10,000 Bees Beard with Rhett & Link!
We put 10,000 bees all over Link’s face!
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By Juliet Eilperin via Washington Post
The humble bee — nuisance, threat, and linchpin of the American food supply — has won over the leader of the free world. And now President Obama is intervening on the bee’s behalf as its habitat dwindles.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration will announce the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a bureaucratic title for a plan to save the bee, other small winged animals and their breeding grounds. The initiative may feel like the kind of niche interest a second-term president devotes his time to, but scientists say his attention to the busy workforce that sustains many American crops is critical. While bee colonies regularly die off during winter because of stressful conditions, their sharp decline has been called a potential ecological disaster by some environmentalists and academic experts; conservative Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) described it in an interview as “an essential thing [that] we need to pay attention to.”
The strategy, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, will seek to manage the way forests burned by wildfire are replanted, the way offices are landscaped and the way roadside habitats where bees feed are preserved.
It is also the culmination of a years-long fascination Obama has had with the bee and its worrisome fate.
“I have to say that it is mighty darn lovely having the White House acknowledge the indigenous, unpaid and invisible workforce that somehow has managed to sustain all terrestrial life without health-care subsidies, or a single COLA, for that past 250?million years,” said Sam Droege, a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist and one of the country’s foremost experts on native bee identification…
[Continue Reading via WashingtonPost.com]
The buzz around bees has been bad lately. As we’ve reported, beekeepers say they lost 42 percent of honeybee colonies last summer.
And it seems that fixing what ails bees is no simple task. Over the past few decades, they’ve been hit by diseases and habitat loss. There’s also increasing evidence that a type of pesticides called neonicotinoids are linked to bees’ decline, too.
This could be bad news for all of us, since bees and other pollinators are critical to our food supply.
Honeybees alone, according to an Obama administration estimate, add $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year by pollinating everything from almonds and apples to blueberries and squash.
And now the administration has put forth a new action plan to reverse the declines in bees.
A key component is a strategy to restore 7 million acres of bee-friendly habitat that have been lost to urbanization, development and farming.
“It’s a big step in the right direction,” says Nigel Raine, a professor who studies pollinator conservation at the University of Guelph, in Canada.
The idea is to plant many types of wildflowers — in lots of different areas — so that bees have more places to forage and nest. “It’s making sure they have sufficient flowers to feed on,” says Raine — and places to live.
Many environmentalists say restoring bee habitat is a good place to start, but they’re critical that the Obama administration has not taken a harder line in limiting the use of neonicotinoids.
The Natural Resources Defense Council says more urgent action is needed to safeguard our food supply. “To truly save bees and other pollinators, we must drastically cut down on today’s pervasive use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides,” Peter Lehner, executive director of the NRDC, said in a press release.
And a similar message is coming from Friends of the Earth. The White House Pollinator Strategy won’t solve the bee crisis, the group says.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced in April that it is not likely to approve new uses of neonicotinoids, but the plan announced by the administration on Tuesday did not call for restrictions on current uses.
Lisa Archer, who leads the food and technology program at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement: “President Obama’s National Pollinator Health Strategy misses the mark by not adequately addressing the pesticides as a key driver of unsustainable losses of bees and other pollinators essential to our food system.”
The European Union has already moved to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. And as we’ve reported, there are proposals in Canada to limit use of the pesticides, too.
But a leading manufacturer of the pesticides says neonic restrictions are not necessary. “Neonicotinoids — when used according to labeled directions — can be used safely with pollinators,” Becky Langer of Bayer Crop Science told us.
She says the administration’s strategy to restore bee-friendly habitat is a good approach, and points out that Bayer is helping to address this issue with its Bee Care Center and efforts to encourage the expansion of habitat.
[View original post via NPR.org]
By Brian Naylor via NPR.org
There is a buzz in the air in Washington, and it’s about honeybees. Concerned about an alarming decline in honeybee colonies, the Obama administration has released a National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.
NPR’s Dan Charles says the strategy, despite its rather bureaucratic title, is pretty straightforward: “The government will provide money for more bee habitat and more research into ways to protect bees from disease and pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency also will re-evaluate a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids … which are commonly used on some of the most widely planted crops in the country.”
