This story appears in today's Boston Globe in a section for north of Boston.
To bee or not to bee splits neighborhood
By Meredith Goldstein, Globe Staff, 4/15/2004
Patricia Watson has been stung by bees four times in her life. Each time, she says, she has wound up in the emergency room.
She is allergic to bees, avoids them at all costs, and now 80,000 of them may be moving next door.
"They can't be leashed or fenced in like a dog," Watson said to Rowley selectmen, who heard her concerns Monday night. "They're wild."
Bees have divided the Hillside Street neighborhood in Rowley. On Monday night, Watson, came to selectmen armed with a petition signed by neighbors, copies of the state public nuisance law, and a note from her doctor about what a bee sting might do to her.
On the other side of the bee battle are the Lesinskis. Vinny and Lauren Lesinski are bee enthusiasts. They moved to Rowley from Beverly, where they now keep their bees, so that they would have a wide-open space for tending to their hives. They say their bees are gentle creatures and that their hobby shouldn't put Hillside neighbors at risk. They want to keep an apiary in their backyard. As of now, the couple would not be breaking any laws by bringing the bees to town.
Watson wants the town to not only stop the Lesinskis from bringing their bees to Rowley, but to prevent other beekeepers in town from keeping hives close to residences. She asked to place a proposed ordinance before Town Meeting voters, but the warrant for the annual Town Meeting is already closed.
The Lesinskis, who came to the meeting with members of the Essex County Beekeepers Association, say they plan to bring the bees to their 1.1-acre property sometime this spring.
Vinny Lesinski said it would be safer to keep bees close to his home, as opposed to another property that he would have to travel to by car.
"The hive is healthier because you can better manage it," he said.
Vinny Lesinski said he believes he has been a good neighbor and did warn at least one abutter about his plans. He said Watson learned of the hives from his wife Lauren during a neighborhood function and since then, the two sides have not been able to compromise about the apiary.
"At this point, we realize we're not going to have a rational conversation about this," he said.
Selectman A.J. Paglia heard opinions from both sides of the bee issue Monday night. He told the neighbors that the discussion would be continued at the April 26 selectmen's meeting. Paglia advised the residents that they should discuss the issue before the next meeting and try to find a compromise. He believes one can be reached.
"It seemed like a reasonable group of people," he said.
Paglia said that regardless of the outcome of this bee issue, Watson may resubmit a proposed nuisance bylaw setting limits on beekeeping for the fall Town Meeting. As part of a packet of evidence, Watson submitted a cease and desist order from Marblehead that was issued to a resident, David Martin, of Susan Road, in 1997. The order, from Wayne Attridge of the town's Health Department, demanded that Martin stop his beekeeping because of its public safety risk. She told selectmen that there are other communities across the country that either prohibit apiaries from residential properties or place limits on beekeepers for public safety.
Paglia said that as of now, he does not see a need for a local bylaw for bees. There have been many beekeepers in Rowley, he said. This is the first complaint he's heard of.
"Usually, when someone submits a bylaw, it's because of a pattern of problems," he said.
Both sides have submitted testimony from neighbors.
Barbara Ingham, of Longwood Avenue in Peabody, wrote a letter supporting the Lesinskis and their bees. Ingham said the couple has hosted her family on a tour of their hives.
"My children and I observed firsthand the gentleness of honeybees and now have a greater understanding of their important role in the natural environment," Ingham's letter states.
Another letter, from Lillabeth Wies, who served as superintendent of Long Hill Estate, a Trustees of Reservations property where the Lesinskis have kept their hives, states that the couple's bees never harmed visitors to the site.
"No one has ever been bothered, including Long Hill visitors, staff or my family," she states in the letter.
Watson has also produced letters. Several are from neighbors farther down Hillside Street who live near another apiary.
Michael and Erica Bagley of Hillside Street wrote a letter to selectmen expressing their general concern about what they say is a problem that already exists in the neighborhood. The letter states that Michael Bagley has been attacked by a swarm of bees in his yard.
