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Beekeepers fight for Surrey hives

By Eric MacKenzie

REUTERS

REUTERS

Surrey beekeepers are hoping to create some buzz later this week by requesting the city ease restrictions on how bee colonies can be set up.

The current bylaw permits a maximum of four hives on lots smaller than 10,000 square feet, but local resident and beekeeper Kevin Pielak would like to see the lot-size minimum reduced by half.

Pielak, who will be making his case to Surrey’s Agriculture and Food Security Advisory Committee on Thursday, will also be requesting that setback and fencing requirements to be shortened.

“There are many people getting interested in bees. They’ve joined the bee clubs in Langley, Surrey and other ones. It’s quite a big increase in members,” said Pielak.

“I figure there’s going to be people on these new lots that want bees, so we might as well change the bylaw now.”

The current bylaw also restricts hive placement within 25 feet of a property line, unless it is eight feet off the ground or placed behind a solid fence or hedge that is six feet high and runs 20 feet in both directions.

John Gibeau of Surrey’s Honeybee Centre, who will accompany Pielak in support on Thursday, said it’s the bees’ flight path and not lot size that determine impact to adjacent properties.

“If you can force the bees up and over your neighbour’s house, there’s no issue at all,” said Gibeau, who cares for 6,000 bee colonies in the Lower Mainland. “That’s just (done) with fencing and elevation.

“Urban beekeeping ... has lots of benefits -- pollination within the city, honey production and a source of income for people who have other jobs.”

Surrey Coun. Mike Starchuk, chair of the agricultural committee, said he couldn’t comment specifically on the request before seeing Pielak’s presentation. But he acknowledged the benefits that can be derived for both beekeepers and farmers through keeping urban colonies.

Starchuk cited one example where an area blueberry farmer encouraged a small, neighbouring ranch operation to invest in bees – bringing pollinators to the blueberry crops while resulting in honey production for the rancher.

“There seem to be some partnerships that are being formed,” he said.