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Beekeepers abuzz over rules
June 25, 2013, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal

Daily Journal file photo Beekeeping in the county faces restrictions depending on where you live. Some cities ban beekeeping outright as others restrict how many hives can be kept or where the hives may be located.

Beekeeping is forbidden in Foster City.

Most who work for the city, however, could not tell you why and some on the City Council were unaware of the fact until the Daily Journal asked them about it.

Beekeeping was banned in residential areas pretty much from the Foster City’s inception in 1971, Assistant City Manager Steve Toler said. City code was then amended in 1975 to ban beekeeping outright in every part of the city, he said.

“I can’t tell you why and it has never been revisited,” Toler said.

That could change, however, since Vice Mayor Charlie Bronitsky and Councilman Herb Perez said they were both willing to consider beekeeping in the city if it gets on a council agenda.

“Many of our rules are antiquated,” Perez wrote in an email. He also said he is committed to updating all ordinances that may “have outlived their usefulness.”

Bronitsky was not aware that beekeeping was banned in the city.

“If a resident wants to raise this issue, they can always appear at any City Council meeting and ask us to put it on the agenda or they can email any of us to do the same. We would then have the benefit of a staff report and the applicant’s position from which to make a decision,” Bronitsky wrote the Daily Journal in an email.

In March, members of the Beekeepers’ Guild of San Mateo County attended a San Mateo City Council study session on sustainability that was organized by Nickie Irvine.

Irvine and other beekeepers came to the city to seek clarity on its municipal code related to bees. In San Mateo, bees face restrictions based on where you live, Irvine said.

The county does not restrict beekeeping on its land and 14 out of 21 cities in the county allow it, Irvine said.

Seven cities restrict beekeeping and some such as Pacifica restrict the practice so much it makes it virtually impossible to raise bees there, Irvine said.

The guild hopes to have each city in the county adopt an ordinance such as the one Napa County did late last year. The Napa County Board of Supervisors eased restrictions on bees because they pollinate the county’s valuable agricultural crops.

Currently, some cities limit the number of hives a beekeeper can have or the distance a hive can be from any structure.

Restrictions against bees, Irvine said, have nothing to do with how they behave.

“Beekeeping codes come out of fear,” Irvine said.

Bees only sting when they feel threatened and only once and drones do not sting at all, she said. It is the yellowjackets that do the stinging and biting, she said.

Redwood City, San Carlos and Pacifica have the most “massive distance restrictions,” she said.

One Pacifica resident asked the city for a variance and may be the only legal beekeeper in the coastal city.

Although banned in Foster City, they still live there, she said.

“Bees are wild creatures,” Irvine said.

The guild wants to understand the concerns of each city and help them accept bees, she said. A typical hive can have 30,000 bees or more.

The guild also had a booth at the San Mateo County Fair this year where it was asking attendees to sign a petition to promote beekeeping.

Foster City Councilman Art Kiesel’s curiosity about bees was heightened when he saw the booth at the fair this year, he told the Daily Journal.

He has not had a chance to discuss the issue yet with city staff, however.

The guild’s mission going forward is to educate the public, educate beekeepers and change restrictive ordinances.

The guild’s membership has also swelled in the past decade from about 40 to about 300 because many have taken an interest in protecting honeybees, which have fallen victim to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon where worker bees abruptly disappear.

Irvine took to beekeeping because bees are in crisis, she said.

But do not forget, she said, they also produce all that delicious honey you can buy at any farmers’ market.

To learn more about the Beekeeper’s Guild of San Mateo County go to:

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: beekeeping, irvine, county, about, mateo, guild,

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