"Fear of one's life in one's own yard is a terrible thought," the letter states.
Paglia said if a compromise isn't reached before the next meeting, he and selectmen will vote to determine whether the issue merits consideration by the Board of Health, which governs public nuisance complaints.
Watson said if the arrival of the bees isn't stopped, her quality of life on Hillside Street will change.
"I will be forced to be confined to my home," Watson said at the meeting. "The Lesinskis may be willing to risk my health but I'm not."
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the end, the world will either be full of bees or there won't be a world.
I am sorry, but I have to agree with her concerns. In fact, I would like to see gardening banned as flowering plants attract bees. I also think that anyone with a lawn should have to pave it over and all trees cut to eliminate the hazards of people getting stung. And automobiles should be banned because I am sure there are some in the town who are allergic to being run over. And any water container over 8 oz. should be banned for the safety of those who are allergic to being submerged for over 5 minutes at a time. And any water container that is 8 oz or smaller should be emptied and rinsed at 10 minute intervals for those who are allergic to west Nile virus and other mosquito-born diseases. And anyone not a legal adult should be required to live in a glass bubble until the age when they can make mature decisions regarding the hazards they face on a daily basis.
But then I believe that it is my responsibility to take care of everyone for no one should be responsible for their own safety.
1. move out and rent the house to a fraternity that has been kicked off campus. offer to kick them out when his bees are welcome in the neighborhood.
2. move out and rent the house to a crack dealer so his next door neighbor will have a real reason to stay indoors.
3. set up cameras and obtain photographic evidence of bees or wasps flying from the neighbors yard into his. then file serial lawsuits for negligence and reckless endangerment.
4. propose a town ordinance banning automobiles. emergency rooms are full of automobile passengers.
5. plant a kudzu vine on the shared fence. soon enough the neighbor won't be able to FIND her house.
6. join one of those religions that advertise in the back of magazines, become an ordained minister, sign the house over the ministry and just watch them try to zone you out.
7. put empty hives in the back yard with plenty of swarm lure. might get lucky and a wild hive could take up residence. sue the town council for failure to protect you.
8. buy a billygoat. soon enough the neighbor will be asking for bees to keep the goat out of her yard.
9. introduce all the other neighbors into beekeeping, giving out lessons, starter hives and nucs. start a neighborhood honey festival to raise money for children who need to go to the hospital with real symptoms.
10. give up beekeeping and take up christmas light decorating. start your display the day after halloween and don't take the lights down all year. leave the lights on all night so the traffic jams last until midnight on good friday. invite your hick beekeeping friends to drive their RV's up to camp in your front yard for all major holidays.
Having been alerted to this thread recently, I must say I am a bit embarrassed over the replies posted. I see nothing in the article that ought to cause one to think the neighbor (Watson) has unwarranted concerns. Why do we automatically assume the person who doesn't like bees "just doesn't understand?" Why shouldn't she be very concerned about beehives being kept next door after having been stung 4 times and having near anaphylactic reactions? Laws can't make two neighbors live peacefully with each other. Only a compassion and concern for others can do that. Frankly, I am often ashamed at how people will place more importance on their bees than on a relationship with neighbors. I know this goes both ways and I have no idea what conversations have taken place between the two, but personally, I would keep my bees somewhere else if I had a neighbor that was very agitated by their presence, especially since we know past experiences of allergic reactions.
If Mrs. Watson were to join this board and express her thoughts, would saying "your medications need adjusting" be civil? Would making light of any of her concerns be civil? I think not. I have a mind to see if she would be willing to voice her comments on this board so we can all better understand this problem.
I can certainly see her concern but whether the hives are in the next bit of property or a few miles away there is always the possibility of bees around especially in the time of honeyflow. Of course she will have greater exposure if the hives are nearby verses a foraging bee passing by. I live in a small town on a small lot and may face somthing similar someday. Hopefully everyone can be adult enough to work this out to everyones benefit. The last thing anyone needs is bad publicity for beekeepers
[This message has been edited by oregonsparkie (edited April 26, 2004).]
