Ogden City encourages beekeeping to preserve species

(Graphic by Brett Ferrin)
Graphic by Brett Ferrin

Bees have become a buzzworthy topic in Ogden recently. The Ogden City Council Changes made changes to municipal code and adopted a new ordinance allowing residents to keep bees.

Previously, residents of Ogden City known to have verboten beehives didn’t register with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food for fear of the city finding out and confiscating the hives.

Richard Hyer, Ogden City Council chair, is himself an avid beekeeper and headed the effort to change Ogden’s bee policy.

“I think there are quite a few closet beekeepers because of the ordinance that we just replaced,” Hyer said. “Life will be much better for the bees and the beekeepers.”

Hyer said he suspects Ogden City will see an influx of bee-related products at the upcoming farmers market and in local stores because of the new ordinance. He said garden production goes up nearly 400 percent due to the bees helping with pollination.

“Many beekeepers don’t even harvest the honey. They just keep the bees so that their garden and their fruit trees will do better,” Hyer said. “The entire neighborhood benefits from having a hive.”

Local beekeeper and National Forest Service etymologist Darren Blackford has looked after the black-and-yellow insects for over five years. He agreed with Hyer, saying honey is secondary to the benefit of better produce.

“Folks don’t leave enough resources for the bees to survive in their hives, because they want more honey for themselves,” Blackford said. “So the pollination from the bees and honey are the two big benefits of being a beekeeper.”

Blackford said that while bees aren’t technically endangered, their populations are declining nationwide with few explanations.

“There is also that benefit or good feeling that folks should have becoming a beekeeper that they are kind of doing their part in keeping bees in Utah, keeping their populations alive,” Blackford said.

Blackford encourages Ogden residents looking to become beekeepers to see him at the Ogden Nature Center and take a class on beekeeping. He stressed the importance of being “bee smart.”

“Call me! I encourage people to not only do their homework and read on them, but also find a mentor at all costs,” he said. “Find a beekeeper and have them show you the ropes.”

Blackford said mentors are invaluable, and he still calls his own mentor dozens of times each summer.

Mary McKinley, the executive director of the Ogden Nature Center, said having a beehive and raising bees is one of the things people can do to grow their own food. She also warned that having a beehive takes work, and talking to a seasoned beekeeper is important.

“We have an observation hive here in our visitors center, and it has live bees in it so people can come and see bees inside a hive and learn about them,” she said. “We do like people to understand that our pollinators are very important.”

McKinley said that so much of what humans eat depends on pollinators, and landscaping with the bees in mind is a win-win. She mentioned a few plants Ogden residents can grow to attract bees. Locally, bees tend to flock toward flowering herbs and wildflowers such as lavender, sage and basil.

Blackford said that although he doesn’t currently doesn’t have any beekeeping classes set up, he is willing to put one on at any given time. Ogden residents interested in bees can reach him at 801-920-6970 or [email protected]

“I’m also happy to take anyone who wants to learn about bees and take them out when I’m checking on my bees to show them the ins and outs,” he said. “I always have an extra suit with me for that reason.”

Hyer also said education is important for novices, and suggested visiting Deseret Hive Supply or the Ogden Nature Center for classes.

Details on the ordinance as well as the new provisions included are available at Ogdencity.com.