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Honeybees’ ability to pollinate makes them a valuable contributor to some agricultural crops in Napa Valley, so Napa County wants to make their life a little easier.

The Board of Supervisors voted Dec. 18 to relax some of the restrictions on keeping bees in the unincorporated area, and local beekeepers are hoping that other jurisdictions in the county will follow suit.

Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Greg Clark told the supervisors that some of the current regulations were outdated and overly restrictive, including some that prohibited keeping bees within 600 feet of a home, or 300 feet of a road.

The Local Food Advisory Council was examining ways to promote agricultural systems that produce local foods, and supporting healthy populations of local bees was one of the strategies the council is supporting, Clark said.

“Bees are important as pollinators,” Clark said. “It would be a model ordinance for the other jurisdictions to consider.”

The Napa County Beekeepers Association devised some best-management practices for beekeeping, which directs that hives should be kept as far away from neighborhoods as possible to keep them from being a nuisance.

The association promotes using screens, trees, fencing, or barriers to influence bees’ flightpaths, and reduce the chances for contact with people or animals. It advocates keeping a maximum of three colonies per quarter acre, and a maximum of 10 colonies per acre.

It says that colonies should also be managed to prevent swarming, relocating defensive bee colonies, providing stable sources of water to colonies, and prevent pests or diseases from harming them.

Clark said the average beekeeper in Napa County does so as a hobbyist, although some commercial beekeepers are based locally.

Rob Keller, a local beekeeper, told the supervisors that bees are under environmental stresses, and urged the supervisors to adopt the ordinance, which included the best practices. Keller said Napa County’s ordinance lagged some other North Bay towns in terms of its bee-friendliness.

“It’s very challenging to be a bee out in the countryside,” Keller said. “People just want to be part of the solution.”

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