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Buzzing over honeybees

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | December 13, 2012

LANCASTER- Lancaster resident, Betsy Moll, is an advocate for honeybees so much so that she requested permission from the Village of Lancaster Board to maintain a hive of honeybees in her back yard at 5329 Broadway.

For the last two years, Moll has maintained a beehive at her cottage at Java Lake in Wyoming County where there are no restrictions. She said she is now ready to have a hive in Lancaster where she grows her flowers and vegetables, all of which could benefit from increased numbers of pollinators.

“With experience I can now say with confidence that a hive in our backyard will pose no significant risk for our neighbors,” said Moll.

Moll also attends meetings of both Wyoming County Beekeepers and the Western New York Honey producers to expand her knowledge on beekeeping. She also is the education chair on the board of directors at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical gardens, where she is spearheading a Honeybee Festival in April.

According to village code, a resident is allowed to keep a single hive of honeybees, but with the permission of the board. During Monday night’s board meeting, a public hearing was held where residents for or against Moll’s request where encouraged to speak and it was also requested that Moll bring an expert with her.

Moll brought Barbara Ochterski, who is a former educator, experienced bee keeper, and a current docent at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, and a letter from Dr. Thomas Seeley, of Cornell University, who is one of most renowned beekeepers in this part of the country and author of the book “Honeybee Democracy,” which is in support of the idea of urban bee keeping.

Moll’s main motivation for becoming a beekeeper stems from an interest in learning about and improving the environment as there is so much importance of honeybees in our ecology.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t important to do,” remarked Moll, explaining how important it is in food production alone and about one-third of what is grown is pollinated by honeybees and she is concerned about the well-documented decline in the honeybee population.

“If it were not for them, we certainly wouldn’t have for the most part food crops for example and 100 percent of the almond pollination is by honeybees and number of other things. In this area, it would be fruit more than anything,” said Moll.

Ochterski, who is a small scale apiarist in the Town of Aurora, said she lives on an acre of property and they have three hives within 50 feet of their home.

“I think the biggest thing that concerns people is they see flying insects around their picnic tables and near their flowers just hanging around and being a nuisance, but they are not honeybees,” said Ochterski. “They are for the most part yellow jackets. They are much more aggressive. They can multiply sting. That’s not a honeybee.”

Ochterski added a honeybee is about 20 percent smaller and they live in hives for the most part of their lives. On occasion, they do fly out for nectarine sources, but they have one goal, and that is to get the nectar from the plants.

“We have had parties in our yard up to 125 people,” commented Ochterski. “We have had absolutely no problems with the honeybees. Unless you intrude on the privacy of the hive you simply are not going to be stung. In my estimation, having honeybees is an asset to the neighborhood, an asset to pollination, the honey is wonderful, and I am strongly in support of this.”

It was also learned during the meeting, Village of Lancaster resident Joseph Volkenner, who resides at 62 Aurora St., has had a hive on his property since 1985.

Volkenner said he has never had a problem, not even having someone being stung.

Also, Aurora Street resident, Joe Brunet, who lives around the corner from Moll, said he and his wife have “absolutely no objections to the beehive.”

There were no residents present who opposed the idea of having a honeybee hive, and after much consideration moved to approve Moll’s request.

The next Village of Lancaster Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, in the Municipal Building Council Chambers, 5423 Broadway, in Lancaster.

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