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Don’t Bee Cruel: Item Calls to Relocate, Not Eradicate, Feral Bee Colonies

Pointing to their value as pollinators, a City Council item discourages eradication of feral bees.
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Pointing to their value as pollinators, a City Council item discourages eradication of feral bees.

A resolution on the Austin City Council agenda this Thursday has the city buzzing.  

Item 19 seeks to protect Austin bees, by essentially codifying a long-standing but informal practice of relocating wild colonies instead of exterminating them.

Joe Staudt, program supervisor for Health and Human Services’ Environmental Health Services department, said that every spring bees start thriving in Austin. People end up calling pest removal companies and have them eradicate the bee hives – which could prove detrimental in the long run.

The resolution before council is “just putting into writing essentially what we’ve been doing for years,” Staudt tells KUT. When someone calls the city to report a feral hive or bee swarm, they’ll be advised that it’s preferable to relocate the bees instead of destroying them, and then they’ll be provided a list of companies that can help.

“Some people would just prefer to call a commercial pest control company and have them eradicated,” Staudt says. “The resolution just says we would prefer removal and relocation over eradication. We always point that out to individuals who call.”

This isn’t the first time the city’s ventured into the bee business. In November, the council passed a resolution to look at city codes and ordinances “which may result in furthering the decline of honeybees.” Tomorrow’s resolution is one of the results of that initiative.

The decline of bees across the U.S. and the globe has become so widespread it has a name: colony collapse disorder, which can negatively affect farming and food production.

“Bees are kind of a vital part of the ecosystem,” Staudt says. “They pollinate lots of fruits and vegetables. They pretty much keep to themselves, and of course, the honey is good to have.”

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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