I had a few hives behind my office in town. One day a guy comes in and asks who owned the hives. I said I did. He asked me if I was moving them anytime soon, as he didn't want to call the township as a first response. I asked why the concern, and did anyone get stung. He said no, but he noticed that his recently planted flowers were attracting the bees and that he had kids, and was concerned. I mentioned that flowers did tend to attract honeybees, and also wasps, hornets and the like. That honeybees seldom sting, and moving my hives may not eliminate all bees from his backyard.
Normally I would take on a challenge such as this, but I was moving/eliminating this apiary location anyways, and figured the his hysteria may turn it into something much more. Shows how ignorant the public is about the honeybee and its contributions. Also says that each beekeeper needs to help educate the public more.
When every third person you mention bees to tells you they are allergic to stings,you tend to get very skeptical of these claims.Lots of people who think they are,arent.Those who truly are face a life threatening problem,whether or not the neighbor has bees ,and should have a doctor prescribe a kit for them.They may not always be within 30 minutes of a doctor.
To Hobbee and Luke,
I am the person referred to in the article. I was offended by your disparaging comments and your assumptions that I am not allergic to bees, and am just mentally unstable. As the article mentioned, I presented a letter from my dr. confirming my bee allergy. I do have an epi-pen, would be willing to use it if necessary. However, I also have asthma and hypertension so using the epi-pen could kill me.
Luke, I have been stung 4 times in my life, and each time has landed me in the er. I get profound swellling which lasts for weeks, a body rash and hives. I am terrified at the prospect of having 80,000 bees next door. A kind neighbor about a mile down the street has offered to house the bees in a field of goldenrod and loostrife. It would be a 3 minute drive from their house, and reduce the risk to me, but my
neighbors are unwilling. I have lived in this neighborhood for 8 years, and always been a good neighbor to others. All but two of my neighbors supports me and are astounded by the lack of compassion exhibited by our new neighbors. When I originally mentioned I had a bee allergy, the wife said "but you will have more flowers." If the bees come, I will be confined to my home all summer. My husband, who has a bad back, will have to assume the maintenance of my garden. When I mentioned at the last meeting that I may have to sell my home, my neighbors heard the beekeepers in the back of the room snicker. These people are destroying the harmony of our neighborhood, alientating themselves from everyone in the neighborhood, and are definitely giving beekeepers a bad names.
This is definitely not how to be a good neighbor. Where is the human compassion?
I had the exact same concerns when I started in my neighborhood. Having bees everywhere.
Since I aquired my hive I see very few honeybees, even on all of the dandelions and fruittree flowers in the yard, slightly more than before. They all head out somewhere else.
80,000 bees is a lot, but spread over about 16 square miles that isn't all that many. A three minute drive away will probably mean just as many bees in your yard as right next door, since they travel up to 7 miles. And if we got rid of all stinging insects, we'd have few or no fruits and vegetables and lots and lots of garden pests and spiders.
On the other hand, the bumblebees, mason bees, sweat bees, and wasps of all sorts threaten me on a daily basis. Wasps in the house all the time, always in the shed and scare the heebe-geebees out of me and bumble/carpenter bees are trying to build nests all over the place and are REALLY menacing.
With all due respect, unless the beehive is right on your property line there is only as much risk of being stung as you've lived with there for the last 8 years.
Have you discussed with the Lesinskis ways to minimize any disturbances from the bees? If any of my neighbors have a problem with my honey bees, I hope they come to me first and try to work it out. I am much less likely to fight, and more likely to work it out and even move them if needed.
I understand your plight, but I also understand the defensive behaviour when someone threatens our interests, on both sides of the aisle.
