The City of Trail may bee-come a local leader in helping restore the honeybee population.
A dozen people attended Monday night council to plead their case in asking city officials to change the animal control bylaw that prohibits beekeeping in Trail – or best case scenario, drop bees from the animal bylaw all together.
“One of the questions that often comes up is, ‘Does the animal control bylaw officer then have to become a beekeeper,’” began presenter Alex Krause. “The answer is ,”No.” That’s my job – I am employed by the provincial Ministry of Agriculture- I am here to help people keep bees properly – if any bee issues come up, phone me.”
Krause, son of Trail sports icon Willie Krause, represented the Trail group and spoke with passion as a beekeeper and dispelled myths he often hears in his role as the provincial bee inspector for the Kootenays.
“First of all, bees don’t know where borders are so they will fly anywhere they like – and there are bees in Trail,” he shared. “Just recently I helped a Trail beekeeper, who keeps her bees in the Fruitvale area, get rid of (a wild colony) in a tree on Daniel Street. The bees had been there for a year and a half, the people didn’t even realize they were there – the bees were in the tree calmly doing their thing, not disturbing anyone.”
Krause described another household, this one in Warfield, that’s had bees for 50 years with nary an incident. Then he mentioned a beekeeper in Blueberry Creek who’s managed his apiaries for 45 years without problem – and those hives are next to the community school.
“The most ‘out there’ example is my old man,” Krause continued. “He retired in 1975 and took up beekeeping, that’s how I got into it, and he had bees in East Trail for 24 years – he was a ‘guerrilla beekeeper,’” he chuckled. “All the neighbours got a big jar of honey for Christmas and everyone was happy.”
He then tackled what appeared to be council’s underlying concern – would introducing more bees put the community at risk of more stings?
People often get honeybees mixed up with wasps or hornets, but there’s a big difference between the two insects.
“Bees are vegetarians, they go after flowers and leave everyone alone, ” Krause said. “The ones that come and hang around your picnic or barbecue are wasps or hornets which are aggressive, because they are looking for meat to feed their babies – pollen is the bees’ source of protein.”
Coun. Sandy Santori intercepted, asking how he could support apiculture in Trail given the seriousness of a bee sting for those who are allergic. In other words, if a neighbour is stung and ends up in the hospital, Santori asked how he could justify the decision to drop the bylaw and allow the practice.
“That was my primary issue in 2008,” Krause replied. “When I put four beehives on the roof of New Westminster school where I was teaching at the time, the first thing was to find out how many kids were allergic – and this is the largest school in the province with 2,000 kids,” he added. “Not one in the last eight years has been stung. And I phoned Science World (Vancouver) since they started in 1986 with about 500 visitors a day – not one person has reported being stung.”
If the city does drop the bee ban, that doesn’t mean multiple hives will pop up throughout the city, Krause pointed out.
“Bylaws generally allow people to have two hives on a city lot,” he said, mentioning during peak time in summer months, each hive could house upwards of 60,000 bees.
Coun. Santori queried the authority Krause had over someone who isn’t maintaining their hives.
“I have the right to remove those bees,” he responded. “If there is a complaint, I would go in and try to help remediate the situation, but ultimately the bees would go away. I’ll either move them or destroy them.”
The bee inspector also addressed other two common worries – bees, bears and the potential for noise.
Unpicked fruit and garbage are greater attractants and easier pickings for bruins looking for a quick meal Krause maintained. And finally, most people don’t even know when managed bee colonies are close by.
“Beekeeping is so important because one third of all the food you eat is a result of bees,” he concluded. “And the federal government is promoting agricultural sustainability in cities across Canada. The more we can grow and produce locally, the more sustainable we become as a community, and bees play a major role in food production.”
The matter will come back to the council for discussion later this summer.
Like Trail, Castlegar and Nelson currently prohibit beekeeping in city limits.
Rossland and Fruitvale allows apiculture in areas defined as rural residential and industrial areas zoned for agriculture use.