When this newspaper last left the subject of bee droppings, it was a high-level dispute with international repercussions over whether the yellow rain reported in Southeast Asia was chemical warfare by the Soviet Union or the innocent droppings of bees. We never got a final answer.

Now the issue has moved closer to home, minus the chemical warfare allegations.

A bill pending before the Baltimore County Council would limit the number and siting of beehives that can be kept on residential property: one for up to a quarter acre lot, four for a full acre.

The reason, proponents say, is that the bees drop "yellow gunk" as they fly.

"You can't leave a car outside," said Jean Brewer, who lives next door to a beekeeper. "You put the laundry out and it gets on the clothes."

Beekepers Oscar and Pearl Lowery, who have kept bees for 24 years, take the opposite side, saying that without the bees "you won't have any pollination for vegetables." Besides, they contend, a heavy rain will wash the yellow away.

The County Council will vote on the issue next week. About 200 of Maryland's 2,106 registered beekeepers live in the suburban county.