SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Sioux Falls officials are reconsidering the city’s restrictions on beekeeping after recent media attention about the declining bee population created a buzz.
City officials and beekeeping advocates met recently to discuss the prospect of legalizing apiaries, a place where bees or a collection of beehives are kept, the Argus Leader reported. Preserving hives and raising bees are prohibited within city limits, with the exception of agriculturally zoned land.
Councilor Theresa Stehly intends to draft a proposal that centers on protecting the public while opening more of the city to hobby apiaries. She sought feedback on the proposal from other councilors, a few beekeepers as well as officials with the zoning, city attorney’s and animal control offices.
Assistant City Attorneys Ryan Sage and Keith Allenstein and Sioux Falls Animal Control Supervisor Julie DeJong appeared to be less eager to ease restrictions on beekeeping within city limits. Each raised concerns about the city’s liability in the event of bee stings, bee swarms and general public safety.
“It’s going to take one person to die and guess who’s getting sued? The city of Sioux Falls – whether that’s a successful suit or not,” Allenstein said.
DeJong cited news stories from other parts of the United States where people have been injured by bees being kept in urban areas and noted officers in her department aren’t adequately trained to handle bees or determine if someone fits the criteria required to be a beekeeper.
But the beekeepers attending the meeting rejected those notions, saying beekeepers are the primary recipients of honey bee stings as the honey bee species rarely acts defensively, and only does so when someone gets near a hive.
“Ninety percent of the population, what they know about bees is wrong,” said Dave Jastram, an apiary enthusiast who used to run a commercial beekeeping operation.