On a beautiful Indian Summer Sunday, Cellist Jordan Hamilton offers a winter blessing for the hives—Enjoy!
By BETH GARDINER via nytimes.com
LONDON — From coffee to cocoa, and almonds to blueberries, some of the world’s most nutritionally and economically vital food crops are vulnerable to declines caused by catastrophic die-offs of the bees whose pollination is key to their life cycle.
A multitude of factors, most of them linked to the practices of intensive, industrial-scale agriculture, have been driving down populations of both wild species and commercially bred honeybees around the world.
American beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their honeybee colonies last year, the White House says. In the Netherlands, wild bee populations have shrunk 90 percent since record-keeping began about 120 years ago, said David Kleijn, an ecology professor at Wageningen University. Some Chinese farmers have to pollinate apple trees by hand because so few bees remain.
“The bees are just not as healthy as they used to be, so they just don’t do the job,” said Tim Tucker, president of the American Beekeeping Federation. Losses this year in his own hives, at Tuckerbee’s Honey in Kansas, are approaching 40 percent.
The bee crisis is already hampering production in many places, said Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi, a pollination expert at the Universidad Nacional de Rio Negro in Argentina. While output has not declined, per-acre yields of pollinator-dependent crops are not keeping up with the rapid rates of overall growth in agricultural productivity, he said.
That is driving a vicious cycle. With per-acre production failing to keep up with rising demand for food, the amount of land devoted to growing pollinator-dependent crops is expanding, reducing uncultivated space available for the variety of wild plants and flowers that bees need to thrive, Mr. Garibaldi said.
“Pollination deficit is a reality for many crops,” he said.
The bulk of the world’s caloric needs are filled by wind-pollinated or self-pollinating crops like wheat, corn and rice, which do not depend on bees. About a third of global food crops rely on pollinators, mostly bees but occasionally butterflies, birds or bats, said Claire Kremen, faculty co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute at the University of California, citing a 2007 study she co-authored.
What is more, pollinator-dependent foods provide a disproportionate share of important vitamins and minerals, experts say. They include fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, everything from apples, citrus and tomatoes to grapes, cucumbers and broccoli.
Bees are economically vital, too. Bee-dependent crops like coffee and cocoa make up a big chunk of the gross domestic product in many developing countries, so productivity losses would have an outsize impact on livelihoods, Mr. Garibaldi said.
Honeybees increase crop values by $15 billion a year in the United States, according to a White House task force on protecting pollinators’ health. Wild bee species add about $3,250 in productivity per cultivated hectare, Mr. Kleijn said.
A number of factors appear to be driving the bee deaths. Attention has focused on a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. The European Union banned the use of three such chemicals in 2013, despite pesticide companies’ arguments that the science was inconclusive. Britain suspended the ban this year to allow limited neonicotinoid use after the National Farmers’ Union said the pesticides were needed to fight off the cabbage stem flea beetle.
Pesticides are certainly part of bees’ troubles, say experts, but the problem is far broader, and points to the bigger environmental impact of the vast, highly intensive farms that are common in North America and Western Europe, and which are now being pursued in China and other developing nations.
Enormous fields devoted to just one crop leave bees with a diet that lacks variety, and is available only during the short window when that plant is in bloom. Efficient modern practices mean the patches of weeds and wildflowers that once provided feeding grounds for bees in and around farms are no longer available.
“I’m sitting right now looking at a soybean field, it’s probably 60 to 90 or 100 acres and there’s not a single weed in this whole field, there’s nothing else growing but soybeans,” Mr. Tucker said. “This is all desert land as far as the bees go.”
Global movement of goods, plants and animals exposes insects to alien viruses, fungi, mites and other pathogens, at a time when their immunity is suppressed by poor nutrition. On top of that comes exposure to powerful pesticides and fungicides, often coated onto seeds before farmers even buy them.
“All this stress on the bees, all these diseases,” said Riccardo Jannoni, secretary general of Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, in Rome. “The bees are struggling in many ways.”
Every winter, beekeepers across the United States ship their hives to California’s Central Valley, where wooden boxes full of bees are stacked amid rows of almond trees. The region produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds, and could not do so without the trucked-in bees.
“We’re getting close to crunch time, because right now we are estimating that 90 percent of the available bees for pollination are in use, so there’s not much of a buffer,” Mr. Tucker said.
