Hive Anxiety

To bee or not to bee? Denver's zoning department just answered that question.

Marion argued his position before the zoning department's Board of Adjustment last October.

"I believe he made a very strong case," recalls Senior Zoning Specialist Charles Meredith. "He and his witnesses were very careful to calm people's fears regarding the aggressive behavior of what people think are bees. And we were moved by the current status of the bee mite and the population of bees."

This, no doubt, was due to star witness Jerry Webb, who weighed in with a stirring speech about the dangers of a bee-less community. "I told them they're gonna end up sterile," Webb recalls. "I told them about the calls I get from master gardeners, saying hey, all my fruit trees are in bloom, and where are the bees? I told them people did not realize how many feral colonies used to live in all those cottonwood trees along the Highline Canal, and that they're all gone. We asked them for their support."

And in a move that still stuns and delights Webb, they got it. On December 13 Marion was granted permission to keep his hives. According to Meredith, Marion's was the first such zoning exception granted in at least forty years--possibly the first since domestic bees were "common and customary." To qualify for it, Marion had to install a six-foot-high screened fence and get the signed approval of certain neighbors and the Denver health department. He has already carried out those orders. In fact, he says, most of his neighbors had no idea bees were living on the block, and once they knew, they didn't care.

"I am not the savior of bees," he cautions. "I don't even know that much about bees yet. But the other day it warmed up a little and they began to fly a little, and that was a good thing to see.

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