Saturday, October 31, 2009

No Bees In The Burg

UPDATE: In a comment, I added a few good links. I'm also putting them here in the main story.
Virginia Beekeepers Association
VA Discovery Museum in Charlottesville keeps a colony
And for reference I went out and checked Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Winchester, Norfolk and VA Beach. None of these cities prevent beekeeping.

A little known, and unfortunate city code was brought to my attention tonight. In the City of Fredericksburg, Bee Keeping is a no-no. According to the city code/charter Chapter 14, Article VII, section 14-184 - It shall be unlawful to keep or permit to run at large any domestic fowl, pigeons, or bees or any like animal within the city limits.

Unlike many folks, I've had a swarm show up outside my front door (not in Fredericksburg). I thought I was lucky enough knowing a beekeeper. Unfortunately we couldn't get his equipment back to our townhouse before the neighbor called the city and the swarm was sprayed with a toxic substance. The loss of an entire swarm was terrible. It was a surreal experience to work with 10,000+ bees as if they were grains of sand. Sure there was one sting, but being able to easily more thousands of bees into boxes was an amazing sensation.

Many may not realize, but honeybees are crucial to everything from our food supply to the flowers that decorate our tables. And unfortunately, many honeybee hives have been devastated in recent years by a mite in a catastrophic event called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Long gone are the days like my grandfather would tell of, when he and friends would go out and collect natural honeycomb from hollow trees. One of the best tales of my young life was Pop telling of his brothers warning him against eating the honey too quickly, and him coming home with a swollen tongue after biting a honeybee.

Alas, our poor city is still keeping a law on the books akin to legally preventing someone from having a bald eagle nest.

PS, for anyone thinking - oh but what about a bee sting to an allergic person, would you be equally as alarmed by your neighbor raising peanuts? This is now a matter of looking at what is becoming endangered in our generation.


Larry G said...

ah... you might be headed off the ranch here guy.

but perhaps you can find a more enlightened city code with respect to bees and present it to the city to demonstrate other approaches.

... or perhaps consult with bee keepers and see what they have to say...

..but in general.. keeping any kind of farm-type critters in close proximity to other people has proven itself over time to be just not a good idea.

there are millions of acres of non-urban land available for these guys...

my question.. is.. what causes the swarm? what do the bee keepers say?

where did these bees come from to start with (most likely)?

just FYI - we sometimes get wasps in our basement when cold weather comes and I can assure you - we do try to "save" them.

Bryan said...

If I hadn't experienced it, I would probably be in the same boat with Larry. Long time friends keep the bee hive at the Discovery Museum in downtown Charlottesville ( This indoor/outdoor exhibit (See The Bees) is just off the pedestrian main street walking mall in Charlottesville.

Honeybees are the primary pollinator in the country, and natural honeybees have become practically non-existent. The hives that beekeepers maintain are silos of workers waiting to get out and keep our area's plantlife vibrant.

A swarm happens as a hive grows. It's a natural process where the existing queen leaves with about half the hive. Leaving the existing hive and a young queen to continue on. Swarms usually don't go very far, and the bees will attach themselves like a blanket around the queen. This makes it easy for the beekeeper to collect them and transport them back to a new set of boxes creating another hive. From what I've seen, this is when new people wanting to study beekeeping are given a hive of their own.

For more info:

Andrew Flusche said...

Two words: Bee Movie.

It actually makes a good point about how important bees are to our ecosystem.

Fascinating post, Bryan.

Larry G said...

Yup - I should have read your original post more closely.

Bee's, often live, in the wild in Trees....

I'm not sure what the percentage is of hives verses "in the wild" but I know this for a fact as many years ago I used to accompany my farming relatives on their annual "honey" hunt where they would go find a "bee tree" and cut it down and then cut open the area where the bees had been seen going in and out and then scoop up the honey and put it in a big tub to haul home to put in Mason jars so we'd have honey in the months ahead.

It was great fun if you were not allergic to bee stings.. I must have been stung more times than I can count - and every one evoked great laughter from everyone else who was also getting stung....

anyone.. that honey always seemed "special" to me later on when eating it...

but here's another question for you folks who are into bees.

where do these guys go in the winter?

do they die off or do they migrate?

Bryan said...

This article from the UK stated a 70% decline in honey bee population:

ABC news reported 90% over the last 10 years:

Check with your local vineyard, and ask around. News reports have been that in order to get good pollination, rental bees are now the thing to have. Those natural tree hives are a distant memory. When I visit our family farm, it's rare that you can find a natural colony. My bee keeping friend even went so far as to speculate that if you find one in a tree, it's probably a swarm off of a privately held hive that split off and luckily found a hollow tree.

Hopefully the scientists will find an answer to CCD and rebuild a natural population.

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