Henry County says no to backyard beehives in residential communities

The Henry County Commission on Tuesday voted down a proposal that would have allowed beehives on one-quarter lots in residential communities.

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The Henry County Commission on Tuesday voted down a proposal that would have allowed beehives on one-quarter lots in residential communities.

While backyard and rooftop beehives may be all the buzz in parts of metro Atlanta, the idea apparently isn't honey to the ears of Henry County leaders.

A proposal to allow hives for honeybees on quarter-acre lots in residential neighborhoods the south metro community was shot down by the Henry County Commission in a 4-2 vote earlier this week.

Commissioners worried the proposed lot size was too small to keep the hives from spreading from the home of someone who wants them to a nearby neighbor who doesn’t.

“This seems like more of an agricultural concept to me,” said Henry Commission Chairwoman June Wood, who voted against the proposal. “I have concerns about it being available in residential communities whether it’s an acre lot or a quarter-acre lot.”

Interest in beehives, whether in backyards, on downtown rooftops or even at schools, has grown in metro Atlanta in recent years as the nation’s honey bee population has declined as much as 40 percent, national experts such as the Bee Informed Partnership said.

Agriculture experts fear it could force a rise in food prices because bees are responsible for the pollination of about $170 billion of crops worldwide, according to media reports.

Urban hives are being installed across the metro area, from restaurants in Cobb and atop the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta, to corporate facilities for Chick-fil-A, AT&T and Georgia Power. Decatur became a "bee city," areas where bees are given "sanctuary," back in 2016, and several beekeeping clubs in metro Atlanta are working together to educate residents about the need to increase the bee population.

Gerri Yoder, director of Henry County Animal Care & Control, said the ordinance is directed toward hobbyists, who would be limited to two hives. It was proposed because of growing interest from millennials and others in sustainable and fresh foods.

“Our ordinance is pretty much a clone of everybody else’s ordinance that has backyard bees,” Yoder said.

Commission officials considered amending the ordinance to restrict the hives to one-half acre residential lots, but Johnny Wilson, who voted yes to the proposal, said that change wouldn’t make much of a difference. Bees travel as much as four or five miles, but always come back to their hives.

Commissioner Dee Clemmons, who voted against the measure, was not persuaded.

“Although I understand people collect bees as a hobby, you can’t stop them from roaming into other people’s neighborhood.” she said. “And your neighbors could have children who have an allergic reaction to bees. Bees do wander off to look for water. I don’t know how you keep them from coming to the neighbors house to get that. “