Sunday, August 26, 2007

You've got to bee kidding!

In Maine, there is a debate about whether or not a man's bee hives constitute "illegal farming."

That's right. Farming. I'm surprised they haven't tried to nail him under "interstate commerce" since bees routinely cross state lines.

The man isn't raising chickens (which, it seems, the town may allow, due to a 10-year old child's complaints), hogs, cattle, or any other "aromatic" livestock. He has honeybee hives.

Here's the story. I think this excerpt sums up the conflict:

"Patricia Doucette, the city’s longtime code enforcement officer, hopes to sit down one-on-one with beekeeper Omid Ghayebi to discuss the situation. But she said the bees violate rules limiting farming in residential zones. 'We have determined that this type of activity is offensive and detrimental to the neighborhood...'"

Note the use of the "Royal We" by the "code enforcement officer" (which seems to be a rather long euphemism for I don't know what). Note the use of the words "offensive" and "detrimental." My goodness! We're talking about honeybees, not rabid pit bulls. There is a sudden and unexplained shortage of honeybees around the world, which has caused a crisis in many areas. Why? Because honeybees pollinate flowers, pollinated flowers produce fruit, and fruit feeds people. Entire hives are dying off all over the world as the bees' immunity systems are failing, and no-one knows exactly why. The folks in this community should be happy that one of their neighbors has hives that are prospering.

Bees are indigenous creatures that occur in nature. Local governments can no more regulate (or ban) their existence than they can control the routes that birds fly or mandate how many seeds can sprout in the ground. Of course, in our modern American suburban way of life, we think we can control the progress of every microbe and grub that wanders across our property line and subject every blade of grass to stringent rules and regulations - especially if we can get the property owners' association or city council involved.

Part of the problem is ignorance. A lot of people in the 'burbs have simply lost touch with nature. There is a valuable function that honeybees perform, and there are consequences if we create a sterile world without them. Secondly, honeybees are not wasps or yellow-jackets. They are gentle creatures. I'm always amazed when someone sees a bee and starts wildly swatting in the air as if he were defending himself against an attack by monsters. When you ask why he is swatting the air like a madman, he'll tell you that he doesn't want to get stung. Really? That's the one way you can guarantee getting stung!

If you leave them alone, they won't sting you. This is generally true even for aggressive stinging creatures. Honeybees (and bumblebees) are laid-back, almost tame creatures that only sting as a last resort. You can actually pet a big fuzzy bumblebee on its back as it buzzes around flowers. Try it! They're really quite friendly.

We have prolific orange and lemon trees at our place. The yield was phenomenal last year, and it looks like it will be again this year. We also have lots of carpenter bees that have created (with no prompting from us) nests in our shed out back, and even some on the underside of our porch swing - all unauthorized by local, parish, state, and federal officials! The females drill small holes in exposed wood and lay eggs. The males (who are huge) hover around looking for mates. They're very curious bees, and will buzz around and look you in the eye as though they're studying you. They are the most un-aggressive creatures around - and they are also God's gift to citrus trees.

People really need to get a grip and learn to coexist with God's creatures. They exist in the grand scheme of things for something other than petty bureaucrats to feel powerful by passing laws against them, and for neighbors to bicker over. If you like flowers and fruit, then you ought to like bees, and you should do everything in your power to encourage their prosperity.

I honestly believe a lot of folks think fruit just magically appears in the produce section of Wally World and that flowers come up because the civic association has passed a resolution ordering them to.

I hope Mr. Ghayebi tells the hysterical harassment officer to "buzz off," and that somebody in the South Portland local government has as many brain cells as your average drone.


Anonymous Lutheran said...

When I was a teenager, some people with a back yard adjacent to ours had a pair of bee hives right up against their back fence. Now I'd certainly not be one to object to bee hives under ordinary circumstances, but it was impossible to maintain our own property to community standards without interfering with the hives and antagonizing the bees.

I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes these stories are not as simple as they seem. I'd be curious to know a few more facts about it. =)

Father Hollywood said...

If the bees were encroaching on the ability for other people to maintain their yards, there would "bee" no controversy. He would "bee" ordered to fix the problem, not get rid of the bees.

You can "bee" a bad neighbor with anything. The man isn't being charged with making it difficult for his neighbors to maintain property, but rather with operating a "farm" within city limits.

Of course, even in the best of circumstances, we can't just be isolated from any and all inconvenience from others. My neighbors have vines and banana trees that climb my fence. It's a real pain to maintain them. They are even pulling against my fence making it lean. I could go to the city about it, or small claims court, but the reality in South Louisiana is that we have vines, they stick to fences, and they grow like mad.

It's the price we all pay for the sin of our first parents. ;-)

Some things you just have to shrug at and put up with as part of living with other people (and animals).

However, today we have a mentality that we have the right to control even wildlife and aromas that waft across our property lines. There are some communities in California (shocking!) where wearing perfume or cologne is illegal.

The suburb has become an artificial universe where we get to play God.