The city of Eagan is about to get a little bit sweeter.
With nary a word of dissent, the City Council last week unanimously approved an ordinance change that will allow beekeeping in residential neighborhoods. Previously, beekeeping was only allowed on property zoned for agricultural use, with a minimum of 5 acres of land.
The change, which takes effect Friday, will allow residents to produce their own honey and help the environment by nurturing nature's pollinators.
A $50 permit is required, and to get the permit, prospective beekeepers must complete a minimum of eight hours of a beekeeping course or prove that they have three or more consecutive years of beekeeping experience within the past five years.
Eagan joins a growing number of cities and suburbs that allow and even encourage beekeeping in residential neighborhoods. It is allowed in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Stillwater, Eden Prairie and many other communities. Eagan's new rules specify that hives must be in the back yard, at least 20 feet from the property line and 30 feet from any house.
Dean Larson, who has about a half-acre lot on Knoll Ridge Drive, is one resident interested in keeping hives.
His father was a beekeeper and Larson worked for him when he was a boy.
"Bees are fascinating, they're pretty fun," he said. "I really want to do it just for what they can do for the environment."
Larson said he believes the $50 permit is prohibitive to some people, but plans to pay it. Family friends who are beekeepers often rent out their hives to apple orchard owners who need the bees to pollinate the trees, he said.
"Just keeping one or two hives, you're not going to make money on it, you're more likely to lose money," Larson said.
Prepare for bees
Kristy Allen, owner and chief beekeeper of Beez Kneez Honey in Minneapolis, said beekeeping can be an expensive proposition. And it isn't for those who have just a passing interest.
"To get started, do your research," Allen said. "It's not a cheap hobby anymore. Bees are struggling and when you start, you're going to get bees that come from other parts of the country."
Those bees could die over the winter or be killed by pesticides used on neighboring lawns. Beez Kneez is working with local beekeepers to breed more hardy local bees.
Allen also said people interested in beekeeping should talk to their neighbors and take children and pets into consideration. Bees sting and bees swarm, she warned.
The upside to that is that one hive can turn into two when bees are ready to swarm, Allen said.
Potential beekeepers also can forget about having an immaculate, dandelion-free lawn. The hated weeds are usually a good source of food for the bees, she said, adding that native grasses and flowers keep bees healthy and happy.
But if a person is committed, she said, beekeeping can be a rewarding experience.
"In my opinion, it's a very cathartic, meditative experience," Allen said. "I think it's a wonderful thing to get into but it's not for everybody. I recommend people have an experience working with bees before they get their own.
"Beekeeping and bee fever is a blessing and a curse at the same time," she said. "Not everybody and their mom can do it. Especially if mom and everybody didn't do their homework."