Since July, the village of Skokie has been pulled in two directions over the issue of whether to permit backyard beekeeping.
On one side of the issue are a beekeeper's neighbors, who fear her bees could seriously harm their son, who's allergic to stings. The village's health director, Dr. Catherine Counard, has also offered an abundance of caution in citing the medical literature on bee sting reactions.
On the other side are beekeepers, dozens of whom extolled the benefits of beekeeping (environmental, educational, honey-producing, etc.) when they lined up to speak at village board meetings in July and August. Many cited instances of urban and suburban beekeeping where no one was stung or bothered by the bees.
But when Michael Lorge, the village attorney, at the Monday Oct. 21 meeting introduced the new proposed ordinance the village has drafted, characterizing it as an attempt to be reasonable and find middle ground, many of the beekeeping enthusiasts did not agree.
Earlier: After Beekeepers Drone On, Skokie May Take Sting Out of Beekeeping Ban
In making public comments, they questioned why so many restrictions were written into the village's proposed ordinance on beekeeping.
'Designed to make beekeeping difficult and expensive'
"It's almost like you think bees are radioactive waste," said Theo Watanabe, a Skokie beekeeper.
Susan Dickman, who said she grew up in Skokie and lives in Evanston, said Evanston has had no problems with beekeeping in seven years.
"I read the (proposed Skokie) ordinance, it almost reads like a ban," she said. "It’s as if someone decided to say let’s make beekeeping expensive, difficult and prohibited... I do think it’s a little dangerous to let neighbors have that much power."
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The ordinance (the majority of which is posted below, or it can be read here) requires beehives to be located inside backyard apiaries surrounded by a six-foot fence, with a flyway designed to direct bees upward as they exit the hive. It also requires signs with large lettering warning anyone who might come onto the property that hives are present there. And it requires written consent from neighbors whose homes abut the beekeeper's.
Neighbors would have veto power for any reason, not just healthKatie Gudgel of Skokie cautioned that those neighbors could nix the hive not only for allergy or health reasons, but for any reason, such as that they don't like the beekeeper or because they don't want a six-foot fence going up.
"I’ve looked up the laws; beekeeping is not considered a public nuisance," she said.
Could 'live with it'However, Joel Hodes said he thought beekeepers could live with most of the restrictions.
"In the spirit of compromise I think personally there is little in the ordinance I could not live with. Yes, it’s probably more regulation than most beekeepers would want," he acknowledged, saying he would want two changes--allowing the water source to be on the property, rather than confined to the enclosure, and whether there had to be so many signs, which he said would do little for curb appeal.
Lorge responded that the signs were there to permit people with permission to come on the property, such as meter readers, to be aware bees are present. And the signs function as a kind of "buyer beware" statement to let potential home buyers (of homes adjacent to beekeepers) know the hives are a pre-existing condition, he indicated.
Linn and Myles Ullenbrauck said their son is allergic to bee stings and they were not consulted before their neighbor put a beehive in her yard. They both supported the ordinance.
What ordinance saysFollowing is language taken from Skokie's proposed ordinance; additional language, including definitions of terms, is found here.
Beekeeping – Residential Only
Sec. 18-81. Beekeeping Permit Required. Persons seeking to have and maintain a 23 Beehive or establish a Honeybee Apiary in the Village of Skokie shall first obtain a 24 Beekeeping Permit.
Applications shall be submitted to the Village Manager or 25 designee. Beekeeping Permits are only available for residential property. Beekeepers 26 who owned or operated a Honeybee Apiary within the Village prior to the effective date 27 hereof and who continue to do so after the effective date hereof, shall have thirty (30) days after such effective date to apply for a Beekeeping Permit.
(a) At the time of application for a Beekeeping Permit, the applicant shall: 1. Register their Beehive Colony with the Illinois Department of Agriculture;
2. Submit a scaled site plan of the proposed Apiary showing placement of the Beehive(s), the flyway barrier and fences and compliance with all applicable requirements outlined in this Article;
3. Provide a Certificate of Insurance from their homeowner’s insurance company verifying that Beekeeping is covered by the insurance policy covering the property where the Apiary will be located;
4. Provide a certificate of completion or similar documentation, from a Beekeeping training course provided by an entity approved by the Village of Skokie. The Skokie Health Department shall maintain a list of approved courses. Beekeepers are required to stay current and demonstrate their knowledge of Colony health and management;
5. Submit written consent from all neighbors on residential property that abuts the proposed location, in a form provided by the Village of Skokie. Notification is not required for renewals.
6. Submit a properly executed hold harmless agreement with the Village, waiving any liability for any loss or injury resulting from the design, construction or operation of the Apiary, in lieu of any zoning or building permits that may be associated with the construction of an Apiary;
7. Pay a One Hundred Twenty-Five Dollar ($125.00) nonrefundable initial permit fee.
(b) Expiration and Renewal. Beekeeping Permits shall be valid for up to one year. All Beekeeping Permits expire on March 31st of each calendar year. Beekeepers must submit their renewal application at least twenty-one (21) days prior to the expiration date. A renewal permit shall be subject to the requirements 1-4 as outlined in 18-81(a), with payment of a fifty dollar ($50.00) permit renewal fee.
Sec. 18-82. Apiary Inspection. By applying for a Beekeeping Permit, an applicant authorizes the Village Manager or designee to enter onto that part of the applicant’s property which contains the Beehive or Apiary for the limited purpose of inspecting the Colony and Apiary for compliance with this Article. Two inspections will be conducted each year. Other inspections may be conducted, as needed.
Sec. 18-83. Beehive Type. All Honeybee Colonies shall be kept in Langstroth Type Beehives with removable combs, which shall be kept in sound and usable condition.
Sec. 18-84. Apiary Maintenance. Beekeepers shall keep all Beekeeping equipment in good condition and secure unused equipment from weather, potential theft, vandalism or occupancy by migratory Colonies.
(a) Components. Beekeepers shall ensure that no bee comb, wax or other materials are left upon the grounds of the Beehive or Apiary site. Beekeepers shall promptly store or dispose of any bee comb, wax or other materials which have been removed from the Beehive in a sealed container or within a building or other bee proof enclosure. (b) Water. Beekeepers shall ensure that a convenient source of water is available within the Apiary to the Honeybees at all times during the Beehive’s active months, March through November. The water source must be maintained in a secure receptacle so as not to create a breeding site for mosquitoes. (c) Colony Maintenance. Beekeepers shall monitor and maintain their Colony or Colonies so as not to become a nuisance. Colonies must be monitored at least twice a week from March 1st to November 30th .
Section 18-85. Aggressive Behavior. (a) In any instance in which a Colony exhibits Overly Aggressive behavior by stinging or attempting to sting without due provocation, or exhibits an unusual disposition towards Swarming, it shall be the duty of the Beekeeper to destroy the Queen, requeen the Colony and notify the Director of Health.
(b) The Village Manager or designee may request to observe a “kick test” to be performed by the Beekeeper.
Sec. 18-86. Beehive Location. Apiaries may only be located and maintained in residential districts with detached residences occupied by the Beekeeper. (a) Apiaries shall be located only in a rear yard at least sixty (60) feet from a front lot line.
(b) Apiaries shall be located at least six (6) feet from a side property line.
(c) Apiaries shall be located at least fifteen (15) feet from a property line that abuts a street right-of-way.
(d) Apiaries shall be located at least five (5) feet from a rear lot line that does not abut an alley.
(e) Two Apiary sites may not exist within six hundred (600) feet of each other.
(f) Apiaries and Beehives shall not be permitted on rooftops or balconies.
(g) Beekeepers shall not keep more than two (2) Colonies in their Apiary on any property.
Sec. 18-87. Fencing and Flyways.
(a) Fencing. The Apiary shall be enclosed on all sides by a fence six (6) feet in height and shall be at least three (3) feet from the Beehive on all sides. Fencing shall be constructed of a minimum nine (9) gauge woven mesh corrosion resistant material or a solid material. The fence posts shall be constructed of decay and corrosion resistant material set in concrete. The entrance to the Apiary shall have a gate with a locked latch at least four (4) feet from the ground, which shall be closed at all times when the Beekeeper is not present.
(b) Flyways. Each Beehive entrance must have a flyway barrier which directs the Honeybees upwards as they exit the Beehive. The distance between the Beehive entrance and flyway barrier shall be no more than ten (10) feet. The flyway barrier may be part of the fence surrounding the Apiary, but must be (6) feet in height and four (4) feet wide and constructed of a solid material.
Sec. 18-88. Signage. Beekeepers shall conspicuously post a weatherproof sign at least one (1) foot by two (2) feet on all lot lines facing abutting properties and on the Beehive or Apiary fence outside of the latched gate with the statement, in at least three (3) inch high letters, “Warning – Beehives on Property”. The sign must be visible and easily read from outside the property.