County supervisors to hear May 21 how beekeepers can be helped

SAN DIEGO – The balance between helping the local beekeeping industry stay afloat and public safety is scheduled to be considered tomorrow, May 21, by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Last October, the supervisors asked staff to come up with options to help beekeepers, and the results will be presented at the board’s meeting in downtown San Diego.

The county currently calls for 600-foot setbacks between beekeeping operations and adjacent property lines.

The options before the supervisors are to cut the setbacks by half, by two-thirds and reducing them down to 15 feet. The latter distance would be adjusted to 20 feet from any public right-of-way.

The impact would be that people with smaller properties would be able to start beekeeping operations.

Nationwide, the industry has been hard-hit by a mysterious malady called Colony Collapse Disorder, which has no identified cause, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bees not only produce honey, but are important

pollinators for agriculture.

The public safety issue is presented by Africanized honey bees, which, according to staff report, comprises 80 percent of the wild hives in the county. Such bees will defend a 150-foot perimeter around their hives, compared

to 25 feet for the European variety, and their multiple stings can be fatal, according to the report.

Entomologists contend that the 15-foot option poses a higher risk to public safety because of the “unpredictable and overly defensive behavior” of Africanized honey bees, according to the report.

“The number of beekeepers in the unincorporated areas of the county far exceeds the number of beekeepers in the city of San Diego and the risk of stinging incidents tend to increase significantly if bees are kept in closer proximity to residents, pets or other animals,” the staff report says.

“Additionally, there are less buildings and structures in the more rural unincorporated areas of the county, than in the more urbanized areas, making it more difficult for potential victims of a bee attack to hide and protect themselves from the bees.”

The 600-foot setback would be maintained when beekeepers are adjacent to properties deemed to be sensitive, like schools, nursing homes, kennels and stables, and athletic facilities.

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