A story we wrote last week about concerns from a family living next to a local beekeeper caused a real buzz on social media and our email inbox last week.
The issue came forward because a family is concerned for the safety of their 20-month old who has a severe anaphylactic allergy to bee stings and doesn't believe enough has been done to mitigate the risk.
Now, this is where the firestorm of a debate kicked off. Bees are a sensitive topic. As a foundational organism they are essential to life on this planet. In fact, it is estimated that one-third of food people consume every day relies on bees. So, it is absolutely essential that bee populations are protected and those who are aiding in that endeavour should be supported.
That being said, there needs to be balance. If we want people to get behind efforts to be more environmentally responsible then it must be done in ways that are not only sustainable but also safe. Yes, bee stings are rare and bees won't sting unless they or their hives are threatened. However, when you combine young children with an inordinate number of bees due to a nearby hive, the risk of a sting is increased. Those who have seen the videos, know this isn't a few bees buzzing around, it's dozens.
There are many who have said that bee sting deaths are too rare for this to be a real concern. While that might be true, when a bee does sting and it results in anaphylaxis, the risk of death is higher, especially among children. Therefore, it is not surprising that a parent would have reservations, especially seeing the number of bees on her property.
Unfortunately, when things hit social media, the suggested solutions are always absurdly extreme. Suggesting that a child and a family should avoid use of their backyard is not only unfair, it violates their rights as property owners. That being said, the neighbour also has the right to keep bees and the environmental service is a noble one. This is where balance must come into play and solutions should be found to ensure both neighbours are happy - it's community 101.
As people become more environmentally aware, traditionally rural practices are migrating into more urban settings - backyard beekeeping, hens and more. When people wanted to have urban hens in Cochrane the community backlash was enormous and still the fight to allow the clucking critters continues.
There are no town bylaws governing bees, and we are not ones to advocate for more regulations in an increasingly over-regulated world, that is why it is so important that people begin remembering the importance of community. These types of situations only hit the media and lead to lawmakers getting involved when people are at their wits end. Sometimes they are justified, sometimes they are not. In this case we have a mother, who has a BSc in Biology (so her opinion does have grounding in fact) wanting better management of nearby bees.
We all should have the right to enjoy our hard-earned pieces of the world as we see fit, but we should also do so respectfully of the people around us trying to do the same.
When we can have mutual respect, we avoid having it forced upon us.