City rooftops could ‘bee’ buzzing

The Minneapolis City Council eased urban beekeeping restrictions.

Brian Arola

Rooftops across Minneapolis could soon be buzzing with a recently approved Minneapolis City Council ordinance to make beekeeping easier in the city.

Under the new changes, proposed by City Councilwoman Lisa Goodman and passed earlier this month, beekeepers will be able to install beehives on the rooftops of buildings taller than one story without needing approval from nearby property owners.

The previous ordinance required prospective beekeepers to get permission from 80 percent of property owners within 250 feet of the rooftop. In dense downtown, that posed a challenge to aspiring beekeepers.

Becky Masterman, the coordinator of the University of Minnesota’s Bee Squad, said in one instance that the 80 percent threshold meant they’d need about 150 signatures, a tedious and difficult task.

“It would’ve been almost impossible to get all those signatures,” she said.

While the Council eased the restrictions, interested urban beekeepers still need the city’s approval and a one-time fee to start keeping their hives.

Though there are 28 bee permits in Minneapolis, according to city documents, none are on rooftops.

Requirements for managing hives off roofs are much more lenient.

The change could bring more bees into the city, which could positively affect plant pollination, while the hives’ rooftop location would ensure the bees stay out of the way of people on the streets.

“Keeping bees on rooftops keeps them a safe distance from human traffic, so the bees won’t be a nuisance,” said Dr. Marla Spivak, head of the Bee Lab at the University, in an email.

Bees tend to fly upward before dispersing from hives, according to the city report, so roofs are a great home for urban bee hives.

Along with allowing beekeeping on rooftops, the City Council also passed in committee an amendment waiving the annual renewal fee for existing bee hives.

City Councilman Cam Gordon said the annual fee of $50 was overly expensive, so he worked with beekeepers on the amendment to eliminate it.

Spivak said the annual renewal fee was keeping some from becoming beekeepers.

“People already keep bees in the city,” she said. “But some do not obtain a permit because they don’t want to pay the fee or invest in fencing and other precautions to be in compliance with the beekeeping ordinance.”

Beekeeping in Minneapolis was first allowed in 2009 and has been encouraged as a means of promoting locally grown food options.

University Bee Lab experts were involved in the ordinance process, and some said this is a step in the right direction for urban beekeeping.

“It’s going to open it up for people in the city to have more bees on their property,” Masterman said.

Spivak said more bees mean better homegrown produce for the city.

“Having more bees in the city will ensure our gardens and fruit trees receive adequate pollination so they produce higher quality fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Masterman said everyone can benefit from the bee-friendly measures.

“We’re very excited that it’ll be good for the city and good for bees,” she said.