Things seem to be getting sweeter for some Denton residents after the City Council approved a change that would allow for beekeeping within city limits.
In their meeting on Tuesday, council members signed off on an addition to the animal ordinance that allows residents to keep honeybees if they meet listed criteria.
The city also has applied for a Bee City USA designation that would help promote healthy bee habitats and overall knowledge about bees.
“Each February since 2014, Sustainable Denton has hosted a free beekeeping workshop open to the public,” Stephanie Corley, the environmental services, sustainability and grants coordinator for the city, said in an email. “The workshops and events draw some of our largest numbers of participants. The interest and support for beekeeping, local honey and pollinators in general is strong.”
To be able to keep honeybees, residents must inform their adjacent neighbors, keep a source of water within 20 feet of all hives and register with the city. The size of a person’s land also can limit how many hives they can keep.
Before Tuesday night’s decision, there was nothing explicitly banning beekeeping in the city. Most beekeepers followed the nuisance ordinance, which said residents couldn’t keep bees if they endangered their neighbors’ personal health or welfare.
Some, however, took this to mean that beekeeping wasn’t allowed at all.
“There was no framework for the keeping of bees within a growing city,” Corley said. “We worked with Denton County Beekeepers to establish some best practices and to agree on the registering of hives. Creating a database of hives and locations allows for notification to beekeepers if the city needs to spray for mosquitoes and a heads-up to water and utilities employees who may need to do work on a property with hives.”
With the addition of beekeeping to the city code, Christina Beck, president of the Denton County Beekeepers Association, said she hopes this will encourage more people to keep honeybees.
Because bees are such good pollinators, it could result in more local food sources.
“Hopefully, we’ll see more produce in our community market,” she said.
Beck also said the ordinance could help stop the spread of Africanized bees, a type of aggressive honeybee that is often called a “killer bee.”
“When you are constantly out at hives, you can identify problems easier,” she said. “All it takes is for a queen to meet an Africanized drone and lay half-Africanized eggs.”
There could be a potential downside to an uptick in honeybees, though.
Jessica Beckham, a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, studies native bumblebee populations in the area.
She found research showing native bee and honeybee populations will compete with each other for resources. Because honeybees travel in larger colonies, they could possibly overpower the native bees.
“But that’s really the only con that I could find,” Beckham said. “Honeybees are very charismatic and they’re great pollinators. The change [in the ordinance] will improve community awareness of bees overall.”
Beckham suggests planting flowers to help out the bee population if residents aren’t ready to delve into full hives.
But for those wanting to don the beekeeping suit, the Denton County Beekeepers Association meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month at the Denton County Elections Administration office, located at 701 Kimberly Drive in Denton.
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @CjonesDRC.