Ms. Kremen, the Berkeley professor, said such single-crop situations are increasingly common. “There’s this enormous demand for pollination services all at one time, and usually it’s like a week or two weeks when those fields have to have the pollinators or they’re not going to get the fruit or the nut, so they’re very, very vulnerable,” she said.
“This is why our system is becoming much more precarious, much more brittle, much more risky,” she said. “It’s putting all your eggs in one basket. We’re putting all our eggs in having these honeybees that can be trucked around.”
A system that favors smaller-scale producers using fewer chemicals, encouraging natural predators to manage pests and growing a variety of crops would help bee populations and ease the other environmental impacts of industrial-scale farming too, Ms. Kremen said.
Smaller steps can also help, experts say. The White House pollinator protection strategy, released in May, set a goal of creating or improving bee and butterfly habitats on seven million acres, by planting on federal lands and encouraging states, localities and businesses to do the same.
It also said federal agencies would explore ways to improve plant diversity along the Interstate 35 corridor, which runs 1,500 miles from Texas to Minnesota, along the migratory path of monarch butterflies.
Any expansion of semiwild lands helps bees by providing feeding grounds rich with flowers and weeds.
“We just don’t see them along the roadsides anymore because they mow them or they spray them,” Mr. Tucker said. “They’re even spraying the ditches for invasive weeds.”
Ultimately, only broader change in the way agriculture is practiced will save bees and other suffering species, he said.
“What we are doing now is not sustainable,” he said. “It’s not going to keep us alive on this planet in a world that we’d like to live in and experience. Our kids’ kids are just not going to see the diversity of life that we have, and it’s unfortunate because there are other alternatives.”
HoneyLovers Susan & Eduardo rescued a really nice vigorous colony of 11 med. frames of brood from under a cargo container in Torrance. Check out the photos below!
by Katherine E. Peterson—Los Angeles Department of City Planning
The Backyard Beekeeping Ordinance (CPC-2015-578-CA, Council File No. CF 12-0785) was unanimously adopted by the City Council yesterday, Wednesday, October 14, 2015. The Ordinance received 15 “Yes” votes and 0 “No” votes. For more details or to review/download documents submitted to the City Clerk, including the City Planning Commission Staff Report and action, please refer to the online Council File at the following link:
According to Section 250 of the City Charter, the Mayor has 10 days to act on the ordinance, meaning he can act on it on the same day, or 10 days later. Assuming the Mayor approves it, the City Clerk’s Office will then post the adopted Ordinance for a period of 10 days and a 30-day effective date will begin after that. Simply put, the earliest an Ordinance can realistically go into effect is 40 to 50 days after it is adopted by the City Council. When we have an effective date, we will notify the individuals on this interest list by email.
Feel free to forward this information to anyone you feel might be interested. If you received this email via forwarded message from someone else, and you would like to receive updates directly from the Planning Department, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the interest list. Please type “Add Me to Backyard Beekeeping Notification List” in the subject line and provide your group/organization/company affiliations and contact information (please include at least your zip code).
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Email: info [at] honeylove.org
Contact: (424) 625-8233
PRESS RELEASE—For Immediate Release
Los Angeles urban beekeepers finally realize legalization at City Hall
LA City Council unanimously approves backyard beekeeping ordinance today.
After four years of public outreach, education and grassroots efforts across every part of the city spearheaded by local non-profit HoneyLove.org, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved urban beekeeping today by a vote of 15 to 0. Los Angeles hobbyist beekeepers can finally join most every other major metropolitan city on the globe with fully legal hives in their backyards.
Most cities have already legalized urban beekeeping including Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Culver City, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, Paris, London; the list goes on. The legalization effort in Los Angeles, led by HoneyLove, began in November 2011. The group rallied its volunteer beekeeper-members to educate the public and collect thousands of petition signatures both in person and online. They visited over 20 neighborhood councils to garner motions in support of beekeeping and raised awareness through outreach at public events, with local groups and schools and by way of countless articles, radio and TV interviews, Youtube videos, hands-on workshops and monthly newsletters.
