QUESTION. Do you have information on guidelines for beekeeping in homeowner associations? The board decided not to allow apiaries, deeming them a nuisance, but is now revisiting their decision.
RESPONSE: Honey bees are wonderful creatures. They are the world's most important pollinator of food crops. One-third of the food we consume relies on bee pollination.
Need for Apiaries. Tragically, bee colonies are collapsing at an alarming rate due to pesticides, parasites, and disease. To offset that, there is a push to place more bee hives ("apiaries") in both rural and urban environments.
In HOAs. Because homeowner associations make up such a large portion of California's housing market (~50,000 associations with over 9 million residents), they are being asked to place apiaries in their developments.
Bee Stings. There is a lot of resistance to apiaries because most people are frightened by bees. They are afraid of being stung. In reality, honey bees are not inclined to sting people. Unlike other stinging insects that sting and fly away, honey bees die after stinging. Their sting, while painful, is relatively harmless. In most, the swelling and pain go away within a few hours. However, for those with sting allergies, it can trigger a reaction that is potentially deadly. Thus, the difficulty in establishing apiaries in urban developments — people fear being stung, and associations fear potential liability.
Insurance. Because of potential claims, it is important that associations entering into arrangements with beekeepers have legal counsel review the company's insurance. Not all insurance is created equal. I recently reviewed a policy for an association and found so many exclusions it rendered the insurance meaningless. Proper insurance can minimize an association's potential exposure.
Recommendation: When it comes to apiaries, urban developments are more problematic than rural settings. The higher density of people and structures put bees in closer contact with people. Depending on the insurance, boards may wish to consider an apiary in their development.
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