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Backyard Beekeeping May Soon Be Legal In Los Angeles

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The population of bees has been on a decline in the past decade but their number could increase soon, particularly in Los Angeles, where lawmakers voted on Wednesday to make backyard beekeeping legal.

The city council voted to direct the city lawyers to draft the new ordinance that would allow all homeowners to maintain their own hives and to bring this back for the approval of the lawmakers.

Although backyard beekeeping has not been allowed in the city's residential zones, a growing number of people do it anyway over concerns for the dwindling population of honeybees.

Scientists said that the shrinking number of bees, which are considered as important crop pollinators, could threaten almonds, apples and a number of other important crops. The dwindling number of the insects has been blamed to climate changes, use of pesticides and diseases.

An annual survey made by researchers at the Honey Bee Lab of the University of Maryland revealed that between April 2012 and April 2013, beekeepers lost nearly half of honey bee colonies. Because the pollinators are considered crucial to the economy of the nation, the panic over the declining population of bees appeared to have boosted public interest in beekeeping.

Rick Molenda, president of beekeeping supply company Western Bee said that the company's sales to hobbyist beekeepers more than doubled over the past five years. He also said that the trend shows throughout the country as everybody wants to save the pollinators.

With the city council green-lighting the draft proposal that would give hobbyist beekeepers the rights to own hives in their backyards, residents in Los Angeles would be allowed to keep beehives, a move that is part of an urban effort to boost the populations of bees.

"We want to enable this increasingly popular activity even while we preserve the rights of the city to address any complaints about poorly maintained hives," said Councilman Jose Huizar.

Some, however, raised concerns that the bees could pose threats to residents. In Santa Monica, those who wish to keep a hive are required to have a city permit or finish an apiary course.

Officials who discussed with bee experts reported that the variety of honeybees used in beekeeping are not aggressive albeit they may sting in self-defense if their hive is approached. The insects do not also become aggressive or have reason to sting when they leave their hives to collect food and encounter humans.

Photo: Umberto Salvagnin | Flickr

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