Some Evanston aldermen said they want to take a fresh look at the city’s beekeeping ordinance after a woman complained that her neighbor’s hive puts her at risk of death from anaphylactic shock.

Speaking during public comment at Tuesday night’s Human Services Committee meeting, Nancy Schwartz, of 1106 Hull Terrace, said she suffers from lupus and is highly allergic to bee stings.

She said she was “shocked and appalled” to learn that Evanston’s city code allows her next door neighbor to have a beehive, when homes are in such close proximity to each other as they are on her street.

She said the neighbor claims to want to “help the ecological balance of nature” but refused to compromise despite efforts at mediation through the city.

She says the mediator suggested she wear a protective suit or only use her yard after dusk.

“I haven’t been in my yard since June when the beehive was installed,” Schwartz said.

Evanston aldermen adopted the existing regulations in 2006, after several months of controversy sparked by objections raised by neighbors to plans a local teenager had to set up a beehive in his family’s yard.

The ordinance limits the number of residents who can keep beehives to eight in each ward, establishes an annual licensing requirement and sets maintenance standards for the hives. But it does not create any notice requirements or give neighbors any control over whether an application will be approved.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested reviewing the city policy. “I thought there was something in there about contacting neighbors,” Holmes said. “I’d like for us to look at it again.”

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested Holmes might have been thinking of the 2010 ordinance permitting backyard chickens, which provided for advance notice to adjacent homeowners — but gave them no power to block the use.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said a lot of folks are severely allergic to bee stings. He compared the problem to the issue created for people with asthma if their neighbors set up a fire pit in their yard.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Bees are safe!

    As a beekeeper I'd like to clarify some concerns regarding honeybees. First that honeybees and Bumblebees are not agressive, they will only sting (and die) if they are being attacked or prevoked. On a nice day, I would have no problem standing less than 2 feet from a hive without any protection. I wear a hat and veil when working them as being stung near the eye or nose is very irritating – so I'm told, but often work without gloves. In 3 years of beekeeping, I have only been stung once and it was my fault. People often confuse honeybees with the annoying and not so docile wasps such as yellow jackets and hornets. Those are both far more agressive, sting multiple times, and do not die when they sting. Alderman Mark Tendam states that "a lot of folks are severely alergic to bee stings" , when in reality, according to Boston childrens hospital less than 2% of adults and 3% of children are alergic to bee stings (and this includes wasps), let alone being "severely alergic". Of those alergic, only 5% may have an anaphylic reaction. (  Last year in our country of 300 million people, about 50 people died as the result of bee stings and severe alergic reactions. That is far less than 1%!  It would take over 1500 stings to kill an average adult weighing 135 lbs. Recent studies have found that the venom in honeybees stings has helped with arthritis, rheumatism and other autoimmune diseases ( Whether we keep hives or not, the same amount of bees will reside in Evanston, except they will be in trees, soffits, walls of houses and buildings, etc. I believe that bees provide far more good than possible harm. We can educate and live with the animals and insects we share space with, or be uneducated and scared. 

    1. not a hobby for a place like evanston

      I am one of those people who is severely alergic to to  bee stings (analphylactic reaction) so not really appreciaitng the lack of concern. Hobbys like keeping Bees (or chickens even ) do not belong in areas with the tiny city lots we have in Evanston. People should buy a house somewhere with larger lot sizes if these are hobbys that are important to them.

      1. I beg to differ. Beekeeping

        I beg to differ. Beekeeping in urban environments are totally safe. I've kept bees in much closer proximity to that of which this hive is and the relationship between the girls (bees) and neighboring residents were symbiotic. This included an elderly lady that would actually request honey as she used it as an aide for her medical issues. The notion that if their is a beehive in close proximity you are going to get stung is pure hysteria, bees only sting as a last resort as once they sting they are actively committing suicide, so the stereotype that is in people minds of getting attacked by a group of bees is just that, a stereotype. The idea that you would have an issue with a maintained hive over a natural (wildly occurring)  hive is absurd. It appears that the reserve you share about the bees is due to a lack of understanding of the importance and behavioral characteristics of honey bees.. I'd love to educate you further on the subject.. Please feel free to email me at just address the subject bar as bee man. I also look forward to the updated article as the author will be interviewing me today to ensure he has a fair unbiased article 

        1. statistical probability

          I have a PhD in Biology so I will pass on the lesson. I woud not argue that the liklihood of getting stung by a bee is very low on a per bee basis. That liklihood increases however as a function of both proximity and numbers. Without living a few yards from a hive I have already been stung 3 times in my lifetime I am not keen on the increased probability that is a mathamatical certainty if I lived next door to a hive.

