L AFAYETTE — City-Parish President Joey Durel remembers chatting with a beekeeper at a recent farmers market about how he has seen fewer and fewer bees around his home in recent years.
Durel thought the lack of busy pollinators might explain the declining production of his lemon tree, and when he asked the beekeeper about the possibility of getting a hive at his house, the city-parish president learned he was out of luck.
Beekeeping is illegal in the city of Lafayette, a prohibition that has been in place for at least 50 years.
“I had no idea,” Durel said. “I just wanted them in my yard so my trees and vegetable garden are more productive.”
He might get those bees yet.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is set to vote this month on a ordinance recommended by Durel to legalize beekeeping in the city limits and establish regulations on the location and number of hives allowed.
“It’s very doable. It’s just a matter of educating the public and putting everyone’s mind at ease,” said Michael Smith, a State Farm insurance agent and president of the Acadiana Beekeepers Association.
He said he keeps 20 bee hives, all outside the city limits.
Smith, a third-generation beekeeper, said he expects questions about swarming bees and the risk of stings, but most of those fears are unfounded.
“Bees, as a general rule, are not very aggressive,” he said.
Smith also pointed out that some people already are keeping bees in the city.
“So how do we regulate that?” he asked.
Durel’s beekeeping legalization measure includes several requirements to help beekeepers remain good neighbors.
The proposed ordinance, which is similar to beekeeping laws in other cities, limits the number of hives based on the size of the lot — no more than two colonies on a quarter acre.
Beekeepers would have to provide a water source to keep thirsty bees from flying to the swimming pool next door for a drink and also to have a fence, hedge or other barrier a few feet from the front of any beehives near a property line.
The barrier forces the bees higher into the air as they take flight looking for forage, making it less likely they’ll encounter a neighbor.
City-Parish Councilman William Theriot said he has been speaking with local beekeepers since learning of the ordinance and wants to approach the issue cautiously, though he is generally supportive if proper guidelines are in place.
“It is good to have a good supply of bees, but there are concerns, especially when you have it in close proximity to homes and children,” he said.
Beekeeping is already legal in many cities in the state, including Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and New Orleans, as well as much larger urban areas throughout the U.S., such as New York City.
Chris Frink, who keeps a few hives in the Goodwood Heights area of Baton Rouge, said he hasn’t had any complaints.
His hives are out of the way at the back of his property and near a drainage ditch, giving the bees easy access to water, he said.
Frink also makes an annual gift of honey to his neighbors.
It’s a public relations strategy he encourages in his role as president of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association.
“Be aggressively nice,” he said.
Frink said more than 200 families belong to Capital Area Beekeepers, many of them with bees in the city limits.
“We have very little trouble,” he said.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is set to vote on the beekeeping ordinance on July 15.
Durel’s lemon harvest could be on the line.
“This year is one of the smallest crops I have ever had,” he said.