As NPR’s Allison Aubrey has reported:
“Scientists have shown that a range of factors — from climate change to viruses to loss of habitat — are contributing to the global decline in bee health.
“And two new studies published in the journal Nature add to the evidence that overuse of neonicotinoid pesticides may also be contributing to the decline of bees.
“Neonics, as they’re known for short, have become among the most widely used insecticides in the world. The pesticide is coated onto the seeds that farmers plant to grow their crops. These pretreated seeds are used extensively in corn, soy and canola crops. In fact, it’s estimated that treated seeds are used in more than 95 percent of the U.S. corn crop.”
The White House strategy aims to reduce honeybee colony losses during the winter to no more than 15 percent within 10 years. It’s also concerned with the monarch butterfly, another species in decline. The government wants to increase the Eastern population of the monarch to 225 million butterflies occupying an area of approximately 15 acres in the insect’s Mexico wintering grounds. And it sets a goal of restoring or enhancing 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years. The strategy is the work of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, an Obama administration initiative launched last year. President Obama has taken a personal interest in the plight of the honeybees. There is a beehive in the White House garden, the honey from which is an ingredient in the White House beer recipe. (If you’re interested in a good buzz.) Critics, however, say the White House strategy doesn’t go far enough. Friends of the Earth issued a stinging rebuke to the administration’s plan, charging that it “failed to adequately address the impact of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides on bees and other pollinators.” Puns aside, it’s a serious issue. According to The Washington Post:
“Over the past five years, winter losses of commercial honeybee colonies have averaged roughly 30 percent. A consortium of universities and research laboratories announced last week that beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of their colonies between April 2014 and 2015, an 8 percent spike from the previous year, and that the number of summer deaths exceeded winter deaths for the first time since the survey began in 2010.”
The Obama administration says honeybee pollination adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. [Read the original article via NPR.org]
By JENNIFER BERNEY via parenting.blogs.nytimes.com
Several years ago, reports of the declining bee population inspired my partner to keep bees in our yard. Her reasons were mainly practical—not only did she want to support the vanishing bees, she hoped our plum trees might increase their yield. But it took less than one season for my partner to fall in love, and over time the number of hives in our backyard has multiplied from two to 10. At my house this week we know that spring has arrived because my 2-year-old points out the window and yells excitedly: “Bees!”
I consider both of my children lucky to know the honeybees so well. Living with a beekeeper has afforded me a chance to observe how children interact with bees. From what I’ve seen so far, they fall into two distinct camps: those who are fascinated, and those who are afraid.
There are kids who watch in wonder as the honeybees land on the stones in our birdbath and drink water through their delicate tongues, and there are kids who cover their hair with their hands and run away screaming. There are kids who knock on our door to buy a jar of honey and ask to see our bees, and there are kids who will poke a long stick through our fence and bang it against the roof of a hive.
I worry that the child who runs from bees in fear will grow up to be the adult who spots a healthy swarm in her backyard and sprays it with insecticide. I worry that the child who bangs on a hive roof will grow up to be the teenager who knocks over a neighbor’s hive in the middle of the night. These are two kinds of transgressions that happen often in my community, and they are undeserved. Unlike the many varieties of wasps, bees are gentle creatures. They pollinate our crops, make honey, and rarely sting unless provoked.
In recent years, beekeepers have continued to report high annual losses. An annual survey of beekeepers conducted by a partnership that includes the United States Department of Agriculture, released Wednesday, suggested both that significant losses in colonies continue, and that the loss rate in summer has increased. We compensate for this by breeding and replacing our lost colonies year after year. Scientists are no longer concerned that the honeybee’s extinction is imminent, but we are not yet off the hook. The disappearing bees have reminded us that our survival is interdependent. We live in collaboration with other species. A child who squashes bees or runs from them is a child who hasn’t yet learned their value, and it’s our job to teach them.
This might begin by teaching our children what a honeybee looks like. Before my partner brought home our first colony of bees, I was like many adults in that I could not distinguish a honeybee from a bumblebee, and had only the vaguest notion that wasps were a different species entirely. The yellow jacket who is harassing you at the end of summer, trying to take a bite of your ham sandwich, has little in common with the honeybee who is gathering pollen and nectar. Children are capable of making this distinction; like adults, they just need a little guidance.
