In the USA, municipal governments have laws in place that help regulate activities within its jurisdiction. These laws are sometimes referred to as “municipal code” or more commonly known as “ordinances”. If you are at least somewhat interested in the law of bees and beekeeping or if you are actively trying to figure out how to change your own city’s laws on beekeeping, this article is for you.
The first step in changing your city’s beekeeping ordinance and starting along the path of legalizing beekeeping in your city if to check your to see what your city’s ordinances say.
You can call your City and ask them for information on the City’s current stance on beekeeping. Please don’t call 911. Find the phone number for the non-emergency services department of your city instead. It is possible that the City Clerk will have the information you need. The City Clerk serves as a liaison between the public and City Council (board of aldermen / council people). If the Clerk does not know off hand, they will most likely refer you to the proper resource where you can look it up for yourself. Remember where this is. Print it, save the link, save the exact location so you don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for it again later.
Most cities will have their ordinances published online. Some will simply be in PDF format, but a majority will be found in a searchable online database.
There are various online code hosting services that act as a repository of digital documents that allow the city to meet their legal publishing requirements. The codes published in these online portals usually contain the most accurate and up-to-date information. The City’s website will most likely contain a link to the appropriate documents.
See the animated graphic below for an example of how the City of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin has a link on their website to their searchable online ordinance database on municode.com:
Once you find the place where the city stores their ordinances, you’ll want to search for mentions of bees, beekeeping, animals, apiaries or insects. What we’ve found is that if the city prohibits beekeeping, it will most likely be expressly written as such, however, sometimes you’ll have to dig a little deeper. There are a few possibilities that might exist in varying degrees of flexibility or restriction – which you’ll definitely want to study in depth for yourself.