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New rule would let neighbors sting beekeepers

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A new rule up for review by a city committee Monday would leave beekeepers in Evanston permanently at the mercy of their nextdoor neighbors.

The proposal from Evonda Thomas-Smith, the city's director of health and human services, would require that beekeepers get permission each year from abutting property owners to be able to renew the city license for their hives.

Thomas-Smith, in proposing the new rule, references a beekeeping ordinance in Skokie. But that ordinance only requires obtaining the permission of neighbors before a hive is first established and explicitly does not require neighbors' permission for annual license renewals.

The beekeeping issue was revived last fall after a woman who lives on Hull Terrace complained to aldermen that she suffers from lupus and is highly allergic to bee stings. She objected to the bee hive set up by her nextdoor neighbor.

According to Thomas-Smith, that hive is one of only two licensed beehives in the city.

Skokie's health director, Catharine Counard, says research literature indicates two to five percent of people are at risk of having a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to a bee sting and that, for someone who has already had a history of such serious reactions, a subsequent sting carries a 30 to 60 percent risk of a life-threatening reaction.

She adds that European honeybees will defend an area of about 150 feet from their hive by stinging and that people living within that area are at much greater risk of being stung than those living further away. "Honeybees foraging far from the hive pose little risk to the community," Counard says.

The City Council adopted its existing beehive regulations in 2006 after neighbors objected to a teenager's plan to set up a hive in his family's back yard.

The ordinance amendment is scheduled to be considered by Evanston's Human Services Committee at its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Civic Center.

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