like Facebook follow Twitter watch YouTube subscribe RSS Feed
Archive | Buzz RSS feed for this section

READ: Sacramento City Council approves urban farm ordinance

BY MARISSA LANG via sacbee.com

Buying locally sourced fruits and vegetables may soon become as simple as walking over to a neighbor’s garden, thanks to a new urban farm ordinance passed Tuesday night by the Sacramento City Council.

In a 6-1 vote, the city effectively opened the door to minifarms on private properties and in vacant lots that would be able to sell produce out of urban farm stands, despite reservations from some council members about urban beekeeping and how urban agriculture may affect those who live close to the new farms.

The new ordinance enables city residents to grow and sell food directly from their properties and offers tax incentives to landowners who allow their properties, including vacant lots in residential, commercial, industrial and manufacturing zones throughout the city, to be turned into minifarms. The farms would be restricted to 3 acres.

The aim, in part, is to reduce urban blight and bring fruit and vegetables to so-called “food insecure” populations, whose access to fresh produce has been limited by a lack of healthy options in low-income neighborhoods.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people do not have access to a supermarket within a mile of their home.

Urban farm stands in residential neighborhoods would be restricted to operating Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., except those on vacant lots, which would be allowed to operate without time or day restrictions.

Advocates of urban farming played on Sacramento’s campaign to market itself as the farm-to-fork capital of the country and challenged the city to get farm food to “every fork.”

More than 100 people packed the council chambers to support the ordinance.

James Brady, a self-proclaimed urban farmer who works as an aquaponics consultant, told the council that the benefits to low-income communities and people extend beyond the nutrition. He said giving people the opportunity to sell the food they produce would grow a new population of entrepreneurs and allow low-income people to grow their own food and earn additional income by selling to their neighbors.

Representatives from the Southeast Asian American community said another, less visible benefit to low-income and immigrant communities is purpose, pride and empowerment.

“My family arrived in this country with very few skills and spoke no English,” said Cha Vang, an organizer with Hmong Innovating Politics. “But my mom knew that she could always rely on her ability to grow, cultivate and garden anything, anywhere. Not only did gardening empower her, it also provided our family’s dinner table with fresh produce when most other low-income families had to settle for unhealthy fast food.”

More than 300 Sacramento residents signed a petition asking the council to pass the ordinance, according to the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition.

In passing the urban farm ordinance, Sacramento followed the lead of several cities around country that have looked to inner-city agriculture to combat blight and produce more fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods with few grocery stores. Among them: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

The ordinance’s passage Tuesday was not without concerns from council members.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said in Natomas, properties are often divided up among several people or families. She worried that the person with control of the yard could unilaterally make a decision to delve into urban farming without consulting with other people in the property.

Councilman Larry Carr, the lone no vote on the measure, worried about the urban beekeeping aspects of the ordinance and asked whether the insects could be contained or kept away from people. In an attempt to quell his concerns, Councilman Jeff Harris, himself a beekeeper, invited Carr to his home.

Prior to passing the ordinance, agriculture activity – growing produce for sale – was only allowed in specially zoned lots.

New urban farmers would be subject to city water conservation ordinances and would be required to adhere to the same restrictions as other outdoor water users.

Anyone attempting to sell their produce out of an urban farm stand would be required to obtain a business operations tax certificate, city officials said Tuesday. For a stand that earns less than $10,000 per year, a certificate would cost $31.

No liability insurance would be required.

Tax incentives for lot owners who allow their property to be turned into minifarms could add up to $6,127 an acre each year, according to Sacramento city staff estimates, but a New York City study found community gardens boosted the values of nearby properties.

