To Bee or Not to Bee in Kelowna B.C.

To Bee or Not to Bee in Kelowna B.C.

In recent years many cities and towns in B.C. have adopted bylaws to allow for backyard beekeeping.  You can sample these bylaws on-line by typing into your search engine “Beekeeping Bylaw for [City of New Westminster or insert municipality of your choice].”  These documents stipulate details such as number of hives allowed depending on property size, property line set-backs and other requirements.  Don’t bother looking for similar stand-alone bee keeping bylaws for Kelowna or Pitt Meadows.  They don’t exist.

Beekeeping in Kelowna is regulated under the Consolidated Animal and Poultry Regulation and Animal Pound Bylaw #5421-82.  This bylaw was originally written in the 1930’s and has stood the test of time. It has been reviewed but not revised since inception.  Beekeeping is very briefly mentioned in the bylaw document and the only requirement is that a property must be at least 1.5 acres in size.  There are no written expectations for proper hive placement, monitoring or management.  This essentially amounts to no guidelines for beekeeping within city limits.  The Central Okanagan Food Policy Council has approached City Hall about adopting a separate beekeeping bylaw.  City Hall wants to see “public appetite” for this idea before they will consider a change in the bylaw.  If you are interested and have suggestions about how we might go about this effectively and efficiently or you want to get involved then please contact us through this website or our Gmail (cofpcs@gmail.com).

According to provincial law every beehive in British Columbia must be registered with the Provincial Apiary Program which is a branch of the Ministry of Agriculture. Registration allows for monitoring of the hives by the local Apiary Inspector who can advise with respect to problems such as pests and diseases.  There is one Apiary Inspector available to bee keepers in the Central Okanagan and he only works part-time but he is extremely knowledgeable.  If an infestation sweeps through the area and you have an unregistered hive you may not know about it (or how to treat it) until your hive is doomed. Ditto for all the other hives within flying distance of your infested colony.  Who wants to become known as the Typhoid Mary of the local bee world?  Registration is free and you get a nice “Certificate of Apiary Registration” as a reward for your efforts so register your hives.  You can access the registration form on-line at www.gov.bc.ca/apiculture.

The current requirement that properties in Kelowna need to be at least 1.5 acres in size may be acting as a disincentive for full participation in the Provincial Apiary Registration Program.   If your property is smaller and you want to keep hives you might be inclined to stay “off the radar” by not registering. Bad idea.  The Ministry of Agriculture is staying out of the local (municipal) politics of bee keeping.  They do not ask about property size presumably because they are busy enough dealing with varroa mites, hive beetles and all the other scourges of the bee world.

In addition to registering your hives it is advisable to consider joining the B.C. Honey Producer’s Association ($40/year). For an additional $55/year you can purchase optional group liability insurance that provides $5,000,000 of coverage for third-party claims for bodily injury and property damage.  If your hives are stolen or ravaged by a skunk or racoon this insurance will cover replacement costs.  As with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, when you sign on for membership in the B.C. Honey Producer’s Association they do not ask you about your property size.  The membership form can be accessed on-line at www.bcbeekeepers.com.

If you are curious about beekeeping then consider attending a meeting of the North Okanagan Beekeepers.  Meetings are held at the Kelowna Christian School located on the K.L.O. Road on the third Monday of each month from 7 pm to 9 pm.  Membership is $20 per year for those who are already members of the B.C. Honey Producers’ Association.  The group is very welcoming and you can attend a couple of meetings for free before joining the club. The goal of this group is “to educate, improve the quality of beekeeping and create a healthier environment for bees in the Okanagan Valley and beyond.” The executive of the group brings in speakers from around the province and Alberta to provide high quality education.  They also host ½ day (or longer) field days where you can learn how to read a frame of bees, how to identify problems, how to winterize your hives and the myriad of other skills that you need to be a competent bee keeper.  If you enjoy getting value for your money then membership in this club will give you that.

Bee keeping does not require a lot of time BUT there is a tremendous amount to know and the hive work needs to be done when it needs to be done. This is not a hobby for procrastinators.  If you are serious about bee keeping then take some courses, read lots, find an experienced beekeeper to mentor you and THEN invest in the equipment and bees.  You will be glad that you did this up-front work.

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