Beekeepers swarm to West University council meeting over proposed ordinances

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Several Houston-based beekeepers spoke out against proposed ordinances that would affect beekeeping in West University Place at the city’s council meeting on June 24.

The council considered three options: an ordinance that would require beehives to be a minimum distance of 300 feet from any home, school, church or public space; an ordinance that would allow beehives with restrictions on the number of bees, their placement and their hives’ construction; and the option of adopting no ordinance at all.

The majority of speakers during the public forum regarding the ordinances were beekeepers who favored the latter option, citing the importance that bees have to the environment and their already dwindling population.

“Most people recognize the importance of bees. Bees pollinate a third of the food that we eat. That’s about $19 billion a year in the U.S.,” Harrison Rogers, board member of the Texas Beekeepers Association, told the council. “Your city webpage says, ‘Keep West U green,’ so I hope you’ll consider that, and if you need any help in writing an ordinance that will be good, we’re here to help.”

The issue relating to bees in West University came up at the council’s June 10 meeting when resident Terri Bolin spoke out against her neighbor keeping bees and was concerned about a large number of bees she had been seeing on her property and the safety implications.

“I believe [raising bees]is an abnormally dangerous activity. I believe it creates a high degree of serious injury,” Bolin said. “Thousands of people are stung by bees each year, and as many as 90 to 100 Americans die as a result of allergic reactions.”

Roy Vera, the neighbor beekeeper, spoke at the June 24 meeting and said he would be willing to get rid of his bees if they were a problem but urged the council not to enact any bee-limiting ordinances.

“If we are the issue, we will remove the bees from the property. Don’t punish everyone else in the city,” Vera said. “I don’t think we’re an issue. I invite anyone from the city to come to my backyard.”

City Manager Dave Beach said the council did not yet need to take any action at that night’s meeting, and city staff would come back with more options relating to beekeeping regulations at the city’s July 22 meeting.

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