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Commercial bees, the unsung heroes of the nut business

[HoneyLover] Bill Lewis is waiting for the sun to set, the time of day when his bees crawl back inside the short white boxes that house their colonies. As the sky turns pink behind the San Gabriel mountains, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Lewis climbs into the seat of a forklift and starts moving the hives onto the back of a flatbed truck. These bees are on the move. “As soon as you get on the freeway and there’s air flowing past the entrances, all the bees run back inside,” says Lewis, of any stragglers. Lewis, who runs Bill’s Bees, is taking about 700 of his hives on a road trip to the California’s Central Valley, where he’ll unload them across acres of almond orchards, working until 1 or 2 a.m. under the light of full moon. All across the country, more than a million-and-a-half colonies are making a similar journey – traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to pollinate California’s almonds. Farmers rent hives for few weeks because in order for almond trees to produce nuts, bees need to move pollen from one tree to another. No bees, no almonds. “This pollination season there will be [some] 800,000 acres of almonds that need to be pollinated,” says Eric Mussen, a honey bee specialist at the University of California Davis. He says more than 100 different kinds of crops need these rent-a-bees, but almonds are significant for the number of acres that require pollination all at the same time. About 85 percent of the commercial bees in United States – which Mussen calls “bees on wheels” – travel to California for almonds. The state supplies roughly 80 percent of the world’s almonds, worth $6.4 billion during the 2013-2014 season, according to the Almond Board of California. “It’s a matter of numbers,” he says. “You’re trying to provide enough bees to be moving the pollen around between the varieties and whatnot. It’s just a huge, huge number of bees. The only way we can get a huge number of bees in one place at one time is to bring them in on trucks.” In fact, bees are such an important part of the almond business that Paramount Farms, one of the biggest almond growers in the world, has decided they need to be in the bee business, too. The company just bought one of the largest beekeepers in the United States, based in Florida. “Bees are so essential for the process of growing almonds,” says Joe Joe MacIlvane, Paramount’s president. “If we don’t have a reliable supply of good strong colonies, we simply won’t be a viable almond grower, so that’s our primary motivation for getting into the business.” Renting bees is about 10 to 15 percent of Paramount’s production costs, but the motivation to keep their own bees isn’t simply economic. “Many bee keepers are individual or family business and many people are getting on in years and we don’t see a lot of young people coming into the business,” says MacIlvane. Additionally, bee populations are struggling. A significant number having been dying each year for the past decade or so, thanks to a mix of factors, from pesticides to lost habitat for feeding. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what’s killing them. “We had a large problem last year with bees dying in the orchard because of something that was going on during bloom,” says Bill Lewis. He thinks a pesticide or fungicide may have been to blame. This year, Lewis and his bee broker are being pickier about the farms they’re working with, vetting them more carefully because those lost bees had big economic consequences – about $300,000 in lost income for Lewis.
Read full story · Posted in News

READ: LA City Council approves curbside planting of fruits and vegetables

By Adrian Florido via scpr.org

The L.A. City Council has voted to allow Angelenos to plant fruits and vegetables in their parkways – that strip of city-owned land between the sidewalk and the street – without a permit. Fruit trees, however, will still require a permit.

Until now, planting anything other than grass or certain shrubs on that strip required a $400 permit, and homeowners were often fined for not complying. But the ordinance approved Wednesday says people can replace shrubs or grass with edible plants like fruits and vegetables, as long as they follow the city’s guidelines for landscaping parkways…

The rule change is the culmination of years of advocacy by community groups. They have been pushing the city to make it easier for residents — especially in poorer, crowded neighborhoods — to grow their own food. The city council began working on Wednesday’s rule change nearly two years ago.Mayor Eric Garcetti now has 10 days to approve the ordinance. Assuming he does, it will take effect roughly 30 days later.

[click here to view the full article via scpr.org]

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: 5 Healing Honeys Known For Their Medicinal Power

by Anna Hunt via truththeory.com

One of the most natural foods in the world, honey has many uses and benefits the body in many different ways. Many of us think of honey as a nutritional natural sweeter – a great replacement to processed white sugar – and as a flavor enhancer in dressings and sauces, but in addition honey has been used worldwide since ancient times for its medicinal properties.

