2017-04-27 12:59:25

Annoying neighbors come in all forms, but a couple in eastern China has terrorized the people around them in a unique way: with a swarm of pet bees.

Worst of all, the couple’s neighbors have discovered that beekeeping is a legal gray area for which several government departments in Hangzhou, capital of Zheijang province, have denied responsibility, local newspaper Hangzhou Daily reported Wednesday.

The bees’ owners reportedly have 26 hives full of the animals in their yard, and their bees have also started colonies on other properties in the neighborhood. Removal of these new hives has resulted in stings and thousands of yuan in medical bills, neighbors said. Some have said they are afraid to open their windows.

After failing to reach an agreement with the couple, neighbors turned to the government for help. Hangzhou’s department of agriculture indicated that its only responsibility is to provide technical guidance for the beekeeping industry, while the urban management department said that bees fall outside of its jurisdiction because they are insects rather than livestock.

According to the Beekeeping Supervision Measures, a document that took effect in 2012, beekeeper certification is currently voluntary.

China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine currently only regards dogs and cats as pets. However, more and more Chinese people have started keeping other, more exotic animals in their homes, Mary Peng, CEO and founder of the Beijing-based International Center for Veterinary Services, told Sixth Tone.

Peng and her coworkers have seen customers bring in all kinds of animals for treatment, including lizards, flying squirrels, hedgehogs, snakes, turtles, alligators, and monkeys. “Most of the veterinarians in China right now don’t have the skills to care for these exotic animals,” she said.

Peng added that many of these exotic animals also carry germs and parasites that might transmit infectious skin diseases or respiratory diseases to their owners and the people around them.

When problems involving exotic or otherwise unusual pets arise, China’s Tort Liability Law states that “animal keepers or managers shall bear tort liability for causing damage to others when no safety measures have been taken in regard to the animals.” Yet the law doesn’t make clear which department should take responsibility for handling such cases when they occur.

The Procuratorate Daily — the official newspaper of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, China’s public investigator and prosecutor — published a commentary on Thursday saying that the legal loophole surrounding exotic pets should be closed.

“Raising bees might seem like a unique case, but what if someone keeps other unusual animals as pets, such as ants, frogs, and earthworms, that cause trouble for other people?” the article asked. “Both sides will inevitably have conflicts, which will affect social harmony and stability.”

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: Bees crawl on a piece of honeycomb at a farm in the Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Aug. 23, 2017. Li Shengli/IC)