Nevada Neighbors at Bitter Odds Over 'Pet' Honey Bees

"They [bees] are not looking to hurt anyone,” says their owner.

ByPatrick Clarke
June 10, 2016, 4:37 PM

— -- A stinging battle over honey bees has been brewing among some Nevada residents, and there is nothing sweet about it.

David Sharpless of Henderson, about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas, is going all out to protect his city-given right to keep his "pet" bees. But two of his neighbors, BJ Hulet and Hayley Jeeter, are also going all out -- to have the buzzers relocated.

"We can't enjoy our backyard," Hulet told ABC News. "In Nevada, in the summer, it's hot. You want to go out and enjoy your pool and it's pretty impossible."

Hulet, who moved into the neighborhood two years ago, said he started noticing the unwanted guests in his backyard about a year ago. He says he tried talking to Sharpless after his 3-year-old son was stung twice in their pool.

"[Sharpless] stood there and said, 'You can't prove they’re mine,'" Hulet said. "I said, 'You gotta do something about it.' He said, 'They are friendly and they’ve never stung anyone before.'"

"I'm not gonna say my bees don't go to their pool," Sharpless told ABC News, "but 100 percent of the bees they see are not really mine. No one can say for sure that the bee was mine."

Sharpless describes his bees as gentle, and says raising them is a hobby he enjoys.

"They are not looking to hurt anyone," Sharpless said. "They have no interest in hurting anybody."

Jeeter lives right next to Sharpless. She said she noticed the bees the moment she moved into the neighborhood three years ago, and that they have been nothing but a nuisance.

"We are trying to find ways to prevent the bees from coming into our backyard, so we are trying to do the best we can," Jeeter, who has three young children, told ABC News. "Anytime we are in the backyard we have to bring fly swatters. Sometimes we start a fire pit."

Keith Paul, a spokesperson with the city, said the state carried out several investigations of the situation, and while he can understand the frustration of residents, it was determined that Sharpless was allowed to keep his bees because they did not reach the nuisance level or security threat as described by Hulet and Jeter.

"We have been dealing with those neighbors [those who filed complaints] for a year and a half now," Paul told ABC News. "The state agriculture department came in and found that they [the bees] were not Africanized." Africanized bees, also known as "killer bees," are a hybrid of honey bees of European stock and bees of African stock, and are much more aggressive.

"We are not discounting the complaints from the residents," Paul added, "but we can only go by what experts find at the time."

A statement from the Nevada Department of Agriculture notes that three state employed experts, an entomologist and two agricultural inspectors, visited Sharpless' property at 7:30 p.m. on June 17, 2015, and found five hives present.

"During the inspection, the colonies were not overly aggressive or agitated," the statement read, concluding that the colonies were not Africanized at the time of inspection.

Jeeter said she doesn't understand how the city can allow Sharpless to raise bees in the neighborhood since they are not contained to his property alone. She said the nuisance is enough for her to consider moving, and that she is planning on doing just that.

"We can't get the city on our side, so we are left feeling despondent about what we can do to secure a backyard space," Jeeter said.

"We respect Dave," she added. "We don’t want to trample on his rights, but you can't believe that an animal is going to stay in a wall-bricked area that has wings."

Paul said the dissatisfied residents have been advised that beyond filing a complaint with the city, there are civil remedies available to them.

"Our complaint is that it’s a wonderful vocation, it's just in the wrong location," Jeeter said.

"It's not like we have a grudge against this guy," Hulet added.

Sharpless said he is not insensitive to his neighbors, and that he is somewhat concerned, but pointed out that besides Hulet and Jeeter, no one else has complained.

"They are trying to control what I do in my yard," Sharpless said. "I don’t tell them they can't have screaming kids in their yard in the afternoon. Everyone has a right to do what they want to do in their yard."

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