Safety concerns lead St. Peter to reject effort for backyard beehives again

Honey bees have created quite a buzz in the media in recent years for the vital role they play in pollinating our food crops. The pollinators have become so chic they were awarded their own license plate, though the Duluth News Tribune noted it took longer for the state to roll out the plates than those expressing urgency over the insect might prefer.

The pollinator plates were originally proposed in 2017. But the same state computer system malfunctions that caused Minnesota driver’s license backups — the Minnesota License and Registration System — also delayed the new license plates, DNR officials said. The $73 million failed computer system couldn’t produce the new, six-number plates.

MNLARS has since been replaced and the new plates are now available wherever residents renew their plates or tabs, online or in person.

Still, it’s one thing to spend $30 annually on license plates to show your support for critical habitat for bees and evidently quite another to live next door to a colony of the pollinators.

The St. Peter City Council recently reconsidered an ordinance to allow residents to keep bee hives in their backyards. But the Free Press reports the pollinators’ proponents ran into the same questions and concerns as on their first run at it in 2017.

Beekeeping will remain off-limits in St. Peter after a proposal to allow it failed once again to garner enough City Council support Monday.

Council members voted 5-2 against the proposed city code modification. The modification would’ve allowed residents to apply for permits to keep a limited number of hives in their backyards if they adhered to a range of requirements.

There was a new twist in the debate this time around, over the potential impact of introducing more honey bees on other pollinators and the natural balance between them.

Council members who voted against it cited concerns for other pollinators, safety and citizen opposition among their reasons. Council members Keri Johnson and Shanon Nowell shared concerns about the impact more honey bees could have on native pollinators.

While honey bees play a big role in pollinating plants, other important and common pollinators include wasps, butterflies and beetles.

“At this point, I’m just not comfortable voting yes because I’m concerned about our native pollinators,” Nowell said.

Ultimately, it came down to a question of protection–for people.

Mayor Chuck Zieman and Council members Ed Johnson and Stephen Grams were the three others who voted against beekeeping. Grams said he went around and around on the issue, but the feedback he received from citizens led him to vote the resolution down.

“By and large, people are against having honey bees in the community,” he said.

Safety concerns about beekeeping came up during the council’s April 12 meeting. About 62 deaths per year in the U.S. were attributed to hornet, wasp or bee stings between 2000-2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.