Report from City Attorney
“The proposed ordinance amends the LAMC to allow beekeeping in the RA, RE, RS and R1 zones. It adds definitions and standards to the sections of the LAMC that regulate the uses (including accessory uses, of which backyard beekeeping would be considered) in those zones. The standards are intended to prevent backyard beekeeping activity from becoming disruptive to occupants of neighboring properties while allowing backyard apiaries to thrive and improve the surrounding environment. For example, the proposed ordinance requires the placement of a solid barrier at least six feet in height between hives and an adjacent lot in order to direct the flight of bees to a higher level when departing their hives. Additionally, a water source must be maintained on the property where the hives are located in order to discourage bees from seeking water sources on neighboring properties.
The proposed ordinance also limits the number of hives allowed per 2,500 feet of lot area and prohibits the placement of hives in front yards. It restricts the placement of hives to at least five feet from front, side and rear lot lines and at least twenty feet from public rights-of-way or private streets and requires that hive entrances face away from or be parallel to the nearest lot line adjacent to another lot. Finally, any person interested in backyard beekeeping must be registered as a beekeeper with the County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commission before engaging in beekeeping activities on his or her property.”
“When HoneyLove came to me two years ago, I was proud to lead the effort to legalize beekeeping,” said Councilmember Huizar. “We are working to become a more sustainable City to confront the environmental crises of today, and bees, and beekeepers, are a part of the solution. It’s time to support beekeeping in the City of Los Angeles’ residential neighborhoods, which will help our bee population and make the City safer and greener.”
“This arose from the neighborhood council system,” said Councilmember Koretz, who took up support of the motion when Bill Rosendahl termed out. “It started in Mar Vista, was vetted through the NCs—over twenty neighborhood councils from throughout the city have sent in their support. Bees are dying worldwide—in LA we’re putting out the welcome mat. They are vital to our survival.”
“Very excited for Mar Vista residents to learn that what started as a sustainable initiative for their small residential community has grown into a citywide effort to help save the honey bees across this great city…one healthy hive at a time!” adds Maritza Przekop, City Planning Associate at City of Los Angeles and early proponent of the ordinance in Mar Vista. email@example.com
“There are so many environmental reasons to support urban beekeeping but there is also a really critical safety element. When beekeeping is legal, then feral hives can be properly managed which makes our city safer” says Meghan Sahli-Wells, Current Councilmember and former Mayor of Culver City. firstname.lastname@example.org
Their advocacy for the honeybee is echoed by HoneyLove co-founder and author of the new book “Save the Bees,” Rob McFarland. “Bees are an essential part of our food system. According to the USDA, bees are responsible for the production of about a third of our diet. In addition, bees are a boon to local gardeners and urban farmers. As you may be aware, honeybees worldwide are in crisis, falling prey to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder at an alarming rate, making beekeeping a serious food security issue.” email@example.com
HoneyLove member, beekeeper and film producer Max Wong, who helped shepherd legalization in Santa Monica, states that “Honeybees are such effective pollinators that they are able to increase agricultural yield by 30 to 60 percent. This increase in productivity in an urban garden can mean the difference between a family needing food assistance and a family that can pull itself out of poverty, and even participate in a local, green economy. Urban beekeeping is a powerful tool that we can use to help provide food security for our most vulnerable neighbors. Honeybees enable people of all economic levels to eat better and have the empowering and deeply satisfying experience of successfully growing their own food.” firstname.lastname@example.org
“It’s great to see Los Angeles catching up with all the other great cities of the world in making beekeeping legal. The City Planning department did a great job in crafting a common sense set of regulations. Now that the City Council approved the changes to the code, we can get on with the work of saving bees and creating a city friendly to pollinators,” says Erik Knutzen, co-author of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (2008) and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World (2011), also a Los Angeles Resident and urban beekeeper. email@example.com
The most common concern about honey bees is bee stings. Honey bees are not aggressive by nature and are unlikely to sting. Only 0.4% of Americans report an allergy to insect stings in the U.S. and almost none of these are caused by honey bees [but by other stinging insects]. In addition, less than 1% of the US population is at risk of systemic reaction to stings by honey bees. Severe reactions from the sting of any one insect in a year are 1 in 5,555,556. The chance that someone will be hit by a car is 59.3% higher.
“I am one of the minuscule percentage of people who is actually systemically allergic to honey bees and I am full support of legalizing urban beekeeping in Los Angeles. Beekeepers are our first line of defense in helping to make the city safer by managing the feral populations of bees that already live naturally in our environment” says Chelsea McFarland, HoneyLove co-founder. firstname.lastname@example.org
“I am a registered urban beekeeper with two boys—four and eight years old—who have never been stung by any honey bees from our managed hives in our backyard. Unlike the unmanaged feral hives already existing in Los Angeles, my hives are inspected, managed and carefully looked after. Having more educated beekeepers will, in fact, provide a safer environment for everyone,” states Paul Hekimian, Santa Monica Resident, beekeeper and HoneyLove Board Member. email@example.com
HoneyLove is a Los Angeles based 501(c)3 non-profit conservation organization with a mission to protect the honeybees by educating our communities and inspiring new urban beekeepers. Founded in 2011, HoneyLove believes that the city is the last refuge of the honeybee. Our home gardens are generally free of pesticides, and in cities like Los Angeles, there is year-round availability of pollen and nectar for the honeybees! Learn more about HoneyLove’s events and services at http://honeylove.org
 9-11 colonies of bees per square mile was a stat given by LA County Agricultural Commissioner during the Mar Vista Beekeeping Feasibility Study in 2011 – https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3mjhYhHhzMrNGRiYjkzNjItMGExNi00Y2I1LWIyMWUtY2VhYTIwNzJkMTQ5/edit
Full PRESS RELEASE linked below:
by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki
The weather this summer in the LA basin has been record-breaking hot. These prolonged conditions stress the bees trying to maintain the proper temperature in their hives. They normally coat the insides of the hive bodies with water they gather, and fanning with their wings, induce a “swamp cooler” air conditioning.
I have seen the entire front of hives covered with bees trying to stay out of the interior—even great clumps of bees hanging from the front porch landing area. All this heat has caused the honey combs in two of my larger hives to fall out of the frames and fold over. It is quite the mess. Clearly, this trend of hotter, longer summers is being predicted by climate scientists, so something needs to be done to help the bees vent the heat.
I have fitted each hive with a wood framed, screened top board that fits under the regular migratory top. By turning the migratory top over (upside down) the cleats will create a shaded, one inch air space to relieve the bees’ heat issue and not expose them to direct light. Very many more bees are now back inside their hives, instead of hanging out on the front.
BEEKEEPERS! THIS IS IT!
LA CITY COUNCIL ***FINAL*** BEE VOTE WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14!!
It began way back in November 2011 at the Mar Vista Community Council…
For years we collected thousands of petition signatures both in person and online…
We inspired 20+ motions in support of beekeeping from Los Angeles neighborhood councils…
Raised awareness through countless articles, tv/radio interviews, outreach presentations to local groups and schools…
And now beeks, this is the last and final vote when the Los Angeles City Council has the chance to legalize urban beekeeping in our fair city!
We are item #22 on the agenda. Meeting begins at 10 a.m. Plan accordingly.
**Remember to wear your HoneyLove t-shirts or Yellow & Black! Time to show up and celebrate!!
Watch trailer here: http://trailers.apple.
OPENING IN LOS ANGELES ON NOVEMBER 27 (OCTOBER 30 IN NEW YORK)
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
**Cannes Film Festival 2014 – WINNER – Grand Prix**
**Toronto International Film Festival 2014 (Official Selection)**
**New York Film Festival 2014 (Official Selection)**
**AFI FEST 2014 (Official Selection)**
THE WONDERS, winner of the Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and a standout at the New York Film Festival is young Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher’s (CORPO CELESTE) entrancing, richly textured drama centers on a family of beekeepers living in stark isolation in the Tuscan countryside. The dynamic of their overcrowded household is disrupted by the simultaneous arrival of a silently troubled teenage boy taken in as a farmhand and a reality TV show (featuring a host played by Monica Bellucci) intent on showcasing the family. Both intrusions are of particular interest to the eldest daughter, Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), who is struggling to find her footing in the world, and Rohrwacher conveys her adolescent sense of wonder and confusion with graceful naturalism.
THE WONDERS will open in Los Angeles on November 27 (New York on October 30) with a national roll-out to follow.
Written and Directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Produced by Carlo Cresto-Dina, Karl “Baumi” Baumgartner, Tiziana Soudani, Michael Weber. Starring Alba Rohrwacher, Monica Bellucci, Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Sabine Timoteo, Agnese Graziani.
Running Time: 111 minutes
Language: Italian, French, German (w/English subtitles)
Press Materials: http://thewonders.
By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki
I have had a lot of cognitive dissonance lately from the talk among beeks about breeding, treating, buying queens, etc. Maybe you’ve run into some of the same. If so, here’s a small bit of information that cements my certainty that when we select for certain traits we inadvertently de-select for things that serve the organism and discard important traits we definitely don’t want to lose.
Our feral bees have strong characteristics of hygiene, pest and disease resistance. They tend to propagate a small worker bee (4.7 to 4.9 mm brood cell diameter) which allows the young bee to beat the emergence of parasitic varroa by emerging before the mite completes its development by at least one day. This natural characteristic of Africanized honey bees is being sought by bee breeders of European honey bees through genetic selection in laboratories with artificial insemination of queens and with strict control of drone mating areas. I have found that the behavior of our bees in pre-selecting young brood—before they emerge—by uncapping at the purple-eye development stage—is clearly apparent in my hive inspections.
I was asking Michael Bush (author of the “Practical Beekeeper—Beekeeping Naturally”) some questions recently about these processes and the attempts to circumvent natural selection by purchasing queens from breeders for the trait of varroa resistance or VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene). He sent a very interesting answer, including a quote from eminent beek, Kirk Webster.
One thing to know—Michael kept a large, 4 frame, glassed observation hive for several years in his living room with a tube to allow the bees to come and go. This device was very instructive for understanding what bees actually do, minute to minute over a long period of time.
To Michael from Susan:
I have a question about the uncapping of brood at the purple eye stage. [During pupae development,coloration begins with the eyes: first pink, then purple, then black.] I have always taught (and believed) that this signals a problem with the larvae and the bees plan to drag that pupa out and discard it. Is that correct?
It is a sign of hygienic behavior if they uncap the brood. Dee [Lusby] says they remove the mite and leave the larva. I was not trying to answer that question when I was observing uncapping in my observation hive, so I never noticed. Sometimes they removed them. But recapping them would not be inconsistent with my observation though I never tried to track that.
I think VSH is going to turn out to be a very bad idea to breed for. There are already reports (lots of them) from people who say their VSH bees cleaned up the entire brood nest and threw the brood out of the hive. I think they are breeding OCD bees.
I think any breeding for one trait has always failed spectacularly in any species we humans have attempted it. We should look at the big picture.
“We’re making the same mistake with our honey-bees. We’re trying to ensure the failure of modern bee-keeping by focusing too much on single traits; by ignoring the elements of Wildness; and by constantly treating the bees. The biggest mistake of all is to continue viewing mites and other “pests” as enemies that must be destroyed, instead of allies and teachers that are trying to show us a path to a better future. The more virulent a parasite is, the more powerful a tool it can be for improving stocks and practice in the future. All the boring and soul-destroying work of counting mites on sticky boards, killing brood with liquid nitrogen, watching bees groom each other, and measuring brood hormone levels—all done in thousands of replications—will someday be seen as a colossal waste of time when we finally learn to let the Varroa mites do these things for us. My own methods of propagating, selecting and breeding bees, worked out through many years of trial and error, are really just an attempt to establish and utilize Horizontal breeding with honeybees—to create a productive system that preserves
and enhances the elements of Wildness. My results are not perfect, but they have enabled me to continue making a living from bees without much stress, and have a positive outlook for the future. I have no doubt that many other beekeepers could easily achieve these same results, and then surpass them.”
–Kirk Webster, many decades beekeeper in Vermont, treatment free, survivor stock “What’s Missing From The Current Discussion And Work Related To Bees That’s Preventing Us From Making
Check out this new book “What’s the Buzz?: Keeping Bees In Flight” written by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox!
What’s the Buzz?: Keeping Bees in Flight is part of the Orca Footprints series, a middle grade nonfiction series meant to encourage ecological literacy and global solutions to ongoing environmental issues. What’s the Buzz? celebrates bees and encourages young readers to do their part to keep bees in flight.
“[A] thorough and fascinating look at these insects…Wilcox, who describes her own foray into beekeeping in the introduction, raises and answers…questions in easy prose. Great photos of kids, bees, and hives enhance the text…A useful option for science teachers and students curious about bees and ecology.”
—School Library Journal
More details and reviews available on orcabook.com
Help us save the honey bees!!
Your contribution directly supports the educational outreach, community action and advocacy efforts to protect the health and well-being of honey bees. HoneyLove is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible.