CITY HALL — Beekeepers are all abuzz about the City Council’s decision Tuesday to lift its ban on beekeeping, joining the long list of cities that in recent years have authorized the activity in urban settings as concern has spread about “colony collapse disorder” — the mysterious decline in the worldwide bee population.

The move came after the Task Force on the Environment earlier this year urged the council to reconsider its ban in light of California’s bee situation. The American Beekeeping Federation estimates the state’s honey bee count is about half what it was 50 years ago.

Bees are essential to maintaining the country’s food supply, helping to pollinate orchards and fields. Experts said one-third of people’s diets rely on honey bee pollination. Almonds, apples, sweet cherries, plums and prunes are examples of crops that require cross-pollination to produce a crop.

“Backyard urban beekeeping has been shown to increase, diversify and strengthen bee populations and supplement the pollination services by feral and commercial bee colonies,” according to a report from Dean Kubani, who directs Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

San Francisco, New York, Chicago and many other cities have already approved urban beekeeping, according to Kubani.

The new ordinance, which won the council’s unanimous approval, allows backyard beekeeping on single-family residential properties, with residents permitted to keep at most two hives per property. The hives are required to be registered with City Hall’s animal control office.

The push for legalized beekeeping in Santa Monica began this spring, when Daniel Salisbury, an amateur beekeeper who had run up against City Hall’s prohibition, began lobbying for a policy change.

Salisbury spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, calling the lifting of the ban a “big positive step.”

To deal with feral bee swarms and natural hives found on public property, City Hall is maintaining its contract with a company, Bee Professionals, for removal services. The company will relocate hives to the San Fernando Valley or Ventura County, according to a City Hall report. It will exterminate hives only as a last resort when relocation isn’t practical.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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