YORKTON – It will soon be possible to keep honey bees in your garden in the city – if you follow a long list of regulations, don’t live too close to a public space, don’t have close neighbors allergic to bees who say no to the idea, and pay an as-yet-undefined fee for a license.
The council made the decision at its regular meeting on Monday after hearing from Allison Henderson-Hunter and her eight-year-old son, Ewan, who started a bee-keeping pilot project last summer.
The pair via Zoom noted that they found it reasonable to follow the proposed guidelines and obtained the required training, memberships and registration.
The regulations included making hives available for inspection, taking the Saskatchewan Beekeeping Development Commission’s introductory course, having a local mentor, and registering with the Saskatchewan Department of Agriculture.
And the project was well received in the neighborhood, which they say brought us closer to our neighbors, who loved watching us learn.
“At the May 17, 2021 Board meeting, the Board directed the administration to initiate an urban hobby beekeeping pilot project to determine whether urban hobby beekeeping should be permitted under of the Animal Control Bylaw,” noted Nicole Baptist – Bylaws and Safety Supervisor, with the City. at Monday’s meeting.
The pilot project was limited to five residents authorized to keep bees for the 2021 season.
“The City has received interest from approximately five residents asking if they could participate in the pilot project. In two of those cases, the administration went through the process of creating buffer letters from LOU and neighbors, but then residents backed out due to the late season,” a report to Council explained.
The city has also received calls and inquiries about whether residents can keep leafcutter bees, Baptist added.
Under the pilot project, beekeepers had to follow a number of regulations, including entering into a letter of agreement (LOU) with the city and distributing letters to neighbors in the prescribed buffer zone, Baptist said.
“The permitting or approval process used in the pilot was thorough, seemed to provide enough parameters to ensure neighborhoods were safe, and whether the city should permit and regulate recreational urban beekeeping through the animal control, the administration assumes we would continue with very similar requirements,” she said.
After the pilot project, “at the Committee of the Whole meeting on September 21, 2021, the council supported the idea of moving forward with updates to the regulations so that beekeeping is allowed in the community” , said Baptist.
Baptist noted that the licensing process was labor intensive. The administration spent about six hours on Henderson’s “permit” keeping the bees in between site visits, addressing concerns, completing the letter of agreement, letters from neighbors, etc. She added that the city may consider permit fees to help cover administration time.
But, also noted, “the administration is not aware of any other community that charges permit fees for urban recreational beekeeping.”
As a simpler option, “urban hobby beekeeping could also be permitted under the Animal Control Regulations, simply removing it from the list of prohibited animals, but not including the rules and regulations that must be followed. Some communities (like the city of Regina) chose to go in that direction,” Baptist said. Additionally, “At the start of the pilot, the administration received more inquiries about whether leafcutter bees were also allowed, as they have become more popular over the past two years,” the report details.
The administration suggests omitting the permit requirement for leafcutter bees because of the difference in hive size between leafcutter bees and honey bees, Baptist said.
The option The Council chose to unanimously support the administration tasked with working on an amendment to the Animal Control Regulations, including provisions to allow beekeeping (including leafcutter bees) and regulate it with permit fees for keeping honey bees.