Honeybees have found a new home in Carpentersville.
On Tuesday night, the village board lifted a ban on the insects, which allows residents to raise them in their backyards as a hobby.
At the same time, out of consideration for neighbors, the board also said that no more than one colony per property will be allowed, a 6-foot barrier must be in place if the colony is closer than 25 feet to the property line and water must be provided on site to prevent the honeybees from finding water sources elsewhere.
Finally, the board also recognized that for its purposes, honeybees are not poisonous. Experts and officials said honeybees have gotten a bad rap because they're often lumped in with other creatures that sting.
"They wouldn't be able to pollinate all of nature if their first instinct was to sting because they die if they sting," Village Manager J. Mark Rooney said. "So honeybees are not bees that sting at picnics or the ones that people normally think of ... that do the biting."
Although their venom is only fatal to a small number of people, the law originally said honeybees were no different from other poisonous insects, which made it illegal for residents to keep them in the village.
But the board started reconsidering the ban in April, after a resident asked whether he could keep bees in his backyard as a hobby.
The village denied the man's request, but it prompted trustees to take another look at the honeybee ban.
Experts say the number of honeybees native to Illinois is dwindling, due to the use of pesticides and because some of the plants they depend on for survival are on the decline.
Several trustees are concerned about the population decline and want to do their part to raise their numbers and encourage pollination.
But Trustee Kevin Rehberg said the ban should stay in place because he fears for the 2 percent of the population that is allergic to honeybees. According to his calculations, that works out to 760 Carpentersville residents.
Rehberg also said Dundee Township and the Kane County Forest Preserve District would be in a better position to deal with this issue rather than the village board because, in his view, honeybees would fare better in open space than in a suburban setting like Carpentersville.
"To me, it seems like a much more natural fit," said Rehberg, the only trustee to vote against the proposal.
However, Ritter isn't convinced that bee bites are going to be a big problem in Carpentersville. He also questioned whether his colleagues are overregulating the honeybees.
"I would say dog bites are going to be way more common than bee bites (but) we said we don't really need to license dogs, but now we're going to license bees," Ritter said. "I'm getting to the point where I wonder how safe is safe? ... Some people might say, what are we going to do next, ban peanut butter from the store because kids have peanut butter allergies and they might get peanut butter?"