June 29, 2011

Maine beekeeper:
Local ordinance stings

Local keepers bring a message to councilors in South Portland, where rules for the backyard hobby are 'putting up obstacles':

By Trevor Maxwell tmaxwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

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Honeybees buzz around one of Phil Gaven's hives in South Portland on Tuesday. Gaven wants to repeal or revise a restrictive city ordinance governing beekeeping that some residents say goes too far. "Our whole concern is that this is an activity that should be encouraged," he said.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Phil Gaven, standing near two of the four hives he keeps on a friend's property in South Portland on Tuesday, is fighting to change city ordinances that restrict the scope of beekeeping.

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Lewiston is the only municipality in Maine that prohibits beekeeping. Westbrook has an ordinance governing it, but does not charge fees or assess fines. There are 40 licensed beekeepers in Portland, which does not have an ordinance.

Gaven said the national trend has been toward loosening rules on beekeeping. He provided a list to the City Council of 20 cities, including San Francisco, New York and Denver, that have relaxed or repealed bee ordinances.

Gaven came to Maine from Chicago in 2003. He grew up in the suburbs, in a family that didn't even have pets. In college, he had a friend whose father kept bees, which sparked Gaven's interest. He didn't really get involved until he read a 2006 article in The New Yorker about Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious phenomenon in which entire hives of bees die.

Gaven started with one hive at Loveitts Field, and he now has four hives at three locations in the city. In August he will open a store in Portland called The Honey Exchange. He will offer local honey, wax products and honey-based food and drink.

"If you took away the crops that are pollinated by honeybees, it would basically cut a grocery store's offerings in half," he said. "Even down to the hamburgers we eat, bees are important."


Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: tmaxwell@pressherald.com


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Additional Photos

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Two of Phil Gaven's bees, being busy.


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