Mukilteo considers allowing beekeeping
City officials might know more about the public's outlook on bees after a planned hearing on the topic Monday.
Under the proposal, the city would allow honey bees and Mason bees to be kept in any part of the city except areas zoned for apartments or condominiums.
The idea first arose during hearings early last year on a proposal to allow chickens to be kept in the city, which was ultimately approved. At least one person expressed an interest in beekeeping, which currently is not allowed, senior city planner Glen Pickus said.
The City Council's sustainability committee asked city planners to study whether there is any compelling reason to continue to prohibit beekeeping, said Council President Richard Emery, one of the panel's members. They found none, he said.
Emery noted that bees provide pollination benefits.
"It's all part of trying to make things affordable and local and encourage people to use the resources here at hand," Emery said.
Under the proposed ordinance, four hives of honey bees could be kept. No size for hives is specified in the proposed ordinance. According to several beekeeping websites, the standard hive used in the United States is called the Langstroth hive, a box about 20 inches long, 16 inches wide and nine inches deep. Each is fitted with moveable frames inside.
All hives would have to be kept at least 15 feet from any property line. If honey-bee hives are within 25 feet of the line, a 6-foot fence, if not in place already, would have to be built between the hives and the property line. It would have to extend 25 feet beyond the hives each direction. If the hives are kept at least 8 feet off the ground, no fence would be required.
Neighbors would have to be notified in advance in writing and the hives would have to be registered with the state Department of Agriculture.
"We want to allow people to keep the bees but we don't want to cause problems for neighbors," Pickus said.
Mason bees would be subject to the same 15-foot setback limit but not to the fencing requirement and there would be no limits on hives, according to the ordinance.
Excellent pollinators, Mason bees rarely sting unless tightly held or caught in clothing, according to the website Hunter's Mason Bees. Their sting has low venom and feels similar to a mosquito bite, according to the website.
Honey could not be sold from single-family homes but could be sold commercially off-site, according to the ordinance.
This is similar to Everett's law, which allows beekeeping for personal use. Anyone selling honey from a home would need to apply for a business license, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.
If the hives are well inside the property line there shouldn't be a problem, she said. Otherwise, "give us a call and we'll help you work through it."
Snohomish County allows beekeeping as an agricultural use except in some urban areas such as commercial and multifamily zones, planning director Clay White said.
Some cities in the Puget Sound area specifically allow beekeeping, according to the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association website. Several, none in Snohomish or Island counties, are listed as examples on the site, including Seattle, Lake Forest Park and Woodinville. Regulations between cities vary.
"A lot of places haven't addressed it one way or the other, so that means it's allowed," Emery said.
Given the benefits bees provide, he said, "we thought maybe we ought to encourage beekeeping rather than discourage it."
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
A public hearing on a proposal to allow beekeeping in Mukilteo is scheduled for a City Council meeting at 7 p.m. today at City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way.
Get a taste of backyard beekeeping in this video we shot last year:
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