Forest Grove beekeeper won't have to give up hives
Council members allow Mike Standing to continue buzzing along with hobby
Humans and animals arent always so different. Both work tremendously hard to protect themselves first then often work together for the betterment of the whole.
On July 2 Mike Standing, who lives on Limpus Lane in Forest Grove, received a letter from the city informing him his back yard beehives would need to be removed by Aug. 3.
A neighbor citing concerns about Standings bees invading her back yard and drinking from her water fixture initiated the complaint to the city. Because Forest Grove has no hard and fast rules about non-commercial private beekeeping, the citys community development director made the call for the hives to be removed based on the citys commercial agriculture code.
According to state statutes, more than five hives are needed to constitute a commercial operation. Standing only has five.
So, much like a threatened honeybee, Standing called on his friends to help him protect his hives.
Standing called on the Oregon and Tualatin Valley beekeepers associations for support. He also got in touch with Raine Lee Ritalto, an outspoken bee advocate in Multnomah County.
Ritalto recently spearheaded the successful passage of an important piece of Oregon legislation that provides beekeepers and municipalities with a guidebook created through the combined influence of representatives from Oregon State University, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and various beekeepers associations for how to handle and monitor best-beekeeping practices.
I was very surprised to hear [about] Mikes issue with the city, Ritalto said.
Because Standings hive setup is optimal, Ritalto said meaning it could be held up as an example for other beekeepers it gave her confidence that he knew what he was doing and bolstered her decision to speak up on his behalf.
When Mike got notice, Ritalto said, he asked, how can this house bill help me?
Oregon House Bill 2653, authored by Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale), currently awaits Gov. Kate Browns signature. While it doesnt change or enforce any rules about beekeeping, it will educate city officials and beekeepers about how to fairly and respectfully deal with each other.
Different rules for beekeeping
Because there are different beekeeping codes and policies for every city in every county in Oregon, there isnt any uniformity for how bees are kept or how conflicts are resolved when it comes to private beekeeping operations.
According to the ODAs Rose Kachadoorian, a pesticide registration and certification leader, HB 2653 is designed to help fix many of those problems by setting a standard for coexistence.
Theres a lot of beekeeping info out there, Kachadoorian said. Some of its good, some of its not so good. This bill creates a joint agreement to ensure consistency across the state.
Citing that bill and showing how important bees are to the environment by illustrating his beekeeping expertise Standing and his friends made their case to the Forest Grove City Council last month.
A hobbyist beekeeper for 17 years, I think I know what Im doing with bees at this point, Standing told the council July 13.
On July 30, just four days before the deadline to remove his bees, Standing reached out to James Reitz, Forest Groves senior planner.
Based on the opinions and testimony of Standing and his fellow beekeepers, Reitz said, the council decided to drop the issue and take no further action.
Honey goes a long way
Since moving to Forest Grove from Massachusetts, where he also kept bees, Standing said hes seen an increase in the number of people who do likewise.
Hes also happy to see how willing they are to stand up for each other just like a hive. Beekeeping is really big in Oregon, Standing said. Honey, pollination all of it.
And while hes met many fellow beekeepers at association meetings, he knows there are plenty who arent registered with the state.
Standing said hed like to see more beekeepers learn about how best to care for bees. At the very least, he encourages those who keep bees to speak with their neighbors about what theyre doing in an effort to foster mutually respectful relationships.
And, Standing said, it wouldnt hurt to offer them a byproduct of their hobby. Honey goes a long way.
Concerns over bee stings
Standing enjoys his bees which he calls his pets and the fruits of their labor, gifting and trading the honey to friends and neighbors and only selling it occasionally for gas money.
He understands that much of the concern surrounding bees stems from potential stings. But he also knows that unlike wasps or yellow jackets, honeybees sting only as a last resort.
The worker honeybee the only kind of honeybee capable of stinging understands that if she stings, shes going to die. Most folks only know that bees can sting, and when they do, it hurts.
Les Foltz, who lives behind Standing on Somera Drive, said his fear of getting stung would be cause for concern if he lived right next to the hives, but otherwise he thinks the pollination provided by honeybees is a good thing.
And Philippe Musquin and Anna Ronek, who live down the street from Foltz, said they probably would have a problem with a neighbors bees if they were being regularly harassed, but otherwise didnt think it was an issue either.
Bees are important to the ecosystem and the medical field, Musquin said. If we dont have bees, we wont be doing so well ... as long as theyre not swarming me, I dont care.
We need bees, Ronek added, pointing to the flowers and trees in her yard. Im more worried about speeders down my street than bees drinking out of my pool.
Directly across the street from Standing, a neighbor who asked to remain anonymous said he noticed there were more bees around since Standing moved into the neighborhood a little over one year ago and that its a good thing.
We didnt have many bees around here, he said. I had to do my own pollinating in the garden for awhile, but I dont have to do that anymore.
He said his garden was doing much better this year than it had in the recent past, and mentioned his prized squash as being all the better for the work of Standings bees.
You want to be a good steward to your bees, Standing said. Youve gotta take care of em. You get back what you put in.