New County Rules to Keep Beekeeping Buzzing

Beekeeping in San Diego County got a boost Wednesday with new rules that allow hives closer to road, property lines and homes in unincorporated areas.

The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a “tiered” beekeeping ordinance that changes where hobbyists and businesses can keep bees, while still keeping the public safe, officials said.

Since 2006, bee populations worldwide have been disappearing, raising concerns about the future of farming that depends on bee pollination to thrive. The supervisors supported the new ordinance to promote more beekeeping and agriculture in the county.

The rules dictate where three types of beekeepers — hobbyists, small commercial companies and large commercial companies — can keep their hives.

Under current county regulations, all beekeepers must keep their insects 100 feet from roads and 600 feet from homes.

Now, hobbyists can raise bees in two hives within 25 feet of roads and property lines, 35 feet of neighboring homes and 150 feet from sensitive sites, which are places where small children, elderly individuals, confined and animals and other physically challenged people.

For small commercial bee companies, up to 20 hives can be kept within 50 feet of roads and property lines, 100 feet of homes and between 150 and 300 feet from sensitive sites, depending on how many hives they have.

Large companies can have an unlimited number of hives within 100 feet of roads, 300 feet of homes and 450 feet of sensitive sites.

All beekeepers must register as such and own only docile European bees. The County’s Department of Agriculture, Weight and Measures, the San Diego Beekeeping Society, the San Diego County Farm and Home Advisor and commercial beekeepers will also team up to educate people about the craft.

Commercial beekeeping helps to pollinate almond, avocado, broccoli, onion, fruit and seed crops in the county.

The ordinance will go before the board of supervisors again on Sept. 30 for a second reading. If approved, it will go into effect in 30 days.

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