          1. Getting statistics can be
            Getting statistics can be difficult, but in 2000, the World Health Organisation reported that in the USA,
            there were only 54 deaths attributable to bee stings – from a population of 281 million people (Census data).

            In the same year,

            there were 15,517 murders in the USA (FBI crime figures) – there is a greater chance you’ll be murdered by a fellow human, than die from being stung by a bee!

            more than 20,000 people in the USA die from flu every year (U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

            Even lightening kills more people than bee stings! On average, 90 people are killed every year in the U.S. by lightning. [NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS SR-193]

            the average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight! The average adult can withstand more than 1000 stings, although 500 stings could kill a child. (Source: The Merck Manual of Diagnosis & Therapy).

            Those are statistics… If the person is that deathly allergic to stings they should carry an Epi pen.

            Those numbers include the neighbors living next to the just over 3 million respective hives in the U.S.

          2. Controllable risks

            I think the absolutely liklihood of dying from a reaction to peanuts is also pretty low yet most schools ban or isolate peanut products because its a controlable risk and therefore you should control it.

          3. You just made my point about

            You just made my point about it being better to have a maintained hive over a wild one… If you have a state registered beekeeper maintaining the hive then I don't see how that is irresponsible.. When you keep bees you actually make it safer for the average person because you expose the bees to human interaction they become aware of humans and aren't curious resulting in them coming up to you inquisitively smelling a person and said person freaking out (instead of remaining calm and slowly brushing the bee away)  and swatting the bee (most instances of bee stings) … It's irresponsible to not carry the proper anti anaphylactic  if you are severely allergic.. I'll expand, if you are allergic to something naturally occuring let's say the sun (bees) for example, would you be liable for her getting sun exposure from your yard because you don't have a tree for shade? No you wouldn't because it's the person with the conditions responsibility to carry an umbrella (Epi pen). 

          4. You’re kidding me

            Are there any local schools that ban peanut products? If yes, it would be a shame. Peanut butter and jelly is the classic grade school lunch sandwich.

          5. If you knew someone with it, you’d think differently

            A friends daughter was deathly allergic to peanuts. She was accepted to MiT and other top schools but had to stay in Illinois because of it—needed to be close to home in case of an attack. She had several attacks just from food being mis-labeled or substituted [as happened with free cookies at a grocery].

          6. Peanut ban

            I did a quick search, as I was wondering thesame thing. Search did come up with info on some schools that have done some sort of ban or made some special areas for kids with alergy. 

            I have a friend that when we go out to dinner they ask if there is nuts in what they are ordering or nut oils. 

          7. Should we ban all gluten

            Should we ban all gluten based products and dairy also because of the risks they pose to people with gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance? I also find it funny that the only time she'd come across a bee would be a forager and she would only come across that if she left out food for a bee such as a pollen source. Now if she left out chocolate and water and a raccoon came how is that any different? She is actively inviting pollinators (wasps hornets bees) by supplying them with a food source. If you fear an animal don't leave out food for it.. 

          8. Paul, while I generally

            Paul, while I generally support your position that controlled hive-keeping will not endanger those with allergies, your "reasoning" shows that logic has deserted you in your impassioned defense of the creatures you obviously love.

            Here is the difference: Peanuts and gluten are not animate forces. Bees are. People allergic to FOOD can generally control their exposure to it by not eating unknown ingredients. If my friend, who is deathly allergic to mushroom, is in the same room as a mushroom, she has no fear because she has complete control of what she eats.

            But those allergic to bee/wasp toxins have no such peace of mind. There are two active forces at work: the person and the bee. The person cannot control the bee's actions, nor can they simply avoid bees the same way my friend can avoid eating at restaurants, or the way a child can avoid peanuts by sitting at the peanut-free table.

            Even if the bee hysteria is inflated, the uncertainty for the allergy-inflicted remains, and to make light of it shows a distinct lack of empathy.

          9. I find the fact the you didn

            I find the fact the you didn't read my post about how she is actively inviting the bees in her yard with a water source and food sources troubling it indicate you are actually going off of your feelings as you indicated towards me.. I find it absurd that you have no experience training or knowledge of bees yet you are quoting things as if you knew with certainty what you are discussing… On your point about foods.. It's a valid comparison as you can control not eating foods touched by gluten or dairy as food prep and labeling is easily mishandled. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year among children under the age of 18. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting. Those numbers surpass that of incidents with honeybees. There is no lack of empathy on my behalf.. The neighbor has the responsibility to carry an epinephrine device due to her condition. She would have to regardless off the hive. Her proximity to the hive doesn't mean she'll have increased encounters as bees only go to a food source… If she doesn't leave food sources out for the animals she wants to avoid, they won't come… That makes it certain they won't interact with her… Pretty basic.. Please stop being naive in your responses, 

          10. speaking as a former Evanston beekeeper…
            Your claim that the likelihood of bee stings increases meaningfully with proximity to a hive is mere conjecture. When bees leave their hive, they steeply climb to a cruising altitude of about twenty feet up and stay at that level until they land on flowers. They’re evolutionarily wired to avoid ground-level traffic. They’re not just flying around all over the place; they fly in the proverbial beeline from one location to the next, and they keep themselves out of the way. I had a hive in my backyard FOR SEVERAL YEARS, and the only way I’d encounter bees in flight is if I stood directly in front of the hive.
            Good day, sir.

      2. I appreciate your concern.
        I appreciate your concern. My daughter has similar allergies. but she has NEVER been stung by my bees. I often sit and watch the girls coming and going from a couple of feet away without my protective gear and have never been stung. the bees are far to busy doing their thing to care about what I am doing. they won’t sting unless I do something stupid while inspecting their hive. Folks that feel they will be stung just because the hive is next door should go and meet the beekeeper. Visit the hive, watch the girls doing their thing. Only then will you really appreciate what we do and why we do it.

      3. i don’t think anyone has a

        i don't think anyone has a lack of concern for your safety or health. It's a concern for you, but most of the fear is from bad information or lack of information. Bees travel up to 3 miles to find a food source. The size of the lot has little to do with it. One could keep bees 2 or 3 miles from you and they will still find your flowers and garden, which they pollinate and increase your harvest and blooms by the way.

        Bees have likely been in your town for a hundred years or more, you just weren't aware of it so it did not bother you. Now you hear about a hive and you fear they will harm you. Bees visit thousands of sources of nectar and pollen daily, the odds of your particular plant flowering and drawing bees only lasts a few days each bloom season and then they are on to the next source. They are foraging for the hive, not looking to sting or harass anyone. Stepping on one is about the only way one can get stung. That can happen from a hive two miles away as easily as one next door. There are lots of bees in that hive true, but most are young bees that cannot even fly, drones that have no stingers, the rest are foragers out looking for food.on average 40'people die from bee stings each year. The majority are someone who accidentally knocks down a hive, such as an old building demolition or a removal from an attic or building wall. Most of those are WILD hives, not maintained by a beekeeper. Last year almost 40,000 people died from food poisoning. You are 1000 times more likely to die from eating than you narendra bee sting. Being arrergic is a concern, but the statistics are the same either way you look at them. I do hope people like yourself stay safe, but also hope you take the time to research Honeybees and their benefits.

        P.S. I live in a small town, Brookston Indiana and have 4 hives in my yard, which is just a regular town lot. We have people over for cookouts, 40'feetmfrom the hive, no on has EVER Been stung. My neighbors on both sides and behind me are aware of them and have had no issues to date. They have been here for three years now. They do love they free honey I give them every year, I also give some to the Town Hall workers for letting me know when they are spraying for Mosquitos so Imcan protect the hives. It does not need to be something feared, but a lesson in living with a small part of nature that to some may be dangerous, but the risk is minimal.  


    2. Fear not the Honey bees! (from one also severely allergic)

      Get the facts and say yes to honey bees!  Our young daughter was severely allergic to stinging insect venom (bee, wasp, hornet, etc) and our Evanston neighbor kept bees and we were very happy and had no issues.  Bees are NOT aggressive – it is the wasps and hornets that you need to worry about.  The bees would occasionally swarm in our yard (a sight to behold), and we would BBQ in the neighbors yard and visit the hive and we were never worried.  The bees frequented our garden, and were needed to cross-pollinate our blueberries.   We never had any issues for the 20 years we lived there!  The Epi-pen was never needed.  However, eventually we pursued immunotherapy anyway, due to aggressive wasps.  Research shows immunotherapy is highly effective for venom allergies (less so for other allergens).  If this is a possibility, I would recommend it; our daughter is no longer allergic.  A close relative of ours suffers from Lupus, and I have empathy for anyone with this disease, but fear not Honey bees!