Honey’s Medicinal Properties

Honey is an effective treatment for many health conditions. It is rich in antiseptic and antibacterial properties, making it a great alternative to topical antibiotic ointments, which are starting to be less and less effective due to the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. It is also great for respiratory ailments, especially symptoms of cold and flu such as sore throat and cough. Furthermore, honey contains flavonoids and antioxidants, two essential elements needed to aid in the prevention of cancer cell growth. With skyrocketing cancer rates, honey can be a beneficial component of your daily cancer prevention regimen.

Honey’s composition consists of equal parts fructose and glucose that have bonded with water molecules. This means that each serving of honey gives your body a natural energy boost. Additionally, honey’s antibacterial and antifungal properties may help reduce gastrointestinal disorders. Your skin can also benefit from honey. Its antibacterial properties make it an effective moisturizer that will nourish the skin, especially when combined with other ingredients such as apples or cucumbers. Honey can also help some unpleasant skin ailments such as acne and sores.

The Creative Honeybee

It may surprise you that there are over 300 unique types of honey available in North America and thousands of varieties worldwide. Honeys differ in color, flavor and aroma depending on the nectar source of the flowers visited by the honeybees. Lighter honeys such as Alfalfa and Clover usually have a milder flavor and are considered a great natural sweetener for everyday use, while darker honeys such as Manuka, Avocado and Buckwheat can be quite robust and rich in flavor.

Lab testing shows that different types of honeys differ in their vitamin and mineral content, because each honey has a unique compilation of nectars. Similar to wine, honeys of a specific type can even vary year to year, depending on the climate, temperature and rainfall.

If honeybees are predominantly visiting a certain type of plant, then they will produce a specific honey variety. Each variety is packed with certain levels of nutrients, thus giving different honeys different healing properties. Yet, many honeys – even specific varieties – include a blend of nectars because honeybees are quite intelligent when it comes to which flowers they visit. They collect nectar of certain flowers because of the vitamins and minerals that will give them a balanced diet and a mix of needed phytochemicals (biologically active compounds produced by plants). Honey manufacturers will also add different honeys to a specific honey type to meet certain qualities. For example Sage honey is blended with other varieties to slow down granulation because it is extremely slow to granulate.

Healing Honey Varieties

Although all honeys have some of the same medicinal properties, certain honeys have shown to alleviate specific health problems and have been used as natural medicines for ages. The following honeys have become quite popular over the last few years and now are somewhat easy to find:

1. Acacia honey is created from the nectar of the Black Locust blossoms (Robinia pseudoacacia). Its high fructose and low sucrose content make it a great choice for diabetics. Acacia honey is known for its therapeutic effects such as cleansing the liver, regulating digestive processes especially in the intestines, and reducing inflammation in the respiratory system.

2. Eucalyptus honey comes in many varieties because Eucalyptus is one of the larger plant genera with over 500 species, hence Eucalyptus honeys can vary in color and flavor. Its origin is Australia but it is now also produced in California. Traditionally, Eucalyptus honey has been used to protect against colds and headaches. With a hint of menthol flavor, it can be quite effective in alleviating mild cough, chest congestion and other cold symptoms. Furthermore, Eucalyptus honey has also been widely used as a topical treatment or blended in natural topical medicines for healing wounds, ulcers, burns, sores and abrasions, as well as for insect bites and stings. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it beneficial in relieving muscle and joint pain when massaged into the skin.

3. Linden honey, most commonly recognized in Northern Europe where Linden trees (Tilia) are planted in city parks and gardens and along the roads, is known for its light yellow color and delicate woody scent. It has slight sedative properties, therefore it is recommended for anxiety. It can also aide with insomnia if used in a bath before bedtime. Its antiseptic properties make it a natural treatment for colds, cough and other respiratory ailments such as bronchitis.