Teaching children to value the honeybee might also include explaining the phenomenon of swarming, which, contrary to popular belief, is not an angry behavior. Honeybees swarm when their colony has grown healthy enough to divide in two. One half of them remain in the hive to welcome a new queen, while the other half leaves in search of a new home. They fill their bellies with nectar and travel in a cluster to shelter their old queen. The sight of a cluster of bees on a branch in a yard or a park is an opportunity for observation, a lesson about the intelligence of the insect world.
And that is the real lesson the bees offer: as smart as we humans are, we don’t know everything. At my house we can dance to Beyoncé in the living room, but we can’t wiggle our butts in a sequence so precise that it communicates the location of a nectar source three miles away. Bees can.
My partner has a practice that many beekeepers would find silly. Though a typical worker bee lives for only six weeks, in the evening my partner often picks up bees who have grown cold and fallen just outside the entrance to their hive. She collects them in a jar, brings them inside our house to warm them up and later, once they are restored, she returns them to their home. I used to tease her about this. Bees are members of a complex system. They are not individuals, and it struck me as foolish to attend to them as such. But then last week I saw my 6-year-old son crouch in front of a hive at dusk to gather languishing bees in his small hand. In that moment I realized what the bees had taught him — it’s the very lesson we all need to learn: that every small part of the system counts for something.
[Read original article via parenting.blogs.nytimes.com]
POSTED BY JOHN SCHREIBER via mynewsla.com
Beekeeping would be legal in the backyards of Los Angeles homes under regulations to be considered soon by a City Council committee.
The proposed rules — approved by the city planning commission this week and now headed to the council’s Planning and Land Use Committee — would allow hobbyists and others interested in small-scale beekeeping to maintain hives in single-family residential settings.
Beekeepers would need to adhere to certain restrictions under the proposed rules. No more than one hive would be allowed for each 2,500 square feet of space, and there must be a 5-foot buffer between the hive and the front, side and rear lot lines of the property.
Hives also must be at least 20 feet away from public right of way or a private streets and cannot be kept in the front yard, according to the rules.
The proposed ordinance also calls for hives to be surrounded by a 6-foot wall, fence or hedge, or else it must be set 8 feet above ground, so that the bees would be encouraged to stay above “human-level.”
The bees also must have access to a nearby water source within the beekeeper’s property so that the bees would not need to travel outside to look for water.
If the City Council approves the ordinance, Los Angeles would join Santa Monica in legalizing so-called “backyard” or “urban” beekeeping. The hobby also is allowed in other urban areas such as New York City and Denver.
The Los Angeles Planning Department and the city attorney created the proposed rules after the City Council ordered a study last February into ways to legalize backyard beekeeping.
The council action came in response to a growing chorus of Angelenos advocating for “urban beekeeping,” including from some residents in the Mar Vista area who said increased beekeeping helps to fight a troubling, downward trend in the bee population that could threaten the health of local agriculture.
Councilman Paul Koretz, who supports legalizing urban beekeeping, said last year the state has been losing a third of its bees a year since 2006, threatening California’s avocado and almond industry.
Some council members voiced concerns, however, that the bees could pose a danger to residents, with Councilman Bernard Parks referring to a National Geographic documentary entitled “Attack of the Killer Bees,” about a dangerous variety of bees that appear to be encroaching into southern United States.
Planning officials who consulted bee experts over the last year wrote in a recent city report that the variety of honey bees used in beekeeping are “non-aggressive,” but they may “sting in self-defense of their hive if it is approached.”
The report adds that when the bees leave their hives to collect food — potentially coming in contact with humans — they “do not become defensive or aggressive or have reason to sting.”
The report also notes Los Angeles already averages about 8 to 10 feral bee hives per each square mile. The addition of backyard honey bees would not cause a shortage of bee food supply in the city due to the area’s steady climate, but if there were a shortage, the feral populations would likely leave the area to find alternative sources of food supply, according to the bee experts consulted by planning officials.
— City News Service
By KERRY CAVANAUGH via LA Times
Los Angeles is getting closer to legalizing backyard beekeeping and the proposed ordinance couldn’t come at a better time.
