Board of Health discusses possible beekeeping guidelines

WESTFIELD –  The Board of Health discussed possible beekeeping regulations Wed., April 14 after City Councilor William Onyski informed the board of issues he was having with beekeepers in Ward 6.

Health Director Joseph Rouse said during the meeting that some of Onyski’s constituents are having concerns about beekeepers on adjacent properties. Onyski said that bees from the beekeeper’s property were flying into neighboring properties to get water from their pool. 

Onyski said he learned a surprising amount about beekeeping and found that there are a lot of beekeepers in Westfield. 

“I went to visit a house with hives next to someone else’s property where there was no trouble at all,” said Onyski.

Rouse said that he does not feel a need for the Board of Health to impose strict beekeeping regulations. Rather, he said he would like to have something on the books that says that if one is going to have bees on their property, they must follow some sort of existing beekeeping guideline. 

“We just want something on the books that says if you are going to keep bees on your property, you have to do it in this way,” said Rouse, “If you don’t abide, the Board of Health could declare it a nuisance and take it from there.”

Board member Juanita Carnes suggested that it should be required that a beekeeper must notify their neighbors, as somebody could be allergic to bees. Rouse said he would not require beekeeping permits, but one may have to simply notify the city if they are going to keep bees. 

Onyski suggested that beekeepers need to follow the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association Best Management Practices, though those guidelines are not as formal as a city ordinance would be. 

He said one simple solution to prevent bees from leaving one’s property to search for water is to properly provide them with a water source on one’s own property. He said the neighbor that the original complaints stemmed from had left dishes of water out for the bees, but the bees had no way to drink the water without falling in and drowning.

When one leaves water out for bees, it is suggested that they fill the bowl of water with rocks or marbles that the bees can stand on while they drink the water. 

The Board of Health did not take a vote on the matter. It is expected that the issue will be discussed again during their monthly meeting in May.

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