BEDFORD — Bees were a big part of the buzz during the Bedford City Council meeting Tuesday night.
Council members agreed 7-0 to update Bedford's animal ordinance to allow residents to keep more than one bee hive in the city limits under certain restrictions, according to Bedford Parks Department Director Barry Jeskewich.
The change was required to bring the city in compliance with a new state law that went into effect July 1, Jeskewich said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Jeskewich learned of the legislation while considering adding a new hive at Garden Park. With the help of the Bedford Beekeepers Association, the first colony was installed about two weeks ago to help pollinate the community garden, he said, which now has approximately 65 participants.
The existing ordinance allowing one hive or colony "on any premise" in the city dated back to 1957, Jeskewich said.
Among other things, the new ordinance allows one colony for every 4,100 square feet of property, two colonies for 4,100 to 8,000 square feet of property and six colonies for any property over 8,000 in agricultural and single family residential zoning districts
Several provisions are designed to help protect neighbors who aren't keeping bees, he said.
For example, they're also not allowed in front yards, he said, and beekeepers are required to register prior to April 1 of each year with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
They must also successfully complete Indiana Bee School held by The Beekeepers of Indiana.
Debbie Seib, treasurer of The Beekeepers of Indiana, said the school is a one-day event held on the last Saturday in February at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis. The training goes from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 1,000-1,200 beekeepers attend from all over the region — not just Indiana, Seib said.
The school isn't just about biology of the the hive, but "how to be a good beekeeping neighbor," Seib said. What's caused problems in the past: "Too many hives on a postage-sized stamped lot — and someone gets stung," she said. Students will also learn such simple techniques as making sure they don't have their hives facing a walkway, she said.
Bedford's ordinance is mirrored after one created for Marion County, she said — and a lot of the codes were drafted by Indiana Apiary Regulation Commission, according to Jeskewich.
He said it's important for Lawrence County residents and others to know that bee colonies are diminishing and "they're pollinators of one third of food we consume."
The ordinance is designed to encourage people to keep bees, but protect those who can't, Jeskewich said.