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Louisburg woman faces jail over beekeeping

Posted February 13, 2012
Updated February 14, 2012

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— Pat Walker admits she is in violation of a Louisburg ordinance against beekeeping, but she said the rule is unfair and unconstitutional.

A judge will decide on Tuesday whether Walker will go to jail for 20 days and be forced to give up her backyard beehives.
Walker said last March her family started keeping hundreds of honeybees.

"I enjoy sitting out here with them and watching them," Walker said.

The family said the hobby has helped pollinate their garden and produces honey for them to use and sell. After two months of beekeeping, the Walkers received a hand-delivered letter from Louisburg police telling them they were in violation of a town ordinance.

Beehives have to be at least 75 feet from a neighbor's property line. The ordinance passed in May after town staff received several complaints about the bees.

"Seventy-five feet, in my opinion, is breaking a constitutional right," Walker said.

Louisburg Councilman Boyd Sturges said the ordinance doesn't restrict most homeowners from keeping bees, but he couldn't estimate the percentage of homes that would be allowed to keep bees and still abide the 75-feet rule.

But Jake Walker, the primary beekeeper in the family, said the rule is arbitrary. Bees could send Louisburg woman to jail Bees could send Louisburg woman to jail

"If you have a 100-acre farm, (it's) not going to make any difference because they will travel," Jake Walker said.

The Walkers say honeybees are gentle and docile. They say the bees will only sting when threatened. So far, they said none of their bees has stung anyone.

Mayor Karl T. Pernell did not return calls for comment.

North Carolina Beekeepers Association President Danny Jaynes called the ordinance "ludicrous." He pointed out that Gov. Bev Perdue has beehives at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh that are 5 feet from the property line.

A hearing on Walker's case will be held Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Franklin County Courthouse.

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  • vawebb Feb 21, 2012

    North Carolina’s Agriculture Depends on Honeybees.
    Honeybees aid in pollinating North Carolina’s $65 billion agriculture industry. Without the valuable work the honeybee provides through pollination, many of our state’s crops would not be commercially grown. The increased enhancement of crops by honeybee pollination is $15 billion nationwide.
    Keeping honeybees in urban areas increases vegetable garden production, and often bees have access to more biodiversity than in rural areas.
    Today many major U.S. cities are encouraging the public to keep bees, including New York City, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. In the metro Atlanta area, there are hundreds of back yard beekeepers keeping honeybees.
    Honey never spoils and the honeybee is the only insect that produces food for human consumption. A single honeybee will only produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. On a single collection trip, a bee may visit 50 to 100 flow

  • Lightfoot3 Feb 16, 2012

    "And you obviously don’t know the difference between bees and yellow jackets and wasps." - dtwowhtwow


    If he doesn't know the difference, then he was NOT telling an "outright lie" as you first claim. Being mistakened (if that's the case) is not the same as a lie.

  • dtwowhtwow Feb 15, 2012

    To "AllOpinionsCount" : You see that’s an outright lie! Bees don’t like tap water much less chlorinated pool water. Try putting clean tap water in front of a beehive and they won’t touch it until it gets dirty and junk in it. They like dirty water not chlorinated water. And you obviously don’t know the difference between bees and yellow jackets and wasps.

  • Lightfoot3 Feb 14, 2012

    “It is not alot of fun swmimming on a nice hot day when hundreds (not exagerating) of bees are buzzing over your head and landing on your floaties to get water.” – AllOpinionsCount


    That would make the use of the pool pretty miserable! Have you talked to the neighbor? A good neighbor would provide a closer water source for the bees, if they knew of the problem. I bet you could have a civil case, though that might be costly.

  • kgt Feb 14, 2012

    "kgt - I do not know anyone who was murdered... does that make it OK?
    PowderedToastMan"
    __

    Absolutely! To not be murdered is a GREAT thing, whereas comparing a bee's sting to murder is simply an idiotic thing.

  • Smokin Feb 14, 2012

    AllOpinionsCount-you do know that bees sting, not bite, right? AND they do so only to protect themselves or their hive because to sting is to die for a honeybee. Now, yellow jackets and other wasps are another matter-they bite like heck but you don't keep them in a beehive.

  • dmc8163 Feb 14, 2012

    The Louisburg Town Council and Boyd Sturges are ignorant about beekeeping and the benefits to humanity bees have on our society. The truth should come out that this is not about the bees, it is about local politics and a neighborhood feud. The town first battled with Patricia Walker and her son, Jake, over chickens they kept on their town lot. Now keep in mind that the Walkers have never been in trouble with the law and have been upstanding and law abiding Louisburg citizens for many years. Now the town council has moved on to the bees. Local beekeepers and NC State Beekeeping members tried to educate the town council but the town council does not want to be educated nor admit they made a bad decision. I can only hope the judge is smarter than the town council and make a better educated decision all beekeepers can abide by. You would think that the town council would have better things to do, but alas, they are interested in putting the old sheriff back in office…..another s

  • AllOpinionsCount Feb 14, 2012

    Really?!! You are kidding me, right Ladyblue? I am supposed to get rid of the pool because a neighbor wants to make honey. I bet that comment took you awhile to come up with. I already said we took precautions, just making the point that honey bees are NOT harmless.

  • mjrobb1936 Feb 14, 2012

    Ridiculous-bee populations are being decimated! We need more beekeepers in town. In fact, I have plenty of room for Mrs. Walker's hives. This small town does not want to protect flora or fauna. Drive down the streets following the huge loads of trees for the sawmills,parkway trees topped, and Hasmat clad men spraying poison on native plants. Then smell the air-polluted with wood smoke from the sawmills. And this small town worries about honey bees!!!! How ridiculous!!!

  • ladyblue Feb 14, 2012

    My son is bit every summer by "harmless" honey bees who fly over from our neighbors' bee hive boxes to drink the water from our above ground pool.

    THEN GET RID OF THE POOL

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