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Campus bees? Thanks to a group of Augustana students, probably yes.

Simplified: Augustana students wanted to bring beekeeping to campus, but city ordinances didn’t allow for hives on those types of properties. Now, two city councilors are bringing a proposal that would allow for hobby beekeeping at the university and similarly zoned properties.

Why it matters

  • Augustana students brought bees to campus in May of this year, but didn’t have the proper applications and permits to house bees on campus thanks to the existing zoning rules of the beekeeping ordinances. The hives were moved off campus and into Hartford.
  • Students in charge of the beekeeping project worked with City Councilors Greg Neitzert and Sarah Cole to rewrite the language of the ordinances that govern hobby beekeeping. They were also helped by Animal Control, an Iowa beekeeper and Southeast Technical Institute.
  • City Council voted 8-0 on Tuesday to pass the first reading of the changes, and if the measure passes a second reading next week, students from middle school to postsecondary institutions could bring beekeeping to their school campuses.

“In each case, [we’re] trying to teach students that sustainability needs to be concerned not just with protecting the planet, but also with creating the opportunity for profit, something that will create prosperity for them and their community,” Augustana Professor David O’Hara said.

Why the push for bees at Augustana?

Augustana student Janae Becher said the initial beekeeping project was made to support sustainability on campus. Student beekeepers planned to use the hives for research, business, economics and other studies.

  • The campus brought in bees after getting permission and registration through the state, Neitzert said. The regulations within the city weren’t as clear, so there was no permit filed. And the bees had to be removed.
  • Becher said she’s worked with bee research for the last two years, and she wanted the bees on campus to further her research about creating antibiotics and pollinator health.

“By adding this amendment, it will help grow our community and create more avenues for collaboration, education growth, pollination in general and also economic growth,” Becher said.

What’s the ordinance going to look like for campuses?

Because the current ordinance only concerned residential hobby beekeeping, the new ordinance changes some of the requirements to make sense for a college campus:

  • The person applying for the permit will have to be the identified beekeeper.
  • The hives must be 100 feet from the property line, rather than use neighbor approval signatures.
  • The hives should have signs near the hive and across the campus lot, and animal control can help decide where those signs should go.

“We tried really hard to make sure we did not impact the current residential beekeeping,” Neitzert said. “It’s working well, and in fact, we removed a few regulations that were really unnecessary.”

So what’s next?

The ordinance will have a second reading on Tuesday, where the council will decide whether to accept the changed language to include educational campuses as part of a recognized zone for hobby beekeeping.

  • If the change is accepted, Augustana will then have to apply for a permit under university zoning before the bees can be moved back to campus.
  • Becher said depending on how quickly the process goes through, the campus may have to wait until a better time to move the bees so they’re not disturbed at their current hive.

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