4. Manuka honey is collected from the flowers of the Tea Tree bush (Leptospermum), found in the coastal areas of New Zealand. This type of honey has strong antibacterial properties thus making it an effective elixir for digestive problems such as stomach ulcers and indigestion, for symptoms associated with colds such as sore throat, and for skin problems such as acne and pimples. The taste of Manuka honey can be quite robust, but it will vary depending on which brand you buy so if you don’t like one, try another.

5. Neem honey is a popular Ayurvedic treatment and can be commonly found in India where Neem trees (Azadirachta indica) are common. It is used to lower high blood pressure, diabetes, skin problems, allergies, dental illnesses, and throat infections.

In addition to buying raw and, if possible, organic honey, many natural products are now available, especially for skin care, that come pre-blended with these honey varieties. Some of my favorites include Wild Ferns Manuka Honey Facial Care products and Amazing Ayurveda cleansers.

There are many other wonderful honey varieties that are perfect for cooking, baking, salad dressings and so forth. Some common ones include Alfalfa honeyAvocado honeyClover honeyBlueberry honey and Orange Blossom honey, although, once again, there are thousands of honey varieties. If you haven’t found something that suits your needs, keep exploring.

Sources:

Waking Times

http://naturehacks.com/natural-food/how-raw-honey-is-the-ultimate-survival-food/

http://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/natural-remedies/honey-as-medicine-zm0z14ndzhou.aspx

http://www.honey.com/honey-at-home/learn-about-honey/honey-varietals/

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

Almond growers plant wildflowers to help bees

via modbee.com

Almonds are among the top-grossing farm products in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and statewide, and the largest users of commercial colonies in the nation each year. About 1.7 million bee boxes are delivered to the orchards for the pollination, which runs from mid-February to mid-March.

Beekeepers expect to lose some of their colonies each winter, but many have had much larger losses in recent years. Researchers say the causes could include diseases, parasites, trucking stress, pesticides or poor nutrition where drought has reduced flowering plants. Even when rain is abundant, winter does not provide much food.

“Those are times of dearth for bees, when there isn’t much for them to eat,” said Heintz, who works out of Tucson, Ariz., and previously was with the Almond Board of California, based in Modesto.

Heintz talked about the effort during a visit Wednesday to Silveira’s orchard, on 40 hilly acres along Twenty-Six Mile Road. The seeds he sowed came free from Project Apis m., which operates on about $100,000 in grants each year. The mix includes a few varieties of mustard, which put out yellow flowers before the almond bloom, and clover, which bear red, white or purple flowers afterward.

Heintz said the diverse food in the orchard, combined with nearby drinking water, “is exactly what we need. This is a bee spa.”

Almond blooms still are the favored food for the bees, she added, and they will not fill up on the supplemental plantings at the expense of pollinating the crop.

The effort so far covers only about 3,000 of the 860,000 acres of almonds in California, but Heintz said she would like to see it become a common practice. She is collecting data on how the supplemental food sources affect nutrition, colony population and other factors.

Silveira has taken part for two years. He said some almond growers might worry about these plants taking soil moisture from the trees, but that has not been a problem. He also noted that the mustard and clover protect the ground from erosion and take up nitrate from fertilizer, reducing the risk of tainted groundwater.

Silveira plans to mow the plants when the flowering in done, so they will decompose well in advance of the almond harvest. The nuts are shaken to the ground by machines, and growers do not like to have too much debris lying there.

Silveira rented the colonies from Hughson-area beekeeper Kevin Peavey, who is taking part in the effort for the first time this year.

“The bees are going to have more pollen and nectar to gather,” Peavey said. “The more they are fed, the stronger they are.”

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

BY THE NUMBERS

$18 billion: Estimated worth of U.S. crops pollinated by honeybees and other creatures each year. About a third of that is in California, including almonds, cherries, apples, apricots, plums, kiwis, avocados, alfalfa seed, onions, broccoli, cucumbers, melons and squash.

$2.3 billion: Estimated gross income to almond growers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley in 2013.

1.7 million: Number of commercial honeybee colonies rented to California almond growers each year, two-thirds of the U.S. supply.

