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    Categories: City Hall

Backyard bees buzz into St. Albert

Homeowners hoping to help along the honeybee population in St. Albert can now have hives in their backyards, as long as they meet certain requirements.

On Monday, St. Albert city council approved a bylaw to allow urban beekeeping within city limits.

The bylaw outlines specifications for backyard hives, which must be at least three metres from all property lines or in a backyard that has a six-foot hedge or solid fence. Size limitations apply to hives and residents can have two hives per parcel of land.

Non-residential properties can have up to four hives on each parcel, if parcels are greater than 929 square metres. Parcels smaller than that can have up to two hives.

Bees can only be kept for personal use and would-be beekeepers must pay $40 for an urban beekeeping licence, which is valid for one year. They must also receive letters of support from all immediately adjoining neighbours.

The bylaw passed without discussion on Monday, but was the subject of several concerns when it was initially discussed on Sept. 5.

Addressing concerns about potential increase of honeybees on adjoining properties and the danger to people with allergies, senior planner Lenore Mitchell said during the Sept. 5 meeting bees won’t be flying next door but rather would fly many different places to forage. Bees can fly up to 12 kilometres when foraging for nectar and pollen.

“You shouldn’t see the increase because they have to go many places to collect nectar,” she said.

Craig Toth, president of the Edmonton District Beekeepers Association, said danger is minimal as long as beekeepers are using good practices and people with allergies have an epi pen on them.

The move could also be good news for gardeners. Councillors heard urban beekeeping can boost production by as much as 30 per cent.

The original bylaw did not include the requirement of notifying neighbours. However, on Sept. 5 Coun. Sheena Hughes introduced an amendment requiring notification of immediately adjoining neighbours.

At the time, Hughes said the city needs to take into consideration people who do not want to have the risk of a beehive next door.

“There are many people who have issues with anaphylactic shock with bee stings,” she said.

“If they feel … that’s going to affect the enjoyment or use of their property, that is something we need to respect.”

The bylaw came forward after city staff did a survey earlier in 2017 to gauge public support for urban beekeeping.

That survey received 55 responses, with 85 per cent supporting. Eighty-two per cent said they would support their neighbour owning a beehive and 85 per cent felt urban beekeeping would benefit the community.

April Hudson: