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Urban Beekeeping

Onalaska Family gets permit for beekeeping

Urban Beekeeping

ONALASKA, Wis. - This is Bee week and it couldn't come at a better time. Populations of bees in Wisconsin have plummeted in recent years.

According to the U-S-D-A there has been a 60-percent die-off of bees in this state alone.

They are some of our most important workers... pollinating some 55-million-dollars in crops each year here.

So what can we do to help bees survive and thrive? One family in Onalaska is the first in our area to become urban beekeepers.

This is the sound of a new hobby for Onalaska's Deanna Ebbert.
After raising her two children the past 15 years, she thought she'd try her hand at raising bees.

Ebbert says, " I just kind of wanted to have the education of being able to learn about it first hand and have my kids learn about it because I think they are amazing creatures".

Creatures whose future could be in jeopardy.

"I definitely think there's a need. I think it's really concerning. When you hear about the crazy numbers of bee colonies that are collapsing," says Ebbert. 

Ebbert's hobby has a very serious side.

60-percent of Wisconsin's bee population died-off in the winter of 2015 according to the U-S-D-A. An alarming rate that has a real impact on people.  

According to Sunshine Love, the Forest Management Coordinator for the  La Crosse Parks and Recreation Department, "One of every three bites of food is dependent on a pollinator".

Deanna knew it was an issue and decided to be the first person in Onalaska to get permission to raise bees.

"All of our neighbors were either really supportive or neutral, so no one had any issues to prevent us from doing it, so we were happy about that, " says Ebberts.

Joe Chilsen the Mayor of Onalaska says, "This is the first time that anyone can remember that we had somebody come before the city in front of the planning commission for the raising of bees"!  

The conditional use Permit costs 250-dollars and the process took about 3 months, but the Ebbert's total investment is about a thousand dollars. An investment that can be described as tenuous at best.

"I may not have any of the same bees a year from now or two years from now because there are just so many things that can happen", according to Ebbert..

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says stress, pesticides, pathogens and parasites are the biggest threat to bees. 
So it may take the care and grass root efforts of people like Deanna along with her two children 15-year-old Alia and 12-year-old Lawson to save our dwindling number of bees.

Ebberts pointed out, "All the production of the comb, all the feeding of the babies, all the gathering of everything, the making of the honey its all done by the females".

And the idea that if the bees have a problem then we have a problem too, isn't lost on the Ebberts.

Ebberts says, "It's about the whole colony, and not just individuals. I think there is a lot of symbolism for me."


This past week the city of la Crosse passed its own ordinance allowing people within city limits to have beehives with a permit.

And if you don't want to raise bees there are other things you can do in your yard to help pollinators.

We have a long list of plants you can add to your yard that help bees and other pollinators thrive.


Plants recommended for Native Wisconsin Bees: (Wisconsin DNR)

Aster (Aster)
Beardtongue (Penstemon)
Beebalm (Monarda)
Blazing star (Liatris)
Cup plant (Silphium)
Wild indigo (Baptisia)
Fireweed (Chamerion)
Goldenrod (Solidago)
Giant hyssop (Agastache)
Ironweed (Vernonia)
Joe pye weed (Eupatorium)
Leadplant (Amorpha)
Lobelia (Lobelia)
Lupine (Lupinus)
Milkweed (Asclepias)
New Jersey tea (Ceanothus)
Obedient plant (Physostegia)
Prairie clover (Dalea)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea)
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium)
Spiderwort (Tradescantia)
Steeplebush (Spiraea)
Sunflower (Helianthus)
Willow (Salix)
Here are some garden plants that are also bee-friendly. Supplement these with native species:

Basil (Ocimum)
Borage (Borago)
Catnip (Nepeta)
Cosmos (Cosmos)
Lavender (Lavandula)
Oregano (Origanum)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
Russian sage (Perovskia)
Spearmint (Mentha)
Squill (Scilla)


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