doing WAY more good by planting native plants with a variety of bloom times and not using roundup or other pesticides on their monoculture yards. Help support our wild, native bees that help support our wild, native ecosystem. Try Agastache and Milkweeds for some easy, hands off Bee favorites in your yards.

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or not to bee

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That is the question.

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to suffer the stings, is it not.

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If any signage will be required to alert neighbors of the presence of honeybees, given potential for serious allergic reactions.

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It's not as if there aren't already bees in the city. Unless the hive is so close that someone might touch the hive accidentally, is having one nearby any more likely to lead to a sting?

I've found honeybees to be generally uninterested in humans. Wasps, yellowjackets, etc are more likely to buzz around people but no one actively builds hives for them.

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Than a casual backyard or attic nest. Not only are there stragglers from the hive that may go exploring next door, etc but if the queen decides to seek a new residence, the whole hive will follow.

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What a professional bee keeper or bee researcher says about the proximity of a hive to the likelihood of getting stung.

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Wild honey bee colonies can be as large or larger than what you might find in a backyard hive. Typical honey bee foraging radius is 2-3 miles. When a queen leaves it’s called swarming and she takes half the hive (and honey stores) with her, the other half remains behind with the new virgin queen. That usually happens in the spring when/if the colony is thriving - it’s basically natures way of propagating the species. Beekeepers can use techniques to manage this to their advantage (increase the size of their apiary). Rarely will the entire hive leave, which is called absconding. That’s usually the result of a problem (disease, etc).

Bees travel pretty much in a straight (bee line) out and up from the hive with 6 feet or so they will be 10-15 feet up at that point. So don’t aim your hive at your neighbor or you can put a fence 3 feet in front to further direct bees up and over the top of anything near by.

The regs around the height and max volume seem a little arbitrary. I wonder who they consulted to come up with them. If they are concerned about number of bees, volume doesn’t necessarily correlate. You have to look at the type of volume too, is it honey supers, brood boxes, how healthy is the hive, type of honey bee etc. Lots of variables factor in.

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as swarming bees (that is, bees seeking a *new* home) are pretty docile. But bees don't like people getting near their *existing* home, and will defend it.

I've been stung just for standing 15 feet away from a hive. That hive was aggressive, and the beekeeper eventually had to find and kill the queen and put in a more docile one (which eventually results in docile workers). Most hives are much more amiable and you can walk past within 5-6 feet no problem. But aggressive hives do happen, and they can readily consider a whole front yard as "too close". It's a reasonable precaution, although "X feet from a public way when no solid obstructions are present, and Y feet from all property borders, whichever is greater" would be better.

There's also the matter that bees entering and exiting a hive will tend to go straight up and down if there are a lot of nearby obstructions (as you see in a back yard) and are more likely to go sideways if not (front yard). So keeping them in the backyard should also just reduce person/bee interactions.

(Not a beekeeper, but have lived around hives for a bit.)

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What could possibly go wrong? /s

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BYOB?

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Possibly the best line delivery in the history of filmed entertainment.

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God forbid someone might use their lawn for something other than drought stricken grass, invasive weeds, and unauthorized additional parking.

I can understand mandating the hive must not be within 3-4' (arm's reach) of the sidewalk but otherwise what's the difference between a hive in the front vs the back?

There shouldn't be any difference between a front yard and back yard as far as ordinances go.

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But it seems like an attractive risk situation. I mean are you allowed to have a pool in your front yard?

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Why should a pool be prohibited so long as it has the fence as required by code?

I've always assumed the front-yard ordinances are mandated by busy-bodies who want streets to all look the same with a tad of classism/racism thrown into the mix.

Often playground equipment is also prohibited (swings, slides, etc) which equally serves no purpose other than penalizing people who don't have space in the back.

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I'm answering as someone who has been babysitting a few hives since July in JP. On the warm sunny days when the bees are STOKED there are hundreds of drones flying straight out and up from the hive. One like this day I went to mow the lawn and they wouldn't let me come within 10-15' of the hive without stinging me. I suspect such a presence in the front (street facing) would make them rather unpopular neighbors.

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The bees are mainly there for pollination, but the honey is harvested and given as gifts to BMC employees. The Farm is on the roof of the BMC power plant building.

Link to several videos about the farm, the bees, etc: https://www.bmc.org/nourishing-our-community/rooftop-farm

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