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Bill to ban beekeeping in Las Vegas Valley blasted in Legislature

CARSON CITYA Henderson state senator’s bill to ban beekeeping in urban and suburban areas ran into — ahem — a swarm of opposition before a Senate committee Thursday.

Senate Bill 389 would prohibit apiaries — places where bees are kept — in areas zoned for two or more residences per acre. Republican Sen. Keith Pickard, who co-sponsored the bill, presented it with an amendment limiting its application to the state’s existing Africanized bee quarantine zone in Southern Nevada, which covers all of Clark County and the southern sections of Nye and Lincoln counties.

Even so, the bill’s hearing before the Senate Natural Resources committee landed like swatting a hive with a stick, as beekeepers, conservationists and local officials stung it repeatedly with barbed criticism.

The only thing thicker than the buzzing of opposition in the committee room were the bee puns.

“I see the place is swarming,” Pickard said as he started his presentation.

The senator said the bill was in response to resident complaints of stings near a Henderson address, where the owner maintained 12 hives.

“They had essentially been driven indoors as their backyards had been overrun by the bees, presumably by the neighboring property,” Pickard said.

He acknowledged that the bees could have come from elsewhere. But, children and pets had been stung, and dogs and horses had died, he said, citing media reports as his source.

In recent years, only one person in the state has died from bee stings — a Las Vegas exterminator who was stung countless times in 2016 while removing a hive without protective clothing.

Whatever the number of apiphobes — people who fear bees — might exist in Henderson or elsewhere, they did not turn out Thursday to support Pickard’s bill, leaving him its lone advocate. Even with the amendment restricting the bill’s applicable area to Southern Nevada, beekeepers and others from Northern Nevada, speaking in Carson City, joined opponents testifying by video link in Las Vegas to denounce it.

They included David Sharpless, whose well-hived Henderson home was the original source of complaints that prompted the bill.

Amid discussion of the finer points and benefits of beekeeping and hive-tending, opponents said the threat of Africanized bees — known as “killer” bees — spreading to more areas was not the fault of local apiaries.

“If my family can use our yard without our bees bothering us, then so can my neighbors,” Sharpless said, adding it was “ridiculous to think that banning backyard hives is a solution to this problem in any way.”

The city of Henderson turned out to oppose the bill, noting a more comprehensive local ordinance it passed in August that regulates apiaries without banning them outright. Under the city’s rules, Sharpless is permitted just two hives on his property, and he has complied.

Pickard’s bill “is too restrictive and conflicts with the city’s goal of allowing apiaries in to a variety of neighborhood types,” Henderson planning manager Eddie Dichter told the committee. Other localities, including the cities of Las Vegas and Reno, agreed.

As the buzz died down, Pickard remained the bill’s unstung hero, saying regulation of apiaries was properly a state — not local — matter, and that the Henderson apiary in question was still out of compliance.

“This is response to a real problem where kids were being stung in their own yards,” he said.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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