Prairie Village council moves to explore ordinance that would make beekeeping legal

Beekeeping has seen an increase in interest in recent years.
Beekeeping has seen an increase in interest in recent years.

Prairie Village residents interested in taking up beekeeping as a hobby may be able to do so legally in the next several months if the council moves forward with a proposal introduced Monday.

Bees are currently listed as a nuisance in Prairie Village city code, preventing homeowners from maintaining a hive on their properties. But after receiving input from a number of bee enthusiasts, the Prairie Village police department asked the council to consider whether it would be open to amending the city code to make beekeeping legal. On Monday, council directed city staff to begin investigating potential language for a beekeeping ordinance.

K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Agent for Johnson County Dennis Patton was on hand Monday night to give the council an overview of beekeeping, and the pros and cons of allowing it as a backyard hobby. Patton noted that interest in beekeeping has grown in recent years as the local food movement has expanded.

“Beekeeping is an art that has seen a resurgence over the past few years,” he said.

Patton noted that people’s primary concern with bees is getting stung, but that honeybees are docile. Unlike more aggressive stinging insects like hornets and yellowjackets, honey bees “don’t attack, they just defend,” said Patton.

Councilor Laura Wassmer told her peers that she had recently taken a beekeeping class at Johnson County Community College, and that she was convinced allowing beekeeping was “the environmentally correct thing to do” because of the benefits they provide by pollinating fruits and vegetables. Wassmer said over the past years she’s deliberately planted species that attract bees.

“I’ve got a lot of bees in my backyard purposefully,” she said. “I’ve never been stung. My guests have never been stung. My dogs have never been stung.”

Police Chief Wes Jordan told the council he was open to the idea of making bee keeping legal, but that he knew some residents would have concerns about the potential for a serious issue if a residents with a severe bee allergy was stung.

The move to allow beekeeping in the city wouldn’t be unprecedented for the area. A number of neighboring cities — Kansas City, Mo., Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park, Westwood and Shawnee — all permit beekeeping in their limits.

By and large, the council seemed amenable to the idea of making beekeeping legal in Prairie Village.

“I’m no tea partier, but before the government goes and prohibits something people might want to do, there ought to be a pretty good reason for it,” said councilor Eric Mikkelson.