Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published July 22, 2013, 09:54 AM

A blight of bees

Is anyone else starting to feel like they are being overrun by bee apiaries? I am an independent crop consultant who works in northern Ramsey County, western Walsh County and Cavalier County in North Dakota.

By: Kristie Sundeen, Agweek

Is anyone else starting to feel like they are being overrun by bee apiaries? I am an independent crop consultant who works in northern Ramsey County, western Walsh County and Cavalier County in North Dakota.

I cover about 25,000 acres and I am starting to feel surrounded. I am originally from Nekoma Township in Cavalier County and my family still lives and farms there. Recently, Nekoma Township adopted new zoning ordinances to address complaints by residents and farm operators who live and work within the township.

Many of the complaints include the apiaries being too close to occupied farm residences, roads and entry points to neighboring fields. Other complaints were about apiaries that were placed on land without permission, beekeepers not following current state laws when it comes to registering and marking apiaries, and too many apiaries being too close together.

If you don’t know North Dakota state laws regarding beekeeping, they are in Chapter 4-12.2 of the century code. The main points in the century code state beekeepers are required to register all apiaries with the state, giving the location of each apiary to the nearest section, quarter section, township, range and county.

They are supposed to have a written lease or other document from the property owner granting the applicant permission to maintain an apiary at that location. State law also requires beekeepers to post a board or weatherproof placard bearing the beekeeper’s name, address and telephone number at or near the main entrance to each apiary.

Want to guess how many are not following these laws and what kind of penalty they are receiving? I don’t know of any that are following the current state laws in registering all apiaries or marking their apiaries, and so far the state has yet to enforce its own laws after continued complaints.

This is why Nekoma Township adopted its own zoning ordinance in regards to bee apiaries. However, now Nekoma Township is on its way to court. Three out-of-state beekeepers with apiaries in Nekoma Township have filed a writ of prohibition to stop Nekoma Township from enforcing its ordinances.

The court has currently granted an injunction to prevent the township from enforcing the ordinance until after the court has made a decision regarding the writ of prohibition.

Nekoma Township’s ordinance requires beekeepers to register the apiaries with the township annually, have written permission from the landowner of the property and neighboring landowners or renters that surround the apiary, setbacks of a quarter mile off a section line, pay a registration fee of $15 per apiary and prohibits apiaries within one mile of an occupied resident without said resident’s written permission.

To many this may seem extreme, but to those within the township, they are trying to protect their way of life and the health and well-being of those who live and work within the township.

The township has offered to give variances to beekeepers if they need them on a case by case basis. The beekeepers have refused to work with the township. They are afraid to let this ordinance stand because other townships in the state may follow suit in adopting bee ordinances.

I won’t say all, but many beekeepers in my area can’t even follow state laws, which are minimal at best in regard to protecting the rights of residents.

A lack of respect by the beekeepers to area residents, landowners, land renters and workers has brought things to this point. I hope everyone starts paying attention and the state starts taking action to protect its residents.

Tags: