Smarter Living

February 11, 2014

More suburbs are growing sweet on bees

More cities are allowing backyard beekeeping, and classes are filling up with people eager to learn the centuries-old tradition.

More bees are moving to the ’burbs.

As buzz builds over the popular hobby and the dramatic worldwide die-off of bees, more cities are allowing backyard beekeeping.

Beekeeping classes are filling up around the country. Nearly 200 people interested in starting the hobby filled the roster in Chanhassen, Minn.

“The number of people doing it now is surprising,” said Gary Reuter, who helps teach classes at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and run the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab. “People want to do their part to help (bees), and some of it is the back-to-nature thinking.”

Scientists say a worldwide phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder is affecting bees, which are dying at a rate of 35 percent a year. That news, along with the movement to produce food locally, has increased interest in beekeeping.

Minneapolis and St. Paul were among the first cities to allow it in Minnesota. The trend has spread to suburbs, but demand so far has been moderate. Other suburbs either don’t have a specific ordinance on beekeeping, outwardly prohibit it or restrict hives to rural properties.

Carrying on a tradition

That’s the case in Eden Prairie, Minn., which currently limits beekeeping to rural areas. Resident Chris Endres lobbied for an ordinance change.

His grandfather and father passed on the beekeeping hobby to him, and now he’s sharing it with his 17-year-old daughter, both entering homemade honey in State Fair contests. But since he hasn’t been allowed to keep the hives in his neighborhood, he’s housed them at his cabin and at a friend’s house in neighboring Minnetonka, Minn.

“It’s kind of like being a wine connoisseur,” said Endres, who has tasting parties to show off his Minnetonka-made honey.

Mixed reaction

Not everyone is supportive, though.

The sticking point for most people: bee swarms bothering neighbors or affecting residents with allergies. And some cities still prohibit beekeeping.

Proponents say they understand concerns, but said that honeybees are often mistaken for hornets, wasps and yellow jackets, which are more likely to sting. Supporters also say beekeeping increases knowledge about honeybees and helps show their benefits.

“It really brings a lot of public awareness and sensitivity,” Endres said.

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