Professional beekeepers reported this week that 42% of their honeybees died in the last year, and, for the first time, they lost more bees during the summer than the winter. That’s surprising and worrisome because bees typically suffer in the cold weather, but fare better during the warm pollination season. And it underscores fears that parasites, pesticides and farming practices might be weakening the bee population, which is essential for pollinating the nation’s food crops.
Backyard beekeeping can’t replace commercial beekeeping operations, but the urban honeybees may help replenish the diminishing supply, or provide disease-resistant genes that can be introduced in the commercial bee lines. The more healthy bees in the environment, the better for everyone.
Current city law prohibits beekeeping, except on land zoned for agricultural uses. The proposed ordinance, approved Thursday by the city Planning Commission, would allow beekeeping by right in single-family neighborhoods. The resident would need to register as a beekeeper with the Los Angeles County agriculture commissioner, have no more than one hive per 2,500 square feet of lot, keep the hives at least five feet from the neighbors’ yards and 20 feet from the street or sidewalk and keep a source of water for the bees so they don’t seek water from the neighbors’ swimming pool or bird bath. There’s no pre-approval needed, but the city will respond to complaints and if residents break the rules or can’t manage their bees, the city can revoke the right to keep hives.
The City Council still needs to OK the new backyard beekeeping policy before it can take effect, but city leaders have been supportive of urban agriculture. And why not? L.A. has the ideal climate and long growing seasons. The city has hillsides, vacant lots and yards that can support small farms and hobby farmers. A vegetable garden or orchard is a more productive use of our precious water supply than a green lawn. And more fruits and vegetables grown locally mean less produce has to be trucked and shipped over great distance, meaning fresher food and less fossil fuels burned in transport.
A prolonged and mysterious die-off of the nation’s honeybees, a trend worrisome both to beekeepers and to farmers who depend on the insects to pollinate their crops, apparently worsened last year.
In an annual survey released on Wednesday by the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories, about 5,000 beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies in the 12-month period that ended in April. That is well above the 34.2 percent loss reported for the same period in 2013 and 2014, and it is the second-highest loss recorded since year-round surveys began in 2010.
Most striking, however, was that honeybee deaths spiked last summer, exceeding winter deaths for the first time. Commercial beekeepers, some of whom rent their hives to farmers during pollination seasons, were hit especially hard, the survey’s authors stated.
“We expect the colonies to die during the winter, because that’s a stressful season,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant entomology professor at the University of Maryland who directs the survey for the bee partnership. “What’s totally shocking to me is that the losses in summer, which should be paradise for bees, exceeded the winter losses.”
Bees are not in danger of extinction, but their health is of major concern to agriculture, where honeybees’ pollination services are estimated to be worth $10 billion to $15 billion a year.
Nobody knows with certainty why honeybee deaths are rising. Beekeepers once expected to lose perhaps 10 percent of their bees in an average year. But deaths began to spike in the middle of the past decade, when a phenomenon in which bees deserted their hives and died en masse, later named colony collapse disorder, began sweeping hives worldwide.
Those mass die-offs have abated somewhat in recent years, experts say, but colonies remain in poor health, and overall death rates remain much higher than in the past.
Dr. vanEngelsdorp said increasingly poor nutrition could be a factor in the rising summer death rate. Rising crop prices have led farmers to plow and plant millions of acres of land that was once home to wildflowers; since 2007, an Agriculture Department program that pays farmers to put sensitive and erosion-prone lands in a conservation reserve has lost an area roughly equal to half of Indiana, and budget cuts promise to shrink the program further. Dr. vanEngelsdrop and other scientists cite two other factors at work in the rising death rate: a deadly parasite, the varroa mite,and pesticides.
In recent years, some experts have focused on neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides used almost universally on some major crops in the United States. The European Commission has banned the use of three variants of the pesticide on flowering plants, citing risks to bees, and questioned whether they should be used at all.
The Environmental Protection Agency said last month that it was unlikely to approve any new uses of the pesticides until more tests on the risks to bees and other pollinators have been completed.
Neonicotinoid manufacturers say that the pesticides are much safer than others they have supplanted, and that in any case, they are safe when used according to instructions.
