September 20, 2013

When Cail Calder bought a building in Scranton so that he and his wife could bring a beekeeping business to town, he assumed his buzzing moneymakers would be welcome.

His initial inquiries hadn't turned up a conflict, but he later learned Scranton did have an ordinance banning illegal animals. They include donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, cows, llamas, camels, peacocks, lions, tigers, lynx, cheetahs, wolves, badgers, wolverines, skunks, bears, monkeys, alligators, piranhas and "scorpions and other stinging insects" - including bees.

"I said, 'Great. I just bought a building for $35,000. What the hell?'" he said. "I talked to the council, and they decided beekeeping isn't that bad after all."

The council passed an ordinance specifically addressing beekeeping rules and revised its illegal-animals ordinance to allow for exceptions outlined elsewhere in its laws, City Clerk Melinda Hinners said.

Calder relocated to Scranton in November 2012, and the business - Bee Mindful, LLC - introduced bees in late June.

Several months passed between the start of Calder's company and the ordinance changes, although extensive conversations between him and council members had already outlined the inevitable revisions in the law.

"I guess as far as it goes, I was actually breaking the current law, but nobody minded, and there wasn't any issue," he said.

Bee Mindful produces and sells honey and also offers wax products such as lip balm and soap.

"It's been received really well as far as the public goes," Calder said.

With the change in laws, anyone in Scranton can keep bees now if they have a permit and follow the rules outlined in the beekeeping ordinance.

"It just happened to be this company that brought about the change," Calder said.

The beekeeping ordinance includes guidelines for fencing around hives, signs near hives, water provided to bees and the types of queens to be introduced into colonies. It also states that anyone can pay $25 to apply for a beekeeping permit, which much be approved by the council.

"People have a misconception that bees are dangerous, and that's not the case at all," Calder said. "You really have to try to rile them up."