Increasing the buzz in Oak Bay

Simple bylaw change would welcome more hives to the area

Barb Vucko

Barb Vucko

A simple switch from “and” to “or” could see a swarm of bees set up residence in Shirley Hunter’s flower bed.

The Oak Bay woman hopes to add a little buzz to her backyard, and oomph to her flowerbed, with a beehive.

“We would like to have bees, it’s good for our gardens,” she said. “And there’s the lack of knowledge about sudden colony collapse. … Last year 65 per cent of the Island’s bees died.”

Her friend and neighbour Barb Vucko, already a keeper of mason bees, agrees.

“Anything to keep the native bee species,” she said. “It’s one more part of trying to keep the environment healthy.”

Hunter called on Barry “the beemaster” Denluck,  co-president of the Capital Region Beekeepers Association, as a resource. She learned that Oak Bay’s bylaws make it a tad too expensive and invasive to build a colony.

“They’ve got this distance requirement as mandatory, regardless of anything else that [beekeepers] do,” Denluck said. “That’s not true in general with beekeeping … in most municipalities.”

The bylaw says that no beehive can be located closer than six metres to any property line; and the entrance to each beehive is not less than 2.4 metres above ground level; and a beehive where the entrance is less than 2.4 metres above ground level must be behind three sections of solid fencing or other screening in a three sided shape at least two metres above ground level, with the middle section running parallel to the beehive entrance wall and each of the two wings extending back at least even with the back of the beehive.

In the spring Denluck proposed a simple alteration to make beekeeping more accessible to the community.

“There are three ways to manage bees’ flight to keep them safe,” he said. “One is platform, elevation, one is a fence around it and one is distance from the property line so when they get to the property line they’re above our head.”

Oak Bay’s bylaw, currently under review, requires all three. He and Hunter both found council receptive to altering it to allow for “or” instead of “and” opening the options.

“There was a very positive response when I presented it,” Denluck said.

“We appreciate what our council is doing, whether they support it or not,” Hunter said. “Ideally we’ll be able to interest more people, which can only contribute to a healthier community.