Ogden relaxes beekeeper restrictions

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:28 PM

Cathy McKitrick, Standard-Examiner Staff

Read the ordinance

OGDEN — As of Tuesday, Ogden officially became more honey bee-friendly. In a 5-0 vote (members Bart Blair and Caitlin Gochnour were absent) the city council relaxed the city’s current ordinance to make backyard beekeeping more feasible for hobbyists who have a hankering for hives.

“I had interest in it for a long time,” Council Chairman Richard Hyer said in a recent interview. “So I got three (beehives) last year.”

One beehive with all the trappings costs about $500, Hyer said, and a fair amount of knowledge is needed to keep the critters healthy and happy.

In addition to making honey, bees also pollinate certain fruit, nuts, vegetables, field crops and flowers, and Hyer finds their hive mentality fascinating.

“They have such a work ethic — they work their little lives away,” Hyer said, noting that when bees sting, they die.

“They do that only to protect something,” Hyer said, “and they’ll give up their life for the sake of their hive.”

Tuesday’s council discussion focused mostly on regulating the number and placement of residential hives.

Beehives have been allowed in Ogden for a long time, said Janene Eller-Smith, policy analyst for the city council. However, the city required them to be kept 75 feet from any structure or house, which “pretty much limited their use in any lots in the city.”

The amended ordinance allows five hives on lots up to one-half acre in size and 10 hives on lots one-half acre or larger.

If the beekeeper does not own the property, he or she must get written consent from the landowner.

Frontyard hives are prohibited. Hives must also be 25 feet away from an adjoining property line or right-of-way — or just five feet away if hives are shielded by a “flyway barrier” such as a wall, fence or dense vegetation that directs their flight patterns to above six feet.

Hive entrances must also be oriented away from adjacent dwellings within 25 feet.

The ordinance allows rooftop hives as long as impact to adjacent properties is minimized.

Hive owners must also maintain a fresh water supply to prevent their bees from becoming a nuisance to neighbors.

As required by the state, beekeepers must register with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and list their names, addresses, phone numbers and state registration number on each of their hives.

Beekeepers David and Flo Stacey spoke in favor of the changes Tuesday and delivered a letter of support signed by 58 of their neighbors.

“My hives produced 225 pounds of honey,” Flo Stacey said, but she had to move them because a neighbor complained.

Under the old ordinance, the city gave the Staceys two weeks to relocate their hives in the heat of the summer.

“I called Utah State University and worked with them, and they told me it was too hot to move them,” Flo Stacey said.

That initial move caused black mold to develop, and a second move resulted in the loss of every one of their hives, she said,

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, honey bees have been at risk of disappearing for several years now due to Colony Collapse Disorder. Several factors threaten their survival, including pesticides, parasitic mites, inadequate food supplies and a new virus that attacks their immune systems.

The council estimates that the United States could lose $15 billion in crops if they vanish altogether. Those familiar dietary staples include almonds, macadamia nuts, peanuts, soybeans, sunflowers, sugar beets, apples, apricots, avocadoes, blueberries, strawberries, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, pumpkins, squash and many more.

Nate Hall, co-owner of Deseret Hive Supply at 1516 Washington Blvd., told council members that a beekeeper’s hive numbers constantly fluctuate depending on drought, how harsh the winter has been and other factors.

“Four hives is perfect for a hobbyist backyard beekeeper. It’s not uncommon to have up to 75 percent winter loss,” Hall said. “If you have that one hive that makes it through the winter, you can then split that hive and get your numbers back up without having to purchase additional packages of bees.”

With the advent of 50-degree weather, Hyer decided to check on his hives Wednesday and apply medication to safeguard against “Foul Brood Disease.”

“If they get that, you have to burn the hive,” Hyer said. He installed sugar boards in his hives last fall as an extra food source to help his bees survive the winter.

“In nature, bees don’t do quite as well,” Hyer said of their diminishing numbers. “That’s why I felt it was important to get an ordinance so we could encourage people to manage them and keep their numbers up.”

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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