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Township Council urged to allow beekeeping

With their numbers decimated by disease, the proliferation of chemicals and other causes, bees are in a dangerous decline.

But, two delegations told Township council on May 7, allowing local residents to keep bees would go a long way to helping restore their numbers.

Tricia Carpenter told council that she has been a beekeeper for three years, and keeps her four hives on an organic farm in Abbotsford, 25 minutes away from her WindSong Cohousing home in Walnut Grove. The drive to and from the hives is environmentally counterproductive, she said.

She wants the Township to amend the Zoning Bylaw to allow people in residential areas to keep bees. She would need permission from WindSong owners, she acknowledged.

“Bees are in decline from many causes, and the situation has become critical and blueberry farmers are anxious to get hives on their properties,” she said.

Stressing the importance of bees to agriculture and residents’ flower gardens, vegetable beds and fruit trees, Carpenter noted that several municipalities, including Pitt Meadows, Burnaby, Richmond and West Vancouver, have all amended their zoning bylaws to allow beekeeping.

Renting hives to farmers is the biggest part of The Honeybee Centre’s business, said John Gibeau. The majority go to blueberry farmers, he said, adding that he has kept bees at his New Westminster home for 30 years. He places dozens of colonies on properties in Surrey and Langley over the winter months.

Gibeau allayed fears about stings, noting that people are stung mostly by wasps, not bees. The number of people who suffer life threatening stings is very small, he said.

Gibeau also calmed fears about swarming: “There are people who are afraid when they swarm but that is when they are their most calm.”

If council considers changes to the zoning bylaw, a public hearing would be required as land use designations would be affected, administrator Mark Bakken advised council.

Council referred the issue to staff for a report.

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