Ordinance would allow beekeeping in South Bend

A proposed ordinance would allow beekeeping within the South Bend city limits where it hasn’t been allowed for decades.

The measure would only apply to the honeybee: A breed that is experiencing problems that are both mysterious and serious.

Glen Reava has been a beekeeper in rural Berrien County now for the past four years.

It’s his hope to have about 250,000 honeybees buzzing around his sprawling backyard by the end of this year.

It’s his dream that some will still be buzzing next year.

“Because I lost four hives last year, and I’m not sure why, I lost all four of them,” said Reava.

There’s a phenomenon named Colony Collapse that refers to honeybees dying all over the world under mysterious circumstances and in bewildering numbers.

The situation has inspired a lot of people to help search for ways to keep the hive alive.

“We need to continue to increase, and give them opportunities, a place to live because if we don't then, you know, when something loses its habitat, a certain amount then they also have a chance to become extinct,” said Reava.
Vince Barletto has the same desire to do his part for the honeybee population, but as a South Bend city resident he doesn’t have the five acres required to be a beekeeper.

“Actually, cattle and bison and pigs, and agriculture are the exact same wording as the bees right now, so it’s considered an agricultural product at this point,” said Barletto. “The honeybee in particular pollenates over 30 percent of the U.S. crops, almonds, cherries, apples.”

The Unity Gardens created its own honeybee colony in the South Bend city limits about a year ago. The results have been encouraging. “92 percent retention rate on that with ours, I think we went from one hive to four, we were able to split just recently last week,” said Executive Director Sara Stewart.

When it comes to the idea of beekeeping in the bend, the attitude at Unity Gardens is, the more the merrier.

“I’m not a ‘dooms-dayer,’ however we rely on bees for our food and so as the bee population decreases, that becomes more and more of a concern, not just in South Bend, Indiana, not just in Indiana, not just in the United States but globally and that tells me that it’s a huge issue,” said Stewart.

Stewart bristles at the idea of importing bees from other areas to pollenate local crops. “The bees that are local bees are gentler you know, they’re more acclimated to this climate, etcetera, being able to get local genetic that continue to grow keeps our bee population healthier, more stable, and then keeps our crops growing better, our environment, flowers, trees.”

The honeybee ordinance will likely be assigned to committee at tonight’s South Bend Common Council meeting. A public hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

The ordinance would allow up to two hives to be located at a residence that had a 1/4 of an acre lot. All hives would have to be kept in the backyard, at least ten feet from a public sidewalk.

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