Bath is abuzz with a plan that would allow more city residents to keep bees on their property.

The plan, proposed by the Community Development Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee, would allow residents in urban areas to keep bees. Currently, beekeeping is only allowed on properties with at least 2 acres, which are mostly located in more rural parts of Bath.

A honeybee pollinates a flower in Buckfield. Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal file photo

The committee presented the proposal to the City Council Wednesday; the council and Planning Board will review it before deciding whether to make the change.

Jamie Pacheco, who served on the subcommittee, said the proposal is about supporting the city’s agricultural diversity and food system.

“Supporting our food system is important to anyone in Bath,” she said. “It’s important to have bee populations that keep our ecosystems diverse.”

The proposal would allow up to two bee colonies on a quarter-acre or less, up to four colonies on a quarter-acre to half-acre, up to six colonies on a half-acre to full acre and up to eight colonies on an acre or more. All hives must be located at least 25 feet away from inhabited dwellings or be surrounded by fence or wall that’s at least 6 feet tall to prevent bees from coming into contact with people. The bees must also have access to a water source.


“It’s a good policy,” said Pacheco, who is a beekeeper herself and has three colonies on her property. She said she collects honey and benefits from the bees pollinating her flowers.

Anyone who keeps bees on their property in Maine must register with the state. There are about 1,200 active beekeepers with 10,000 honeybee hives in Maine, according to Jennifer Lund, the state’s apiarist.

Bees pollinate a third of the food Americans eat, including blueberries, carrots and onions, according to the The Bee Conservancy, a New York-based nonprofit. The group says the U.S. honeybee population has declined 60% since 1947.

“Far from being a niche concern, bees lie at the heart of our survival — and they have been dying at unprecedented rates,” the conservancy says. “Their hard work is not only essential to healthy ecosystems but to sustaining animal and human life, too.”

In Maine, there are 276 species of bees, according to Lund, and she said the overall bee population is healthy. One species, the rusty patched bumble bee, was listed as endangered by the federal government in 2017; the bee hasn’t been seen in Maine since 2009, according to Lund.

Bath is trying to support bee populations in another way through Main Street Bath’s Downtown Flowers program. Each year from Memorial Day through Columbus Day, Beth Hawkes Farm & Greenhouse decorates the downtown area with more than 1,000 flowers. Last year, the flowers included heliotrope and honey wort flowers to attract migrating bees. This year, hardier red salvia flowers will be used, according to Amanda McDaniel, director of Main Street Bath.

“It’s a win-win,” she said. “It’s beauty and it’s productivity. Bees are suffering. … This creates a pollinator pathway, little islands for bees to feed upon. It’s a big thing we take pride in.”

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