beeWhen people think of beekeeping on Long Island, they think of vast open space and the farms and apiaries they travel past out east where a jar of local honey can be picked up on the side of the road during the summer season. What most people are not aware of is that, not only are there hundreds of beekeepers caring for several hundred honeybee hives all across Long Island, but also, many municipalities across Long Island have land use controls in place to regulate beekeeping.

Backyard beekeepers, or novice beekeepers as we are sometimes called, have become vital in Long Island’s efforts to reestablish lost colonies of bees and offset the natural decrease in pollination by wild bees over the last few years. Keeping bees dramatically improves pollination, and the honey you can harvest is not the only reward. Today, the value of keeping bees goes well beyond the obvious. Without bees, Long Island would not be able to grow apples, pumpkins, strawberries, tomatoes, onions, carrots and eggplant, just to name a few.

Although mostly permitted in Suffolk County, in recent years, the practice of beekeeping has become more and more popular in Nassau County. Despite being expressly prohibited in Glen Cove, Long Beach, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, the Town of Hempstead, where most of the County’s population resides, and which serves as a model for many of its incorporated villages, permits beekeeping via special exception from its Board of Appeals.

It is the hope of many backyard beekeepers that with increased education for our local officials, and greater awareness by those non-beekeepers, that favorable  beekeeper land use regulations can be implemented across all Long Island Towns, Cities and Villages.

If you do get the go ahead from your local municipality, the Long Island Beekeeper’s Club, which was created in 1949, and today boasts more than sixty members with ten master beekeepers, is a great place to get started. It provides meetings and classes educating beekeepers on what, where and how to become a successful beekeeper.  The Club’s website provides membership information and a schedule of upcoming meetings and classes.

Honeybees are amazing, gentle creatures. They nurture the beauty and fertility of the earth with their gift of pollination.  For Long Island, the good news this season is that our honeybees are making a comeback, a comeback my husband and I are very proud to be a part of.

JeanMarie Killeen is a paralegal in the Land Use & Municipal practice group at Farrell Fritz.