Amid a number of rules and an impending fee, honey bees approved in Yorkton

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YORKTON – It will soon be possible to keep honey bees in your backyard in the city – if you meet an extensive list of regulations, do not live to close to a public space, have no close neighbors with a bee allergy who says no to the idea, and pay a yet undefined fee for a license.

Council made the decision at its regular meeting Monday after hearing from Allison Henderson-Hunter, and her eight-year-old son Ewan who undertook a pilot project keeping bees this past summer.

The pair noted via Zoom they had found it reasonable to follow proposed guidelines and achieved the required training, memberships and registration.

The regulations included making hives available for inspection, taking the Saskatchewan Beekeeping Development Commission Introductory Course, having a local mentor and registering with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.

And the project was well-received in the neighborhood, which they suggested brought us closer to our neighbors, who enjoyed watching us learn.

“At the May 17, 2021 Council Meeting, Council directed Administration to proceed with an Urban Hobby Beekeeping Pilot Project to determine if urban hobby beekeeping should be permitted under the Animal Control Bylaw,” noted Nicole Baptist – Bylaw & Safety Supervisor, with the City at Monday’s meeting.

The pilot project was capped at five residents that would be permitted to keep bees for the 2021 season.

“The City received interest from approximately five residents inquiring if they would be able to take part in the pilot project. In two of those cases, Administration went through the process of creating LOU’s and neighbor buffer letters, but residents later backed out due to the lateness in the season,” explained a report to Council.

The City also received calls and inquiries about whether residents could keep leafcutter bees, added Baptist.

Under the pilot project, there were a number of regulations that beekeepers had to adhere to, including entering into a Letter of Understanding (LOU) with the City and distributing letters to neighbors within the prescribed buffer zone, said Baptist.

“The permitting or approval process used in the Pilot Project was thorough, appeared to provide enough parameters to ensure safe neighborhoods and if the City was to allow and regulate urban hobby beekeeping through the Animal Control Bylaw, Administration assumes we would continue with very similar requirements ,” she said.

After the pilot project, “At the Committee of the Whole Meeting on September 21, 2021, Council was supportive of moving forward with Bylaw updates to have beekeeping allowed in the community,” said Baptist.

Baptist did note the permitting process was labor intensive. Administration spent approximately six hours on the Henderson’s “permit” to keep bees between the two site visits, addressing concerns, completing the Letter of Understanding, neighbor letters, etc. She added the City could consider a permit fee to assist in covering Administration’s time.

But, also noted, “Administration is not aware of any other communities that charge a permitting fee for urban hobby beekeeping.”

As a simpler option, “Urban hobby beekeeping could also be allowed under the Animal Control Bylaw, simply by removing it from the list of animals that are prohibited, but without including rules and regulations that must be followed. There are some communities (such as the City of Regina) that have opted to go this direction,” said Baptist. In addition, “As the pilot project kicked off, Administration received more inquiries about whether leafcutter bees were permitted as well, as they’ve become more popular over the past couple years,” detailed the report.

Administration suggests omitting the permitting requirement for leafcutter bees due to the hive size difference between the leafcutter bees and honey bees, said Baptist.

The option Council chose to support unanimously directed Administration to work on an Animal Control Bylaw Amendment, including provisions to allow beekeeping (including leafcutter bees) and regulate it with permit fees for keeping honey bees.

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