Sources: American Beekeeping Federation, county crop reports

HOW TO TAKE PART

Project Apis m. has free seed for almond growers hoping to supplement the food available to pollinating honeybees. Send an email to projectapis@gmail.com. Other interested people can learn about the effort at http://projectapism.org.

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/news/local/article10897667.html#storylink=cpy
Read full story · Posted in News

Gumuchian “B” Collection—Buzz

Check out all the buzz about Gumuchian “B” Collection!!
A portion of the proceeds of all sales will go to HoneyLove.org!

PRESS:

http://obsessedbyjewelry.com/celebrate-national-honey-bee-day-gumuchian-jewelry-cause/

http://www.cijintl.com/In_The_Press-6076.html

http://jewelrynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2014/05/gumuchians-jewelry-is-for-bees.html

http://instoremag.com/homepage/shine-news/13854-new-gumuchian-collection-highlights-bees

http://jogsshow.com/gem-jewelry-news/honor-black-yellow-friends/

http://www.jckonline.com/blogs/style-360/2014/05/16/debuting-in-las-vegas-gumuchians-b-collection-bee-theme-gold-jewelry?utm_source=JCK%20eNewsletters&utm_campaign=61b72045d4-2014_05_16_Fashion_Friday&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_56301e74d4-61b72045d4-333952953

http://americangemsocietyblog.org/2014/06/14/jewelry-with-a-cause-gumuchian-creates-awareness-for-honeylove/

http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_988dcd240101irgg.html

http://adornmentality.com/2014/05/28/jewelry-week-in-sin-city-who-you-should-see-part-3-jck/

http://www.pricescope.com/blog/whats-buzz-gumuchians-new-b-collection-stunned-jck-2014

http://blog.nationaljeweler.com/2014/05/the-baubles-and-the-bees.html

http://www.jckonline.com/2014/07/15/gold-bee-inspired-jewels-and-silicone-supported-bangles

http://news.centurionjewelry.com/articles/view/brand-news-from-gumuchian-frederic-sage-forevermark-and-precision-set

http://www.epageflip.net/i/359465   Page 28

http://www.jckonline.com/blogs/on-your-market/2014/08/05/britts-pick-gumuchians-b-honeycomb-medallion-pendant

http://www.jewelsdujour.com/2014/05/the-bees-knees-gumuchian-b-collection/

http://obsessedbyjewelry.com/celebrate-national-honey-bee-day-gumuchian-jewelry-cause/

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

LOS ANGELES LEGALIZATION UPDATE!!

Public Hearing Notice: Backyard Beekeeping Draft Ordinance

All interested persons are invited to attend a public hearing for a proposed City of Los Angeles Zoning Code amendment to allow backyard beekeeping in single-family residential zones. At the hearing, you may listen, speak, or submit written information related to the proposed ordinance. This is the first in a series of public hearings regarding this proposed ordinance as it moves on to the City Planning Commission, Planning and Land Use Management committee of the City Council, and City Council.

PLACE: Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1010, 10th Floor – 200 N. Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
TIME: Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Please see the link below to the public hearing notice, Q&A and draft ordinance for more information.
http://goo.gl/gpZHWQ 

For more information, please contact staff:
Katie Peterson
KATHERINE.PETERSON@LACITY.ORG
213-978-1445

Read full story · Posted in News

NEW! HoneyLove inspired Christian Science Monitor article

Chelsea and Rob McFarland lure people into a sweet science: urban beekeeping

Honeybee populations are under attack but the founders of nonprofit HoneyLove believe bees’ best future is in cities.

By Daniel B. Wood, Staff Writer

Butterflies and hummingbirds flit in the shafts of light behind Chelsea McFarland as she tells a group of about 20 interested volunteers – residents ages 6 to 66 from around this West Los Angeles suburb – what they can do to combat the dramatic worldwide depletion of the honeybee.

“Instead of one guy with 60,000 hives, our hope is that we can inspire 30,000 people to have two each,” she says to the volunteers who sit on folding chairs inside an auxiliary greenhouse on the grounds of Venice High School Learning Garden.

