Councillors to decide how far to expand urban beekeeping

City councillors will soon determine whether beehives ought to be allowed everywhere in Winnipeg or just on properties where people don't live.

Public hearing will determine whether backyard bees will fly; regulation question remains up in the air

Winnipeg is poised to expand beekeeping outside downtown and properties zoned for agriculture. The move has widespread public support. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

City councillors will soon determine whether beehives ought to be allowed everywhere in Winnipeg or just on non-residential properties.

Council's property committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday about a change to the city's zoning bylaw that would allow beehives on properties where they are not permitted at the moment.

Right now, beehives are permitted in agricultural areas and in downtown Winnipeg. Councillors will have the option of expanding this to every form of land use throughout the city or just non-residential properties.

In a report to council's property committee, chief planner Braden Smith noted urban beehives will help maintain bee populations, balance the ecosystem, help pollinate plants, provide educational opportunities and also produce food, as a single hive can produce about 40 kilograms of honey a year.
City councillors will soon determine whether bee hives ought to be allowed everywhere in Winnipeg or just on non-residential properties. 1:48

He also noted public consultations held by the city found widespread support for backyard beehives, even from people who are allergic to bees. The city sought public opinion at The Forks and shopping malls to widen the range of input beyond what Smith describes as the "special interests" that respond to opinion surveys in disproportionate numbers.

City planners recommend beehives be allowed on properties with a permit of some form to ensure bees are cared for properly, the properties in question are large enough for hives and have proper fencing.

Winnipeg and Ottawa-Gatineau appear to be the only major cities that prohibit urban beekeeping.- Braden Smith

The city has yet to determine whether it will issue those permits itself or leave that task to the province.

"It would have to be determined whether the city would absorb the cost of hiring inspectors and doing certification, or if that cost would be passed on to the applicants. For the hobby beekeeper or small businesses with two hives, that level of service fees would be a major deterrent," Smith wrote in his report to council's property committee.

The committee also has the option of restricting bees to non-residential properties and requiring public hearings before each permit is approved.

The planners recommend the less restrictive option, which would see the city simply issue permits.

Edmonton has approved 85 hives and only rejected a single permit, due to "a neighbour with a serious allergy," Smith wrote.
Two hives were installed on the roof of 541 Portage Ave., the CBC building in downtown Winnipeg, in spring 2016. (CBC)

"In most Canadian cities, urban beekeeping is either permitted or not regulated at the municipal level. Winnipeg and Ottawa-Gatineau appear to be the only major cities that prohibit urban beekeeping through zoning."

The city is also contemplating a mosquito-fogging buffer zone of 90 metres around every hive.

The proposed zoning change will also require approvals from executive policy committee and council as a whole.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Before joining CBC Manitoba, Bartley Kives spent most of his career in journalism at the Winnipeg Free Press, covering politics, music, food, the environment and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.