More Twin Cities suburbs are growing sweet on bees

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2014 - 7:49 AM

Foodies and environmentalists are adding hives.

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Beekeeping is gaining in popularity in response to colony collapse reports.

Photo: RENÉE JONES SCHNEIDER • Star Tribune file,

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More bees are moving to the ’burbs.

As buzz builds over the popular hobby and the dramatic worldwide die-off of bees, more than two doz­en met­ro-area cit­ies, including Minnetonka, Bloomington and Stillwater, are allowing back-yard beekeeping.

On Tues­day, Eden Prairie is ex­pect­ed to be the lat­est city to approve it. And in Chanhassen, beekeeping classes are filling up, like one next month that’s sold out to nearly 200 people interested in starting the hobby.

“The number of people doing it now is surprising,” said Gary Reuter, who helps teach classes at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and run the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab. “People want to do their part to help [bees], and some of it is the back-to-nature thinking.”

Scientists say a worldwide phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder is affecting bees, which are dy­ing at a rate of 35 percent a year. That news, along with the movement to produce food locally, has increased interest in beekeeping.

Minneapolis and St. Paul were among the first cities here to allow it. Now roof­tops from Minneapolis City Hall to down­town ho­tels host hives.

The trend has spread to sub­urbs, but demand so far has been moderate. Stillwater has is­sued six per­mits for resi­den­tial bee­keep­ing since al­low­ing it about a year ago; no com­plaints have come up. In the north metro, Circle Pines started allowing residential beekeeping last July, but has had no applications yet. And St. Paul Park has issued one permit since passing a beekeeping ordinance almost a year ago.

Oth­er sub­urbs eith­er don’t have a spe­cif­ic or­di­nance on beekeeping, out­ward­ly pro­hib­it it or re­strict­ hives to ru­ral prop­er­ties.

Carrying on a tradition

That’s the case in Eden Prairie, which currently limits bee­keep­ing to rural areas. Res­i­dent Chris Endres lob­bied for an ordinance change.

His grand­father and fa­ther passed on the beekeeping hobby to him, and now he’s sharing it with his 17-year-old daugh­ter, both entering homemade honey in State Fair contests. But since he hasn’t been allowed to keep the hives in his neighborhood, he’s housed them at his cab­in and at a friend’s house in neigh­bor­ing Minnetonka.

“It’s kind of like be­ing a wine connoisseur,” said Endres, who has tast­ing par­ties to show off his Minnetonka-made hon­ey.

The proposed city ordinance to be discussed Tuesday has spe­cif­ic limi­ta­tions, such as the colony size, and bee­keep­ers have to reg­is­ter with po­lice so neighbors can be notified. Jim Schedin, the city’s zoning administrator, es­ti­mates a half-dozen residents will end up reg­is­tering with the city.

“I’ve seen an uptick in interest,” he said. “We have bees to our east and bees to our north. … They’re re­ally ev­er­y­where.”

Mixed reaction

Not ev­er­y­one is sup­port­ive, though.

The stick­ing point for most peo­ple: bee swarms bothering neighbors or affecting residents with al­ler­gies. Some cities, including Edina, prohibit beekeeping. In Eden Prairie, Council Member Kath­y Nelson was the lone op­po­nent, say­ing that the hob­by shouldn’t neg­a­tive­ly im­pact resi­dents who have bee al­ler­gies, such as her daugh­ter.

“I don’t see the overwhelming need to have a change, and it could have an extreme consequence for some families in town,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like something your next-door neighbor in a suburb would do. I would never have purchased a home if I knew bees were next door.”

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