by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (July 1, 2018) – Honeybees are vital to the survival of agriculture. It’s estimated that one-third of our global food supply is pollinated by bees, yet the population of honeybees has dwindled in recent years and sits at about half the number that existed at the end of World War II.
In 2015, President Obama established a Pollinator Health Task Force and announced incentives to farmers and ranchers who established new honeybee habitats. Efforts have also been made in recent years by hobbyists and small beekeeping entrepreneurs who keep hives to produce honey or to raise queens and bees to sell to farmers.
Lansing resident Diane Lund began considering beekeeping as a hobby after her retirement. But she learned that owning a beehive is prohibited by Lansing village ordinances.
The animal ordinance
Chapter 10 of Lansing’s Municipal Code of Ordinances is all about animals. Section 10-2 defines what a “wild animal” is and says specifically, “Chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, guinea hens, honeybees and turkeys shall also be considered wild animals.”
Additionally, Section 10-4 then states, “It shall be unlawful for anyone to own, harbor, or permit at large any exotic or wild animal.”
Lund is hoping to convince village officials to remove honeybees from the “wild animal” designation. Doing so would allow her to place a hive on her half-acre property in Lansing. “I retired as a middle school librarian from Heritage Middle School in Lansing and wanted to explore beekeeping,” she said. “I’m an avid gardener and my yard is a Certified Natural Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.” She also built gardens at Heritage, including a Certified Natural Habitat designed to attract monarch butterflies.
“The current ordinance is not just restrictive, but is an outright ban,” said Lund. “Bees should not be listed as a wild animal.” She attended Village Board meetings in March and April to express her concerns and request a revision of the ordinance.
Lund is also a member of Lansing’s Beautification Committee and finds it ironic that the Village would prohibit bees, while also promoting the planting of flowers, which depend on bees.
Investing in change
Lund has done extensive research on beekeeping, has a beekeeping suit, and has joined the Northwest Indiana Beekeepers Association with hopes of being able to be a beekeeper, which will involve an investment of about $600 per hive.
She noted that neighboring towns of Calumet City, South Holland, and Lynwood do not have restrictions on honeybees. There’s even a Lynwood church that she said has beekeepers and sells their honey to parishioners. “Recently Hammond also developed a beekeeping ordinance that limits homeowners to two hives on a property,” she said. “In Chicago you can have five beehives per property.” In Chicago, rooftop beehives have also become popular in recent years, situated on high-rise commercial buildings, restaurants, hospitals—and even City Hall.
Village of Lansing Director of Communications Ken Reynolds said that Administrator Dan Podgorski is in the process of looking into and trying to develop a formal policy, following input from Lansing’s Animal Control Officer and additional animal and wildlife experts. “All of that would hopefully be able to lead to some wording on a possible policy. The earliest it would be in place would be at our July board meeting on July 17, where it could possibly be on the Committee of the Whole agenda. Or, depending on the progress and how much information he is able to get from some of these other individuals, it might not be until the August meeting,” said Reynolds.
After being introduced at a Committee of the Whole meeting, a change in ordinance could then be officially voted on as early as the next regular Village Board meeting.