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To Bee Or Not To Bee; Medford Considers It


Mail Tribune

A ban on beehives in Medford should be lifted so that residents can make their own honey, a local resident suggested to a receptive City Council Thursday.

“Many cities allow beekeeping in cities for personal use,” Clint Oborn said.

Beehives are allowed in Medford but only on land zoned for agricultural purposes.

Councilors appeared willing to entertain further discussion about changing the ordinance but urged Oborn to investigate the idea before they called upon staff time to do research.

“It’s interesting you can grow (medical) marijuana plants outside of an agricultural zone, but you can’t have a beehive,” Councilor Dick Gordon said.

Oborn said other cities such as Portland and Eugene allow small-scale beehives to produce honey within city limits, but only for personal consumption.

Councilor John Michaels said he’s thought about having a personal beehive at his home and voiced some support for Oborn’s idea.

“I’m willing to look at it,” he said.

Mayor Gary Wheeler said he had a colony of bees take up residence in his backyard once and had to have a professional beekeeper remove the hive.

Oborn said if raising bees were allowed on nonagricultural land, a citizen could still object to a hive if it became a neighborhood nuisance.

He said it seems unfair that someone couldn’t have a hive in a backyard to provide enough honey for personal consumption.

Paul Andersen, president of the Oregon State Beekeepers Association, said Salem, Albany, Portland and Hillsboro are some of the cities that allow small-scale beehives.

“Most of the cities have stepped up and said, Yeah, we’ll support this,’ ” he said.

He said some cities previously had ordinances against bees, or they treated beehives as a nuisance.

Cities have various ways of limiting the number of hives, such as allowing so many per square feet of property or requiring setbacks.

“A lot of people don’t realize that in a city, there are going to be bees anyway,” Andersen said. “It’s just a matter of density.”

He said a city might require a prospective beekeeper to poll the neighborhood to make sure someone doesn’t have a medically confirmed serious reaction to bee stings.

Andersen, who has both urban hives and hives in orchards, said urban bees are actually healthier than commercial bees that dine on a single type of blossom. “It’s like having hamburger every day of the month,” he said.

Urban bees forage on a variety of flowers and blossoms, he said. In Portland, bees can find some kind of flowering plant year-round, he said.

Andersen said he suspects there have been problems with beehives in urban areas of the state, though he hasn’t personally heard about them.

“I would expect there may have been a couple of incidences where someone has taken out their beehives,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.

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