Between 1947 and 2005, the number of bee colonies in the United States declined by more than 50 percent, from 5.9 million to 2.4 million, she tells them. Researchers are now saying the once-mysterious disappearance is likely due to a combination of viruses, pesticides, and contaminated water, which makes bees more susceptible to everything from stress to parasitic mites. The bees pick up insecticides through dust and residue on nectar and pollen.

The recent Saturday gathering aims to reverse the trend. Ms. McFarland’s hope is that the information will ignite a passion within the listeners to (1) spread the word and (2) adopt a whole slew of ideas that can dramatically boost the bee population.

Those actions could range from becoming a full-time urban beekeeper – building and sustaining hives of bees and harvesting the honey – to planting a bee-friendly organic garden with bee-friendly plants, such as lavender, glory bushes, jasmine, rosemary, coreopsis, violets, thyme, wisteria, bluebells, trumpet vine, sunflowers, cosmos, and coneflowers.

Taking action also could be as simple as building a clean, outdoor, nonstagnant water source on one’s property.

“The best science tells us that the future of the honeybee is within the urban environment,” McFarland says. “Cities actually provide safer habitat than the farms and rural areas traditionally associated with beekeeping.”

That’s because urban areas offer more diversity of plants, and they are available year-round – not just in a single season, like most of the 100 crops that bees pollinate which make up about a third of the average person’s diet.

Bee pollination is worth $15 billion a year to the US farming industry, McFarland says. Bee depletion is also predicted to affect the beef and dairy industries by reducing the pollination of clover and other hay and forage crops.

The Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America told Congress in March 2007 that if the disappearances – known as colony collapse disorder – continued unabated, managed honeybees would disappear by 2035.

That would also result in higher prices for nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and possibly increased imports of cheaper fruits and vegetables from overseas countries where CCD is less prevalent…

[continue reading on csmonitor.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Interviews, News

Neonicotinoids a Disaster in the making?

Podcast via kiwimana

This week we are talking to Dr. Henk Tennekes from the Netherlands. This is Episode fifty two of our beekeeping podcast.

You can download the podcast directly HERE, or click on the play button above. Feel free to share it with your friends.

“Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent…” - Rachel Carson

 

INTRO

Dr Henk Tennekes is a esteemed toxicologist and author.

Dr Tennekes has been working in cancer research for most of his career. He has been studying neonicotinoids in relation to decline of insects and bird life.

He discovered that this family of pesticides are not only effecting bees but other insects and birds.

In 2010 he publish his findings the in the book “A Disaster in the Making“. We encourage you to support Henk’s work and buy a copy of his fantastic book.

We encourage you to copy this recording and please give it to any friends or family that may buy pesticides for their home garden. Let’s all vote against these products with our dollars.

Buy Henk’s Book Here

Here’s What You’ll Learn

  • How Henk came up with the idea for his book
  • Clothianidin can remain in the soil for nineteen years.
  • Neonicotinoids are water soluble and threaten fish and water dependent insects
  • Insects are the main food source for many mammals and fish.
  • Neonicotinoids destroy insects immune system and help infections in beehives to spread.
  • Chytrid Fungus is wiping out frogs in California
  • Bats are being wiped out by White Nose Syndrome
  • Everything is connected, you can’t destroy insects without it effecting all species (including humans).
  • Acute toxicity tests are not effective enough to demonstrate the long effect on Honey Bees
  • Neonicotinoids are legal because of the failure of our government regulators
  • There is a break in the food chain happening before our eyes
  • Autism in children has increased since Neonicotinoids were introduced
  • Neonicotinoids are used in Pet Flea products such as “Advantage”
  • Bayer is not releasing its own studies on Neonicotinoids
  • Austrian agriculture is 40% organic :)