In a news release, an entomologist at one of the major neonicotinoid manufacturers, Bayer CropScience LP, called the survey results good news because wintertime bee deaths appeared to have stabilized at a lower rate than in the past. The entomologist, Richard Rogers of the company’s Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said that scientists had yet to establish a normal range for summer bee deaths.
The annual survey released on Wednesday did not directly address the causes of honeybee deaths. But it said varroa mites were a much bigger problem among so-called backyard beekeepers, who keep fewer than 50 hives, than among commercial beekeepers, who are probably on higher alert for deadly infestations.
The survey’s authors called the spike in summer honeybee deaths troubling, noting that in the past, more bees have died during the winter months than in good weather.
The Bee Informed Partnership has collected data on summer bee deaths since 2006, and it expanded its survey to cover winter deaths in 2010. The surveys are financed largely by the Agriculture Department.
Photo by Karim Sahli
LA Planning Commission unanimously approves backyard beekeeping ordinance today.
After years of public outreach and grassroots efforts at the local community councils led by beekeepers across Los Angeles, the Department of City Planning, Policy Division presented its recommendations for backyard beekeeping to the LA Planning Commission today and received unanimous support.
In addition to the swarm of local beekeeping supporters who all spoke in favor of legalizing backyard beekeeping, Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD-5), Clare Eberle, planning deputy for Councilmember José Huizar (CD-14), and former Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells were also in attendance speaking in favor of the ordinance.
LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz surprised the Planning Commission by showing up to testify. “There is no one more nervous about bees than I am. I stepped on a bee years ago, got stung, my leg swelled up and I had to walk with a cane for three weeks,” Koretz said. “There are currently 9 to 11 beehives per square mile in Los Angeles. When this ordinance passes, there will remain 9 to 11 beehives per square mile, but we will have more beekeepers to know where they are and to manage those hives. Which is a great idea in my book.”
“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.” - Rob McFarland, Los Angeles Resident (Co-Founder of HoneyLove)
NY Times just reported on May 13, 2015: “Since April 2014, beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of their colonies, the second highest loss rate in nine years, according to an annual survey conducted by a bee partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
“Hunger is a huge problem in our city. Currently, there are over 1.1 million citizens using the SNAP program for food assistance. Honeybees are such effective pollinators that they are able to increase agricultural yield by 30 to 60 percent. A 30 to 60 percent increase in productivity in an urban garden can mean the difference between a family needing food assistance and a family who can pull themselves 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.” – Max Wong, Los Angeles Resident
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.
“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. Once the City Council approves the changes to the code we can get on with the work of saving bees and creating a city friendly to pollinators.” – Erik Knutzen, Los Angeles Resident
“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. 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.”
“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.” - Meghan Sahli-Wells, Current Councilmember and former Mayor of Culver City
“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. I am very happy to see this ordinance move forward!” – Chelsea McFarland, Los Angeles Resident
“I am a registered urban beekeeper with two boys 4 and 8 years old who have NEVER been stung by any honey bees from our two managed hives in our backyard. Unlike the 9 to 11 unmanaged feral hives already existing per square mile in Los Angeles, my hives are managed and carefully looked after. Having more educated beekeepers will in fact provide a safer environment for everyone.” – Paul Hekimian, Santa Monica Resident
 Planning Department: Spearheaded by Katherine Peterson and supervisors Tom Rothmann and Erick Lopez, and Student Professional Worker, Jaime Espinoza.
 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
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
Reality vs. fantasy (Culture Watch)
by Sarah Spitz
…Speaking of sustainability: there would be no food without bees.
Join local non-profit organization, HoneyLove (www.honeylove.org) for its 2015 Yellow Tie fundraiser. Wear yellow, pose for Yellow Carpet photos, and enjoy great food, fun drinks, local honey tasting and music by the Leftover Cuties, in support of HoneyLove’s mission to protect honeybees and inspire and educate new urban beekeepers! Go online to find your ticket.
It takes place on May 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Cook’s Garden by HGEL at 1033 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice. Children dressed as bees get in for free. Your ticket is here: YTE2015.eventbrite.com.
[Read full article on SM Daily Press]
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