Williamston takes interest in updating their beekeeping ordinance

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Williamston’s City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 23. Photo by Honda Carter

Williamston’s City Council held its regular bi-monthly meeting last week, but this time there was a 20-minute presentation about beekeeping to persuade the council for a change in their area on Oct. 23.

City council meeting attendee Meghan Milbrath stepped up to present her view on Williamston’s local code ordinance section 10-2 No. 42, which has prohibited beekeeping within the city since 1929.

Milbrath is a beekeeper, research associate in the Department of Entomology at MSU and the coordinator of the Michigan Pollinator Initiative, a program that is loyal to the safekeeping of honeybees in Michigan.

Milbrath has traveled to cities all over the state that prohibit beekeeping, to educate and persuade them to think differently about the insects that citizens may consider to be very hostile.

She has been a beekeeper for 25 years and said bees are no harm to humans unless they feel threatened, like any normal animal or pet.

“Honeybees can sting, as you know, but their desire to sting is very very limited because unlike yellow jackets they die when they sting,” Milbrath said. “You can have the nicest puppy, but if you poke it long enough it’s going to get angry.”

Milbrath said the yellow jackets and wasps are the annoying insects that won’t leave you alone while you’re outside or at a picnic, most people mistake them for bees.

Williamston’s City Council is considering interest in updating its beekeeping policy, but it has have a few concerns with risks that will be taken.

Honey bees. Source: Pixabay

Milbrath said the two stinging risks of beekeeping is if there is an open hive, which will only affect the person in direct contact, and if a bee gets caught in your hair or clothes.

MSU College of Education professor Elizabeth Heilman also attended the city meeting to say that she has been a beekeeper for two years and she has only been stung once, when she was novice at the time.

Another risk the council worried about, was severe allergic reactions to bees venom, but according to the Honey Bee World website that is a very low percentage.

Dr. David B.K Golden, who is an associate professor of medicine at John Hopkins University, has been researching the topic of insect allergies for many years has found that only 5 percent of the world’s population is actually allergic to honey bee venom, but the response to stings varies according to his website profile on MedStar Health.

Mayor of Williamston Tammy Gilroy said as of now, Milbrath’s presentation was just informational but she is personally for the idea of changing the ordinance.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” Gilroy said.

Gilroy said they obviously need to look over the details and at least try to amend it, but there will be plenty of concerns from other citizens.

“I hope that this is something that we could do for our community because I think that we have a lot of people that love to garden here … we have beautiful floral gardens that I think would benefit from a bee population,” Gilroy said.

Gilroy thinks changing the ordinance could be a win-win situation for the community and she is hoping that others will agree with her to move forward with the proposal.

“It’s very process driven, not just something I can just sign tonight,” she said.

The meeting also included: a recognition of outstanding citizen Savannah Church, action items such as the approval of city property use application and permit form application, local unit property rejection resolution, and appointment of Amie Brown to the Parks & Recreation Commission for a term to expire June 6, 2020.

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