Skip to content

Urban beekeeping could jeopardize native bee population, Red Deer city council heard.

City council sets parameters for new Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw
Beekeeper Gene Brandi’s bees are cared for in San Juan Bautista, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2023. Brandi said he had to feed his bees twice as much as usual during almond pollination. But with spring rushing in, he said he’ll take his hives to the California coast where bees can forage on a native plant to make sage honey, a premium product that he can only make every few years when there’s ample rain. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

Beekeeping within city limits should be prohibited in Red Deer to protect native pollinators, city council was told.

On Monday, Red Deer city councillors discussed some fundamental principals for staff to consider in the creation of a new Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw.

Councillors heard that starting a pilot beekeeping program within city limits is not recommended by the Alberta Beekeeping Association because of the potential people will bring in non-native pollinators, such as honey bees.

Honey bees and other imported species tend to out-compete native bees, said Amy Fengstad acting land and economic development manager, negatively impacting the native population.

Ken Lehman, the city’s ecological services operations co-ordinator, said there are some endangered and threatened bee species within city limits.

He noted the provincial bee association wants a moratorium on more urban beekeeping programs for a 10-year-period so it can study strategies for preserving native bees.

Fengstad admitted that a decade-long moratorium might be too long, but she suggested it could be possible to do a municipal review and some public education to reduce the time period.

She noted the city staff still encourages people to develop pollinator parks, that attract bees. Red Deerians who already have provincial licences to keep bees would be grandfathered from the municipal rules.

Most councillors agreed with the parameters council suggested be considered in drafting the new bylaw: Allowing only six cats per household and three dogs. The number of urban chicken would be set at four per household, but the cap would be removed on the number of licences that could be issued for keeping urban chickens.

Some councillors were unsure whether starting to licence cats would solve the roaming cat problem. It’s already illegal in this city to allow your cats to wander the streets “but you wouldn’t know it in my neighbourhood,” said Coun. Cindy Jefferies.

Mayor Ken Johnston believes licensing “is the way to go” in terms of being able to return escaped cats to their owners. Data presented to council showed there is now only a 15 per cent claim rate for cats.

Fengstad said unfortunately, many people see cats as “disposable pets,” but having to pay for a cat license might change this kind of thinking.

The mayor joked that told his own cats “you won’t be freeloaders in the city anymore — and they were OK with it.”

Council voted to approve $45,000 in one-time funding to help pay for more animal enforcement.

The new bylaw is expected to return to council in the fall. It will combine four bylaws that regulate animals in the city into one bylaw, including the Dog Bylaw, Cat Bylaw, Urban Chicken Bylaw and aspects of the Community Standards Bylaw, relating to livestock.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
Read more