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Kristie Sundeen, Brocket, N.D., Published July 15 2013

Beekeepers tell township in eastern ND to buzz off

Is anyone else starting to feel like they are being overrun by bee apiaries? I am an independent crop consultant who works in northern Ramsey County, western Walsh County, and Cavalier County. I cover right around 25,000 acres, and I am starting to feel surrounded.

I am from Nekoma Township in Cavalier County, and my family still lives and farms there. Recently the township adopted zoning ordinances to address complaints by residents and farm operators who live and work in the township. Many of the complaints include apiaries being too close to occupied farm residences, roads and entry points to neighboring fields. Other complaints were about apiaries that were placed on land without permission, beekeepers not following current state laws when it comes to registering and marking apiaries, and too many apiaries too close together.

North Dakota laws regarding beekeeping are in Chapter 4-12.2 of the Century Code. The main points state that beekeepers are required to register apiaries with the state, giving the location of each apiary to the nearest section, quarter section, township, range and county. They are supposed to have a written lease or other document from the property owner granting the applicant/beekeeper permission to maintain an apiary at that location. State law also requires beekeepers to post a board or weatherproof placard bearing the beekeeper’s name, address and telephone number at or near the main entrance to each apiary.

Want to guess how many are not following the laws and what kind of penalty they are receiving? I don’t know of any that are following state laws in registering all apiaries or marking their apiaries, and so far the state has yet to enforce its own laws after continued complaints.

This is why Nekoma Township adopted its own zoning ordinance in regard to apiaries. However, now the township is on its way to court. Three out-of-state beekeepers who place apiaries in the township have filed a writ of prohibition to stop Nekoma Township from enforcing the ordinances. The court has granted an injunction to prevent the township from enforcing the ordinance until after the court has made a decision regarding the writ of prohibition.

Nekoma Township’s ordinance requires beekeepers to register the apiaries with the township annually; have written permission from the land owner of the property and neighboring land owners/renters that surround the apiary; have setbacks of a quarter mile off a section line; and pay a registration fee of $15 per apiary. They can’t place apiaries within 1 mile of an occupied residence without said residents’ written permission.

To many this may seem extreme, but to those in the township, they are trying to protect their way of life and the health and well-being of those who live and work in the township. The township has offered variances to beekeepers if they need them on a case-by-case basis. The beekeepers have refused to work with the township. They are afraid to let this ordinance stand because other townships in the state may follow suit in adopting bee ordinances.

I won’t say all, but many beekeepers in this area can’t even follow state laws, which are minimal at best in regard to protecting rights of residents. A lack of respect by the beekeepers to area residents, landowners, land renters and workers has brought things to this point.

I hope everyone starts paying attention and that the state starts acting to protect its residents.