Honeybee hives. (AP Photo/Scott Smith)

Backyard beekeeping becomes possible in Chilliwack urban areas

Local beekeepers praise new bylaw passed by council

The new beekeeping bylaw is ready to start creating a buzz in Chilliwack.

Hives of honeybees can now be set up in backyards of single-family homes, duplexes, as well as community gardens, and institutions where it’s part of an educational program.

City officials started working on drafting changes last year after receiving a request from the community to allow honeybees as a permitted use in the backyards of Chilliwack residents.

Laura Delisle — beekeeper, environmental educator, and spokesperson for the Chilliwack Beekeepers — was at the public hearing on April 2.

She offered thanks to council, and listed some of the benefits of having such a supportive bylaw on the books.

“Thank you for taking the time to put this bylaw proposal into place,” Delisle told council. “We have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.”

Not only do they support the existing community of volunteer beekeepers, and answer a long-standing need in the community, but the zoning rules will help set “a standard of good health and practice” for urban hives, she added.

The new bylaw is “vital” to local beekeepers, their hives and for the health the honeybees, since the “health of my bees affects the health of your bees,” Delisle said.

The new rules will also help create “respectful community living between beekeepers and non—beekeepers,” Delisle noted.

READ MORE: Community of beekeepers there to help

Coun. Jeff Shields asked during the meeting about the nature of honeybees compared to wasps in terms of how aggressive they are, and was told they were relatively gentle and more interested in flowers than people.

Most people who get stung by honeybees have stepped on them accidentally, she said.

Chilliwack beekeeper Marty Van Den Bosch had praise for the new urban beekeeping bylaw, and for the beekeeping community, and beekeeping instructors like Delisle.

“I am really looking forward to the opportunity of having bees legitimately in our community,” Van Den Bosch told council. He coordinates an online gardening club of more than 6,000 members, and the subject of honeybees comes up often.

As an active member of Chilliwack Beekeepers’ community as well, which Delisle co-ordinates, Van Den Bosch said he appreciates the depth of knowledge available locally.

The beekeepers’ group started with about 30 people and has grown to almost 300 members online.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to see this new bylaw passed,” Delisle commented after the meeting.

To prepare for the new bylaw to be on the books, staff researched best practices and experiences of other municipalities, as well checking with Ministry of Agriculture. City staff confirmed the introduction of bees did not lead to any complaints from surrounding communities.

The proposal was reviewed by the Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee, and they in turn recommended council support it.

Final adoption is set for May 7.


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