Beekeeping Boost Approved by Board

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved new rules Wednesday that will promote beekeeping and local agriculture while protecting the public. 

Supervisors approved a new “tiered” beekeeping ordinance that will allow beekeeping hobbyists and businesses to keep bees and hives closer to roads, property lines and homes in unincorporated areas — but still far enough away to keep people safe.

Bees not only produce honey, they are an essential part of plant reproduction, carrying pollen from plant to plant. Commercial beekeeping businesses pollinate almond, avocado, broccoli, onion, fruit and seed crops across San Diego County.

“Having come from agriculture,” said Board Chairman Bill Horn, “if you don’t have a pollinator, which bees happen to be, you will have no food.”

The County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures started working to create the tiered beekeeping ordinance at the Board’s direction in 2013 with beekeepers, the public and stakeholders, including the San Diego Beekeeping Society, community planning groups and the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

Biologists and beekeepers worldwide have been sounding alarms since 2006 that bees are disappearing, with blame placed on parasitic mites and pesticides. County supervisors wanted to find ways to promote beekeeping, economic development and protect both bees and the public.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who brought the issue to the Board in 2013, said Wednesday, “I would urge all the beekeepers — the current ones and future ones — to go make that honey!”

The new beekeeping ordinance creates three tiers of distance regulations for beekeepers. Current County regulations require all beekeepers, small and large, to keep hives 100 feet from roads and 600 feet — two football fields — away from homes.

The new ordinance will allow backyard beekeeping hobbyists, in general, to keep two hives within 25 feet of roads and property lines, 35 feet from neighboring homes and 150 feet from sensitive sites — places where there may be small children, the elderly, confined animals or others that might be physically challenged.

Small commercial beekeeping companies would be allowed to have up to 20 hives within 50 feet of roads and property lines, 100 feet from homes and between 150 feet and 300 feet from sensitive sites depending upon their number of hives.

Large commercial beekeeping companies would be allowed to have unlimited number of hives within 100 feet of roads, 300 feet from homes and 450 feet from sensitive sites.

The new rules will require all beekeepers to use docile European honeybees, register themselves as beekeepers — a requirement under existing state law — and to follow the most up-to-date beekeeping practices.

The ordinance will also institute a beekeeping education and outreach program that will be operated by the department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures, the San Diego Beekeeping Society, the San Diego County Farm and Home Advisor and commercial beekeepers. Agriculture, Weights and Measures plans to include inspections, citations, penalties and abatements as necessary to ensure people comply with the new rules.

The ordinance is scheduled to be heard again by the Board Sept. 30 for a “second reading.” The ordinance would then take effect in 30 days if the Board approves the second reading.

Agriculture, Weights and Measures officials said they would return to the Board in early 2018 to update supervisors on how the ordinance was working. Department officials, at the direction of the Board, said they would also continue to look for chances to lease County-owned properties to beekeepers if possible.


Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact