Under the Dome

Approval of ‘birds and the bees act’ sought by three NC senators

Bees help plants and crops reproduce as they transfer pollen while flying from spot to spot.
Bees help plants and crops reproduce as they transfer pollen while flying from spot to spot. AP

Three state senators are hoping their idea for the “birds and the bees act” will win support in the state legislature.

That’s the short title of a law proposed by Wesley Meredith, Brent Jackson and Tamara Barringer, all Republicans.

Its subject matter isn’t what you might think.

The long title is more cumbersome and less titillating. It runs 34 words: “An act to clarify the authority of local governments to adopt ordinances related to bee hives and to require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to study strategies for protecting and supporting pollinators.”

If passed, the bill would stop counties, cities and towns from adopting ordinances that prohibit anyone from owning or possessing five or fewer bee hives.

Many towns regulate the number of bee hives. Cary, for example, has a sliding scale allowing from two to eight hives depending on lot size. The city of Raleigh’s ordinance says a maximum of two bee hives are permitted.

The proposed law would also require the agriculture department’s study to look at ways to “increase habitat for pollinators, including birds and insects,” on farmland, transportation rights-of-way and utility easements across North Carolina.

Bees play a crucial role in helping plants and crops reproduce through pollination.

Government agencies and university researchers have been expressing concern about a decline in honey bees and other pollinators.

Bee losses are attributed to a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder in which bees abandon their hives. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that, without bees, many plants and food crops would die off and it has urged policymakers to act.

A spokesman for the state’s agriculture department said the bill wasn’t sought by the department.

Jeff Warren, an aide to Senate leader Phil Berger, came up with the bill’s title, according to Jackson, a watermelon farmer whose district east of Raleigh includes major farming operations, and Barringer, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who lives in Cary. Meredith is a landscaping company owner from Fayetteville.

“He claims he was simply trying to top the Opossum Right-To-Work Act, which he also named,” Jackson said.

If they’d named it the “allow five or fewer bee hive act,” or the “increase habitat for pollinators” act, you probably wouldn’t be reading about it right now.