The main key is coolheadedness / understanding on both sides. I know you may think that that I am just a propagandizer for the beekeepers, but I really do understand both sides since I thought a lot about this before trying beekeeping, and this did concern me highly.
[This message has been edited by kookaburra (edited April 26, 2004).]
[This message has been edited by kookaburra (edited April 26, 2004).]
Flowergirl, just out of curiosity, how did your doctor determine you were allergic to honeybee stings, as opposed to wasps, etc.? I was diagnosed as allergic to bees, and have a prescription for an epi-pen, but I believe they were mistaken, as I've been stung frequently with no reaction other than localized swelling, itching etc.
To Hobbee and Luke,
I promised Mrs. Watson that should she join the Board, I would then have to consider your two posts to be uncivil to her as a member and would delete them. That I have done. I hope we can have a well grounded discussion about this problem as it is one that a lot of us have faced, or will face, eventually. I have invited the Essex County Beekeepers Association to add their input, along with the Lesinski's. I sure hate to see something like this go to the point where the government has to get involved. I think Rick says things very well regarding this story. I hope we all can play a positive role in helping to bring about a peaceable solution to this problem.
First I would like to thank you for deleting the offensive messages.
Loggermike, FYI over 2 mill. people in the US are allergic to stinging insects and are at risk for an anaphlyactic reaction. There are others who discover they are allergic when they are stung. Bee stings account for most of the deaths, because there is a higher concentration of protein in bee venom.
As for how I found out I was allergice to bees, bees leave their stinger behind, while wasps do not. The bees left being their calling cards.
I did attempt to work this out with my neighbor without getting the town involved. I gave her some
literature about bee allergies, and offered to find an alternative site. I recruited one of my neighbors to try to act as a mediator. I only went to the town when she said "the bees are coming." When I told her I was allergic, she said "but your garden will have more flowers." At the meeting, her husband said "everyone is allergic to bees," which suggests an utter
lack of understanding of bee allergies. They have a hilly, narrow one acre lot. They did agree at the first meeting to move the hive away from my kitchen window to the other side of their lot, but it is still less than 150 ft from my house. After my previous experiences, I am fearful of being stung again, and would not be comfortable being outdoors if the bees are in their yard. My family typically eats outdoors on our deck all summer, weather permitting. This will not longer be possible either.
Over 20 of my neighbors are supporting me on this.
The Lesinskis have few supporters in the neighborhood. We have been fortunate until now to live in a neighborhood where people care for each other. When my daughter was hospitalized, people brought over casseroles, we hold an annual holiday open house, another neighbor holds a cook out in the summer. The list goes on. Many of our neighbors are sadden by the lack of compassion shown by the Lesinskis, as are we.
Needless to say, this controversy has caused tremendous emotional turmoil in our neighborhood. These types of situations give beekeepers a bad name.
Something else to keep in mind. My son stepped on a honeybee while running barefoot in our yard and got stung. He had been stung before without any abnormal reaction. Just slight swelling. However, this time he did have a severe reaction and developed hives and became lethargic. We took him to the ER and they immediately gave him an IV of epinephrine as he was swelling all over. Interestingly, he has been stung by honeybees since then and has never had another severe reaction. I continued to keep my bees on the property, but I also was keeping a close eye on them and him and would not hesitate to move them had he ever had another allergic reaction.
I think this shows just how unpredictable this whole issue of allergic reactions is and having had previous severe reactions doesn't automatically mean one will always have them from that point on. Nor do I assume my son won't have a bad reaction again in the future. Personally I don't think doctors know as much as they come across knowing about allergies and severe reactions. There doesn't seem to be solid consistency in results. Bottom line is, no one knows for sure when one might have a severe reaction to a bee sting and we should assume the worst for everyone else if we won't for ourselves.
It's a no-brainer that if you have a hive of bees within a few hundred yards of a garden, you will increase the bee to flower visitation greatly, thus increasing the likelihood of getting stung when working the garden. However, knowing the nature of honeybees, I would say one is just as likely to get stung by any other stinging insect as you would a honeybee. Honeybees by nature are non-aggressive when foraging, unlike hornets and wasps.
