The hobby of keeping bees is gaining in popularity in Iowa and a new website, BeeLaws.org, is designed to help Iowans learn about their local ordinances regarding beekeeping.
State apiarist Andy Joseph says it’s believed to be the first searchable website of its kind in the nation.
“This website is going to be a great tool, especially for a lot of our newer beekeepers,” Joseph says. “Beekeepers all across the state who are just getting started can use this to check their area, specifically if they live inside a municipality or inside a town or city and they’ll be able to find out what the ordinances are related to keeping bees inside the city limits.”
The ordinances of 77 cities across Iowa are included on the website so far and Joseph says most of them are very bee-friendly, though a few do prohibit beekeeping entirely and others restrict where hives can be placed or the number of hives permitted. “We’re actually seeing a trend toward having ordinances against beekeeping overturned in Iowa and nationwide,” Joseph says. “We’re heading in the right direction, of course, I’m a pro-bee bias, but historically, having bees or any form of livestock in town, whether it’s chickens or the list goes on, has its fair share of tensions in the past.”
The number of beekeepers in Iowa has tripled in recent years, from around 15-hundred about a decade ago to 45-hundred now, and the numbers are growing quickly. Joseph says the Iowa Honey Producers Association is helping to bring new enthusiasts to the hobby, many of them in urban areas, with beekeeping courses.
“I would recommend anyone who’s interested in bees to check out the IHPA website, abuzzaboutbees.com, or this new beelaws.org website for links to the classes,” he says.
Iowa’s 4,500 beekeepers manage more than 45,000 colonies of honey bees. Those bees produce about 4 million pounds of honey annually, valued at more than $8 million. Honey bees are also responsible for the pollination of many Iowa crops, as well as home gardens and plants eaten by wildlife. The economic value of honey bees as crop pollinators in Iowa is estimated at $92 million a year.