In the 35 years Gary Losier has been with the Town of Quispamsis, he didn’t think he would ever have to deal with complaints about bee feces — or educate himself on the topic.
“You know that bees will fly … they sting … they go from flower to flower and they get the pollen,” said Losier, who is the director of engineering for the town.
“But you never think of bees pooping as well.”
In May, two residents filed a complaint about an increase of bee feces on their properties. The insects were leaving behind stains on their cars, patio furniture and even on people.
The Cedar Grove Drive residents said that there were several beehives located on a property by Pettingill Road. The residents asked council to review and possibly enforce bylaws that would regulate keeping bees within town limits.
“The first thing we realize that there’s a lot of steps when it comes to the bees,” said Losier, adding that province has certain rules in place via the Apiary Inspection Act.
Various requirements include a beekeeper registering their hives with the province, proper possession of beekeeping equipment and informing a provincial inspector if bee colonies are impacted by disease.
“They [the province] actually manage and have jurisdiction over the care and the keeping of beehives and things of that nature.… They’ve let the municipalities talk about things like land use issues, so setbacks, how far it is from property lines, things of that nature.”
The town has conducted investigations with planning staff making recommendations to council that bylaws would need to be amended to incorporate some of the above considerations.
Further considerations are looking at established legality and best practices for beekeeping, land requirements like appropriate space needed for beehives and how many hives should be allowed on a property.
The lowdown on bee feces
Bee excrement is typically yellow flecks or globs that usually occur during what experts call a cleansing flight.
A cleansing flight happens when a bee is able to emerge from its hive during a warm day to relieve itself after storing its excrement for an extended period of time.
Daniel Allard, president of the Central Beekeepers Association of New Brunswick, cares for 16 beehives, including some at CBC Fredericton. He says he doesn’t have any problems pertaining to bee feces.
When he heard about the complaint filed by residents in Quispamsis, Allard said he was amused and didn’t get what all the fuss was about.
“I thought it was pretty funny that somebody would kick up a big stink over some bees defecating on their home and their cars,” said Allard.
“I really don’t know how you would police it or whatnot, or even if it deserves any policing.”
Conservation of bees
The situation in Quispamsis prompted a wider discussion on how to protect various species of bees in New Brunswick.
Jess Vickruck, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada who specializes in insects, has noticed an uptake in residential beekeeping and says while the issue of bee poop presented by residents is interesting, there is a bigger picture when it comes to the conservation of bees.
“I think one of the important things to consider is that honeybees are actually an introduced species,” she said.
When European settlers colonized in North America, Vickruck said, they brought honeybees with them. This was an important factor in keeping with the conservation of biodiversity.
“I think that maybe having some guidelines in place for that is actually important to protect the wild species as well,” Vickruck said.