Bethlehem neighbors abuzz over backyard bees

Ursula Bauer's fascination with bees began about two years ago after reading Sarah George's novel The Beekeeper's Daughter. In 2006, she became one of more than 60,000 beekeepers in New York after installing two hives in her backyard at 200 Winne Road in Delmar.

"I have two daughters, 10 and 14, and they enjoy the bees," said Bauer, who had to replace the bees she lost last season because they did not survive the winter.

She has since moved her bees to fellow beekeeper Linda Jasinski's Bender Road property while she awaits a decision by the Bethlehem Planning Board regarding whether she can keep them in her yard.

The move was prompted by the town's new comprehensive plan, which states that beekeeping is an agricultural use that requires planning board approval.

The planning board said neighbors' safety is their primary concern in deciding if Bauer's hives should be allowed in her backyard. The board will make a decision regarding the beehives at a future meeting.

In its review of the proposal, the planning board scheduled a public hearing Tuesday, June 19, where several people spoke for and against the suburban beehives.

Some of Bauer's neighbors are fighting the return of the hives, which house up to 60,000 bees.

"I would like you to decline this proposal and think about the safety of my immediate neighbors," said Westchester Drive resident Judy Steiner, who said she is concerned about the hive's potentially close proximity to her backyard, where her daughter and friends play.

"I think people in the neighborhood imagine that all the bees come rushing out," said Bauer. "They go out at 9 or 10 a.m. when the sun is warm and one-third of the hive forages for nectar and pollen until they come back around 5 p.m."

Some nights, Bauer said, she and her daughters take a seat in the yard where the hives are located and just watch the bees work and be productive.

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