Wildflower students watch bees in a portable hive. The school wants an observational hive installed in one of its classrooms. Photo: Tyler Harper

Buzz off, bylaw!

Local group petitions city to scrap bee bylaw

Keith Stetsko wants a bee hive in every school in Canada. But right now he’ll settle for Nelson.

Stetsko, who has been a beekeeper for over 50 years, was part of a small delegation who asked city council Monday to consider changing a bylaw that prevents beekeeping within city limits.

His group, the Slocan-based Bee Awareness Society, are making the request in part because it wants to install observation hives in classrooms at Wildflower School and Hume School. The Nelson Waldorf School, which is unaffected by the bylaw as it is located just outside city limits, has also requested a hive.

Stetsko makes the hives, which he said have been a hit elsewhere, such as W.E. Graham in Slocan where the school has had a hive for three years.

“I’m very enthused. Especially when you see the love for bees on the little kids’ faces,” he said. “They’re scared at first, they put their hand out and have bees walking on them and then they have absolutely no fear. It’s pretty neat.”

Laurryn Asbell’s Kindergarten-Grade 1 class from Wildflower also spoke to council and performed the song that can be seen in this video.

It isn’t the first time council has been asked to review the bee policy. The last request was made in 2014, but was never voted on.

Axel Krause, the Ministry of Agriculture’s bee inspector for the Kootenays, also spoke on behalf of the society. He said allergies and bears are the typical concerns people have about bees, but are both mostly unfounded.

He said hives can be built so they don’t draw bears into the city, and people with allergies are rarely stung.

“There are people who are allergic but they probably know it and they would not become beekeepers,” said Krause. “And bees will leave everyone alone. The people who get stung are the beekeepers. Because we go into the hive, we tear the roof off, we rearrange the furniture, we check what the babies are doing, we blow smoke in. So if I did that to your house you wouldn’t be too happy either.”

Asbell’s class later swarmed around a portable hive brought to Wildflower on Wednesday by the society. Krause said the unique hives — which featured two or three frames covered by glass — let children watch everything bees do, from the queen laying eggs to dancing to show where pollen and nectar is.

“They are much smaller units, but the bees will live in that and they do quite well,” said Krause.

Councillors indicated there may be a way to amend the City Animal Control bylaw to allow for hives installed in schools. The request was made at a committee of the whole meeting, in which council hears but doesn’t make decisions on proposals.

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Laurryn Asbell’s K-1 class poses near the bee hive provided for the day by the Bee Awareness Society. Photo: Tyler Harper

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