You are correct that allergic reactions are somewhat unpredictable, but you made the decision to keep the bees in your yard after your son's reaction. If it had not been your son, but rather your neighbor's son, would you have moved the bees?
We don't have much time to discuss this, the meeting is tonight, by the way.
>As for how I found out I was allergice to bees, bees leave their stinger behind, while wasps do not. The bees left being their calling cards.
Then you are in the rare group of people who actually know what stung them. From my experience most people who "think" they were stung by a bee, after some investigation were obviously stung by a hornet or a bumble bee. If the stinger was there then it was a honey bee.
> If it had not been your son, but rather your neighbor's son, would you have moved the bees?
Without a doubt! Public safety should always come first. I would be horrified if a neighbor got stung by a honeybee and was hospitalized over it. For someone to say you can't prove the bee came from my hive shows a lack of commonsense and compassion. The point is, you couldn't prove it didn't come from my hive either.
I was hoping you would say that. I agree with you completely. Now, may I ask what advice you would give to the Lesinskis?
As of now, no bees have been brought in. There is no ordinance on the books. But an nuissance petition has been brought forward??? What is the circumstances of a nuisance complaint when nothing as of yet happened?
I find it amazing that one person has been bit by a honeybee four times in a lifetime with no apparent apiaries in the nieghborhood as of this time. Unbelievable odds.
Some seek limelight on matters for attention. Some people hurt themselves on purposes of pity. Some smother babies to be heroes to thier peers when they "save" the very baby they harm. Some are against "god" in any public forum, yet have never been "harmed" by the word "god". Some people petition, protest, and join any bandwagon, that can attach themselves to something of importance.
I say all that because, most times than not there is always more to the story. More to the personal motive. More than is known.
I do ask what purpose it was to invite a person who is seeking bans and ordinances against beekeeping, and even solicits a beekeeping discussion group as to advise in dealing with the situation. I think education and tolerance by the public is needed. But also a defense for beekeeping as we are a scattered group of poorly representated tradesman, that has been constantly under attack by township enforcement and new laws. Many of which were written by ignaorant or terror minded communities. To me, if there is that many people allergic to bees, than the only alterantive would be the total elimination of beekeeping. Just to be safe.
Whats next, asking PETA to the board?
Now that we've heard from BjornBee, who routinely takes the opposing side for reasons not always known, but for sure because he has the right to do so, I will attempt a reply.
Hard to give advice to an absentee. One would hope that coolheaded conversations between you and the Lesinski's, where each one states their concerns and reiterates the others view so both fully understand each other, would result in the best outcome. The guideline I go by is found in the Bible, Mark 12, which states, "Love your neighbor as yourself." This only has an effect if one believes we are called to a greater standard in life by God. If a neighbor of mine became upset and was directly effected in a negative way by my actions or lifestyle, I would feel responsible to go out of my way to do what I could to stay on loving and peaceable terms with them. It is far easier to move a few beehives than it is for a family to move to a new location or expect them to drastically alter their lifestyle to accommodate my hobby. This is not the Lesinski's livelihood so their survival doesn't depend on these bees. And if it did, they would not be able to keep enough hives on their property, legally, to support an income.
I agree with BjornBee that in general, the public is woefully under educated regarding bee behavior and there are clear cases where the public and officials have over-reacted and caused undue restrictions on the beekeeper. However, in this case, from what I've read, it's a case of who's "rights" should be preserved. The one question we all would have to ask ourselves is, could we live with ourselves if my neighbor informed me ahead of time that she was allergic to honeybees, and one day you found out that neighbor died from a honeybee sting. And save all the "alarmist" accusations. Prior knowledge to a potential problem weighs heavily in the laws of our land. I think the Lesinski's would be assuming a giant liability should the bees be kept on the property.