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Jul 17, 2014 6:49 PM by Ashlea Bullington

Beekeeping Coming to the City

This week, the Lafayette City-Parish Council voted unanimously to allow beekeepers to open shop within Lafayette city limits. Before the vote, beekeepers could only operate in the unincorporated areas of Lafayette Parish and were prohibited from keeping bees inside city limits. City officials say there's agricultural need for beekeepers, which is why the issue was presented to the council. Before the vote, beekeeping in the city was illegal for at least 50 years.

Michael Smith is the president of the Acadiana Beekeepers Association and a third generation beekeeper.

"Beekeeping will be good for the environment. Without bees, there would be no pollination and we wouldn't be able to survive," Smith said.

Smith said that with the proper equipment --- and knowing that bees need a water source --- they will stay away from people and just do their job of pollinating the greenery. Smith said bees are not very aggressive.

The beekeeping ordinance includes several requirements to help beekeepers remain good neighbors. It also limits the number of hives based on the size of the lot to no more than two colonies on a quarter acre.

Beekeepers will have to provide a water source to keep thirsty bees from flying around to find one. A hedge or other barrier must be in place a few feet from any beehives near a property line. The barrier will force bees higher into the air as they go looking for forage, making it less likely they'll fly into a neighboring yard.

Not only is this issue being addressed in Acadiana, but also at the White House. President Obama issued a memorandum to create a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.

The loss of honey bee colonies has been attributed to a loss of natural forage, inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases, loss of genetic diversity, and exposure to certain pesticides. The number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies has been in a free fall in the last 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Reduced honey bee populations are a real threat to domestic agriculture.

Michael Smith says beekeeping is a great hobby and good for the community. If you'd like to learn more about beekeeping, Smith says the Acadiana Beekeeping Association is a great place to start.



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