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Bees irk residents

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012
Bee hives
JASON OXENHAM
BUZZ OFF: Queenstown Rd resident Gerry Dillen says 30 hives is too many for a residential area and he wants to see them removed quickly.

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Beekeepers Sara and Dallas Russ are working to remove a large cluster of hives from an Onehunga paddock after complaints from neighbours.

Queenstown Rd resident Gerry Dillen and his wife discovered about 50 hives in a field across the road from their home while walking their dog about six weeks ago.

They soon realised the bees were the source of sticky yellow spots that had been appearing on their windows, cars and washing.

"It affects our quality of life. I don't want to have to keep washing the car to get bee excrement off it," Mr Dillen says.

Another neighbour, who does not want to be named, says he cannot open his windows during warm days because of the number of bees flying around.

His Queenstown Rd property backs on to the big Herd Rd plot which houses the hives.

"If you open the windows the bees fly in," he says.

Mr Dillen is allergic to bees and is concerned he or another vulnerable person will get stung.

He says one neighbouring woman was distraught when bees swarmed on her property. The swarm had to be removed professionally.

There were also reports of a swarm causing the closure of the garden section of a hardware store on Sunday.

Mr Dillen complained to the Auckland Council in early October, saying bylaws allow only one beehive to be kept on an urban property unless the consent of an officer has been arranged.

The bylaw also says hives are not to be sited in a way that will cause a nuisance to any person.

Beekeeper Mrs Russ says she was not aware of the disgruntled residents until she went to introduce herself earlier this month.

"I went around to a few of the neighbours to give them some honey and explain that it was swarming season, and not to be alarmed if they saw swarms," she says.

"That's when I realised people were unhappy."

Mrs Russ and her husband rent the Herd Rd plot from KiwiRail.

"We are always looking for places to put hives and KiwiRail put their hands up and let us lease the land.

"We thought that would be a good spot because it had coverage from the trees. We didn't think it would cause a problem."

They say when they realised the dilemma they swiftly removed about 20 of the hives in an act of good faith. They say they had not originally intended to put so many hives in one spot but extenuating circumstances meant they had to place all 50 on to the property.

Mrs Russ teaches in-school bee education and is clearly passionate about the role bees play in the ecosystem - pollinating trees and plants in local gardens.

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"We are just trying to do our bit for the environment," she says.

The Russes aim to keep 10 to 15 hives in little spots around the city, and are looking for places that are not too exposed or close to homes.

A spokesman for the Auckland Council says it is aware of the issue and is working on decreasing the number of beehives on the plot.

"Council officers have been working with the beekeeper to reduce the number of hives down to the permitted one. Hive numbers have, as a result, been cut by more than half the original number."

He says that by November 30 all but one of the hives should be removed.

Mr Dillen says it is not an acceptable resolution, and that the bees should be removed over the weekend.

But the Russes say moving the remaining 30 hives is a big job and they need time to find suitable locations.

- Central Leader

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