The San Diego County Board of Supervisors asked staffers today to work with local beekeepers to find ways to retain and promote the business, including less restrictive zoning laws.
A county ordinance now requires hives to be kept at least 600 feet from other homes and at least 100 feet off public roads. Any change in the ordinance would apply only in unincorporated areas, including Ramona.
Most local beekeepers keep the insects for pollinating crops, rather than honey. Supervisor Diane Jacob said San Diego County has about 1.5 million hives that are used to pollinate almond, avocado, broccoli, onion, fruit and seed crops across California.
However, declining bee populations in California have prompted municipalities and members of beekeeping organizations to promote beekeeping in urban and rural areas, she said.
"European honey bees play an important role in the $5.1 billion San Diego agricultural industry, and beekeeping is another way to further the county's efforts to increase agricultural tourism (and) agricultural production," Jacob said. "And while we're improving the farming economy, we're also helping property owners to use their property to their advantage."
She said beekeepers alerted her to regulations they believe are too restrictive.
Kim Hamilton of the San Diego Beekeeping Society said regulations were much stricter where she lives in Deerhorn Valley than in San Diego, and the "enormous" setbacks required by the county were unnecessary.
"My neighbors are quite a distance away, and it seems kind of foolish that if I were able to move into a residential area in the city of San Diego, I would be able to keep bees within 20 feet of my property line," Hamilton said.
Jacob said working with beekeepers to modify regulations would allow property owners to do more with their land, and promote beekeeping while ensuring surrounding properties were not adversely impacted.
Supervisor Dave Roberts said he understood the importance of beekeeping, even though two of his five children are allergic to bee venom.
Beekeeping has been around in Ramona for decades...
The Ramona Valley 4H Bee Group was organized in September 2009 with eight students...
“People need to know about the importance of bees to our society,” said group leader Laurie Stevens “If we don’t pollinate, we don’t grow.”
Rex Harvey, owner and operator of Beemergency Bee Removal in Ramona, said he keeps 28 bee hives himself. He said he used to raise bees commercially but bee removal provided a better living. The honey he gets from his bees is for family use or given to friends.
-City News Service contributed to this post