Huntington Woods reviewing potential beekeeping ordinance

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 21, 2021

 Huntington Woods resident Mari Masalin-Cooper and her son, David, show a frame of bees from one of her hives last year.

Huntington Woods resident Mari Masalin-Cooper and her son, David, show a frame of bees from one of her hives last year.

Photo provided by Alex Cooper

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — The city of Huntington Woods is currently reviewing an ordinance on beekeeping.

The Huntington Woods City Commission originally had an ordinance on its April 6 agenda that regulated beekeeping at homes. The ordinance was proposed after the city stated it received complaints from residents that ranged from allergies to fears for children who are uncomfortable around bees.

The ordinance that was proposed would have established that residents would need to obtain a permit for $180, get consent from a neighbor, and could have a maximum of two hives on a lot that is up to a quarter of an acre.

The commission decided to table the ordinance because, according to Commissioner Joe Rozell, commissioners didn’t know much about the issue until it appeared on the agenda. He stated that Huntington Woods had received around three to four complaints regarding beekeeping, but the commission hadn’t studied anything regarding it.

“We just weren’t interested in moving the ordinance that evening … until we really understand the scope of the problem, if there is one,” he said. “We don’t know the specifics of the complaints. We don’t know if this is neighbors that need to try to work something out between themselves and it doesn’t really require the city to get involved, or if this is a bigger issue where the city needs to look at it.”

After the item appeared on the agenda, Rozell said, the city received a number of emails and phone calls from people who were supportive of residents being able to house bees on their properties.

“That tells me there is a reasonable number of folks that are doing this and want to continue to do it,” he said. “Based on that feedback from the residents, I just wasn’t interested in taking up the ordinance that evening.”

There currently is no timetable to bring the ordinance back before the commission. The plan is to gather more information from surrounding communities that have similar regulations and to learn the specifics of the complaints from residents.

Mari Masalin-Cooper has been beekeeping as a hobby for eight years. She got interested in it after taking her kids to the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Masalin-Cooper later took up beekeeping after getting an opportunity to work in Iowa with the educational publishing company McGraw Hill.

When she moved back to Michigan, she started beekeeping in her backyard, which she called more challenging because of the amount of open space available.

Masalin-Cooper said she knows at least three other beekeepers in Huntington Woods who lost hives last year because the city had an issue with hornets, other pests and the weather.

“In Iowa, you register your hives with the state. Then they create no fly zones when planes will spray fertilizers or pesticides. Your beehives are registered, so you can’t spray within a quarter mile in either direction around your hives, and Michigan does not do that,” she said. “(With) urban beekeeping, people spray their lawns everywhere. Those pesticides and fertilizers are not good for bees, and so you have to be smarter at beekeeping to do that.”

Masalin-Cooper said she was kind of surprised that the ordinance was proposed. She stated that she previously asked all her neighbors for permission to put in the hives in case someone had allergies and to make sure they weren’t uncomfortable.

“I was surprised because I know so many beekeepers who have been beekeeping in Huntington Woods for way longer than I have,” she said. “We’re just kind of used to it because honeybees are everywhere. If you have trees, you have honeybees.”

That being said, Masalin-Cooper isn’t against the idea of an ordinance. She believes it would be smart for budding beekeepers to take classes or spend time with an experienced beekeeper before being allowed to farm their own hives in their backyards.

“Bees are known to swarm, particularly if a beekeeper is not on top of making sure that a hive is not getting overfilled with bees and honey,” she said. “Bees will swarm if you don’t make sure that they feel that they have a lot of room to grow, and nobody wants to have thousands of bees hanging from a tree. It’s a scary thing and I can understand that.

“You have to stay on top of it because if you don’t, there’s a consequence not only to the bees, but to the environment,” she continued. “If you don’t keep up with the science, if you don’t take classes all along and get involved with the bee community, it’s bad stewardship. And this is, after all, trying to keep something alive that will produce something that you can use and also provide a benefit to the gardens and trees around you. It would be cruel to be a bad beekeeper.”

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