Every beekeeper in Seaside except one – there are an estimated seven to 10 – is an outlaw.
That’s because the city’s process to keep bees legally is onerous, and requires a hearing in front of city council, considerable administrative staff time and $800 for the proper permits.
Seaside resident Tom Hughes, the one outlaw beekeeper who’s made the city aware of his bees, knows this, because he tried to go the legal route, and was discouraged from pursuing it because it was too much work.
But now the city is trying to change that, and the Seaside Planning Commission will consider an ordinance Dec. 17 that would remove those layers of bureaucracy and make beekeeping an allowable use.
Seaside Community Development Director Gloria Stearns says the catalyst for the change is twofold: “One is, we’re taking a lot of measures to make Seaside cool, so that people want to invest in the city,” Stearns says. “Second, the environmental part of it – it’s a good thing for the environment.”
The idea sprung from the city’s Environmental Committee this fall. Hughes, who’s lived in Seaside since 2009, has been keeping bees for about seven years, and offered up his services to the city to be a consultant on the process.
The main issue some residents push back on, Hughes says, is when a group of bees swarm – leaving the colony to go form a new hive.
But honeybees – unlike wasps like yellowjackets – are not aggressive, and Hughes says they’re especially docile when they’re swarming.
“From a beekeeper’s point of view, that’s when you shake them into a box and take them home,” Hughes says. “They’re transportable and almost never sting in swarm mode.”
And while the population of honeybees has been in decline nationally in recent years due to colony collapse disorder – which scientists still don’t fully understand, but believe might be linked to pesticides – Hughes says the local wild population has suffered for lack of suitable hive locations in trees.
“There’s almost no big hollow trees left,” he says. “Locally, there are no homes for bees. That’s what beekeepers are providing.”