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Skokie Health Department wants backyard beekeeping ban; trustees to decide Monday

Theo Watanabe installed a beehive in her Skokie backyard this year, but the Skokie Village Board is now considering whether to ban backyard beekeeping.  |  Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
Theo Watanabe says hello to one of her honeybees living in her backyard hive. Honeybees don't sting, says the Skokie resident who is against a proposed ban on her hobby.  |  Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media

Facts

BEEKEEPING IN OTHER TOWNS
Looking at how other communities in the area address backyard beekeeping provides little guidance for Skokie.
• Some like Chicago, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Glenview, Glencoe, Lincolnwood, Northfield and Park Ridge have no regulations against the hobby.
• Others like Barrington, Evanston, Oak Park, Palatine, Schaumburg and Winnetka allow backyard beekeeping, but have regulations or regard the hobby on a case-by-case basis.
• Des Plaines, Hoffman Estates, Morton Grove, Niles, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette prohibit backyard beekeeping.
The Skokie Village Board is set to decide how it will proceed at a meeting Monday, Aug. 19.
 

Will Skokie backyard beekeepers feel the painful sting of a ban on their favorite hobby, or will they continue to be able to enjoy the sweet taste of honey only a few feet away from its source?

Village Trustees Monday are scheduled to address a proposed backyard beekeeping ban; the first time it was raised July 15, passionate backyard beekeepers pleaded with trustees to regulate backyard beekeeping instead of banning it outright.

But the Skokie Health Department’s staff recommendation still suggests an outright ban on backyard beeping, according to agenda information released late Thursday.

If beekeepers are going to be able to continue their hobby, the Skokie Village Board apparently will have to reject the recommendation of village staff.

In Village Manager Al Rigoni’s report to the Village Board, he defines beekeeping as a potential nuisance – even providing a dictionary definition of the word – and emphasizes the role of a municipality to “promote the general health, safety and welfare of its citizens.”

Rigoni noted that four of 18 speakers in July mentioned they had been stung by their own bees.

“Certainly, this is an activity which can cause harm to human beings and domestic pets and can have devastating consequences if a child or adult who lives nearby is allergic to the bee sting,” he said.

An avid group of backyard beekeepers have been fighting the ban. They state that honeybees – unlike more aggressive wasps, like yellow jackets – are generally not interested in stinging people. And with a diminished population of pollinators, backyard beekeeping is an important benefit to the environment, they maintain.

The Skokie Health Department recognizes the growing concern about the shrinking number of pollinators, but so far it remains unconvinced that backyard beekeeping is an answer.

“When balancing the possible positive environmental benefits of this activity against the nuisance and safety criteria … I concur with the staff recommendation that a ban of this activity in residential and service commercial zones is in order,” Rigoni stated.

Municipalities near Skokie are all over the map when it comes to beekeeping. Chicago allows beekeeping and some, like Evanston, allow beekeeping as well, but with restrictions.

Village officials say Skokie’s small lot sizes, though, have an impact on their recommendation.

“The average lot dimensions in Skokie are simply too small to guarantee the safety of those nearby,” Rigoni said.

The village staff recommendation states that the village will continue to work with beekeeping advocates, the Skokie Park District and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to explore whether a community apiary can be created.

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Facts

BEEKEEPING IN OTHER TOWNS
Looking at how other communities in the area address backyard beekeeping provides little guidance for Skokie.
• Some like Chicago, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Glenview, Glencoe, Lincolnwood, Northfield and Park Ridge have no regulations against the hobby.
• Others like Barrington, Evanston, Oak Park, Palatine, Schaumburg and Winnetka allow backyard beekeeping, but have regulations or regard the hobby on a case-by-case basis.
• Des Plaines, Hoffman Estates, Morton Grove, Niles, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette prohibit backyard beekeeping.
The Skokie Village Board is set to decide how it will proceed at a meeting Monday, Aug. 19.
 
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