Lafayette council: Welcome back, bees

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Beekeeper Michael Smith works a hive Wednesday in Lafayette. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Beekeeper Michael Smith works a hive Wednesday in Lafayette.

Water source, barrier included in safeguards

Bees can legally buzz in Lafayette.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to legalize beekeeping in Lafayette, ending a 50-year-old ban that caught the attention City-Parish President Joey Durel earlier this year when he learned of its existence.

Durel said he first heard of the ban after asking a beekeeper at a recent farmers market about the possibility of getting a beehive in his yard so the pollinators could make his lemon tree more productive.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, we can’t have beehives in the city of Lafayette,’” Durel recalled Tuesday. “You can have bee hives in NewYork City, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles. And Lafayette decided 50 years ago we can’t have bees.”

Durel said he could remember a time when there were so many bees on his lemon tree “you could hear the humming when you walked up to it.”

These days, he said, bees are in decline and he struggles to find just a few of them pollinating his tree.

“It may be coincidental, but it’s the fewest lemons I’ve ever had,” Durel said.

Some councilmen questioned possible safety issues, asking whether allowing beehives in the city might raise the likelihood of stings.

“Those bees are not going to bother anybody,” said Michael Smith, a third-generation beekeeper and president of the Acadiana Beekeepers Association. “Bees as a general rule are not very aggressive. It’s just a simple matter of educating the public.”

Smith, who was on hand to answer questions from the council Tuesday, said he keeps about 20 hives, all outside the city limits, but he said bees are already in the city, whether kept in hives by beekeepers or living naturally in a tree trunk or barn.

“How far will bees travel in the day?” Durel asked Smith, referring to the distance bees fly from the hive when foraging.

“They will probably travel 5 or 6 miles,” Smith said.

“Are you aware your bees aren’t allowed in the city of Lafayette,” Durel quipped.

The new beekeeping law, modeled after similar laws in other cities, has safeguards.

Beekeepers must provide a water source to keep thirsty bees from flying to a swimming pool or pond next door for a drink.

Beehives near a property line must have a fence, hedge or other barrier, which forces the bees higher into the air as they take flight looking for forage, making it less likely the insects will encounter a neighbor.

The new law also limits the number of hives based on the size of the lot, starting with a limit of two hives for lots up to quarter acre and maxing out at eight hives for an acre or more.

The new law received a strong endorsement from Councilman Kevin Naquin, who said his doctor ordered him to take a spoonful of honey every day for allergies.

“I would just like to say for the record that I am a big supporter of local honey,” he said.