  2. Stinging aldermen

    Pollinators of all types are desperately needed — European honey bees, native honey bees, bumble bees, mason bees, wasps too, bats, moths, birds etc.

    I have a pollinator garden for my front yard and parkway with lots of kids running back and forth and playing in adjacent yards.

    In the 9 years+ that we had this garden put in not one person or child has been stung because the insects are busy making a living.

    Screaming kids running and playing have never disturbed them, people sitting on their front stoops have not been disturbed either.

    I have friends who are allergic and one family member who carries an epi-pen but no one refuses to come visit and all enjoy the show that these hard working insects and bugs put on on a daily basis.

    Anaphylactic shock is no joke and I truly have empathy for folks who cannot enjoy this natural beauty. But how can the city council be so disjointed in their understanding of policies they themselves approve?

    If chicken coops and building variances need notifications to neighbors to give them a chance to voice their opinion, shouldn't the process for receiving a hive permit been the same? We need term limits before all of us wake up and realize we are in anaphylactic shock from this wretched council!

  3. Queen (and King) Bees

    I know nothing about bees, but clearly, many others do. Whatever your passion, knowledge, or PhD is, I respectfully encourage everyone with feelings on the topic to communicate all of it directly to the Council, either at Council meetings or in phone calls or emails to Council members. Sometimes they make good decisions, sometimes they make bad decisions- but they always rely in some form on information they're getting from others- be it city staff, other elected officials,  constituents, etc. Communicating with them directly takes about as much effort as commenting here, and it's generally more productive. More frustrating at times, but still, on balance, more productive. I only write this because I appreciated the insight on the topic I got from many of these comments, and I imagine some of them may as well.

  4. We live in the city of

    We live in the city of Chicago and have bees and chickens on a tiny city lot. And our neighbors love them! They enjoy a jar of honey and some fresh eggs and don't consider our yard a redneck farm. One neighbor even told me that his 5 year old daughter saves the bees with her bare hands when they accidently drown in their bird bath. Our direct neighbors daughter is highly allergic to wasp/beestings and she doesn't feel threatened at all! They love seeing bees coming over for a visit, hovering above their lavender and are excited when they taste it in the honey. 

    I learned beekeeping 10 years ago in the city of Hamburg/Germany where everyone can put beehives on their property. Some have them on their balcony and as you might know in Europe we live much closer to each other than in the U.S. We even don't kill hornets (by law it's forbidden and you can pay a high fine if you do so) we live with them. My Mentor's wife is highly allergic of beestings and she relaxes on her sunchair 5 feet away from their 6 hives.  But she allways carries her EpiPen with her. If you know that you are allergic you should be prepared. Bees are very peaceful and I have never had a bee attack me but many times I was stung by a wasp. And those are everywhere!

  5. Bee Keeping
    I’m confused reading the alderman’s remark. It’s illegal to have a backyard fire pit in Evanston because a neighbor could have asthma?

  6. Urban Beekeeping

    I have three hives on the outskirts of our city in NE Ohio and one in the middle of my vegetable garden behind my home on a city lot. There are no ordinances that prohibit beekeeping in our city.

    I have found that all my neighbors at both locations are so curious about our bees that they will often stop when they see me to check on them. I am often asked to speak at various groups because there is a genuine concern about the plight of the honeybee.

    Each time someone stops, I try to educate them about something concerning bees. I have had a number of people tell me that they are seeing bees on their flowers again after many years of realizing they had just about disappeared.

    Fear comes from ignorance, so I believe our most important job as beekeepers is to educate the public about our bees.  City ordinances are created to protect the majority of the population and can never protect the interests of each and every resident.

    If it were me, I would be attending city council meetings and ask to speak about the honeybee and their value to all of us.

  7. In the 8 or so years since
    In the 8 or so years since the beekeeping ordinance was passed, have we heard any negative consequences? No, we have not.

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