Neonicotinoids available now at your Garden Centre

What Was Mentioned

  • Henk’s book Disaster in the making can be purchased here HERE
  • Dutch Parliament votes to ban all Neonicotinoids pesticide use in the Netherlands, you can read more HERE
  • Sue Kedgleys work on bee health
  • Dr Alex Lu Harvard study, read more HERE
  • Syngenta and Bayer go to court against the European Commission, find out more HERE

View original post via kiwimana

Read full story · Posted in Buzz, Yay Bees

BEEHIVE HEROES

Paul Hekimian inspects a honeycomb forming in one of the hives behind his home

Paul Hekimian inspects a honeycomb forming in one of the hives behind his home (via argonautnews.com)

Backyard beekeepers work to save the local honeybee population from collapse

Story by Rebecca Kuzins via argonautnews.com

Most people who discover a beehive in their backyard would be glad to see it gone.

Paul Hekimian is not like most people.

After discovering a hive in an avocado tree behind his Santa Monica home in 2012, Hekimian — with help from Del Rey beekeeper Rob McFarland — moved the bees into brooding boxes, which provide ideal conditions for a hive. Since then, he has been raising honeybees, extracting and bottling honey, and even adopting more bees by rescuing swarms that have gathered at places such as Tongva Park and the Santa Monica Pier.

Hekimian is part of a new breed of urban beekeepers who’ve developed organic, pesticide- and chemical-free techniques to raise smaller hives with more disease-resistant honeybees. But the way Hekimian tells it, he just sets up his brooding boxes and then leaves the bees alone so they can produce honeycombs — and more bees.

“At the end of the day, the bees do all the work,” said Hekimian, a father of two young boys who also has his hands full running both a wholesale bakery and a technology consulting business. “You’ve heard the phrase ‘busy as a bee.’ These bees are very busy.”

Hekimian’s work and that of other backyard beekeepers is more than just a hobby. It’s also an environmentally minded response to the colony collapse disorder that has plagued honeybees for almost a decade and threatens the very future of agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Save the bees, save ourselves

In 2006, beekeepers began noticing that many worker bees had abandoned their hives, resulting in a loss of one-third of the nation’s honeybees. Since then, bees have continued to disappear, with scientists and researchers citing several possible reasons for the loss. Some argue that a fungus or virus is responsible, or that the bees have died from poor nutrition or parasites. More recently, numerous articles in scientific journals maintain a specific group of pesticides is the cause of the problem.

The sudden and rapid decline of the bee population has gotten the attention of President Barack Obama, who had two hives installed at the White House garden this summer — making him the nation’s most high-profile urban beekeeper.

In June, Obama created a Pollinator Task Force to establish a federal strategy aimed at promoting the health of honeybees and other pollinators.

“Honeybee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States,” reads a statement announcing the task force. “Severe yearly declines create concern that bee colony losses could reach a point from which the commercial pollination industry would not be able to adequately recover.”

Or, as Hekimian says it: “If the bees go, they’re taking us with them. One in three pieces of food is touched by bees.”

Already struggling with drought, California’s almond industry also relies on bees for pollination. Bees also play a significant role in pollinating strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, squash and myriad other agricultural and other plants.

Some cities have responded to colony collapse disorder by legalizing beekeeping on private property, and the Santa Monica City Council adopted such an ordinance in 2011.

“The city council recognized bees are a very important link in the food chain,” said Dean Kubani, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “Bees play so many important roles in the production of fruit and vegetables and most of what we eat. … I think in the past, there was a fear that bees in urban and suburban areas would harm people. That has shown not to be the case.”

The fight to legalize bees in L.A.

The Los Angeles City Council has been studying how the city could adopt its own backyard beekeeping ordinance since February. Some Los Angeles residents, like Rob and Chelsea McFarland, are already keeping bees. Founders of the nonprofit organization Honey Love, the couple has conducted an extensive neighborhood outreach and lobbying campaign in favor of a bee-positive city ordinance.

Chelsea McFarland said she and her husband made the decision to become beekeepers after a swarm showed up in the backyard of their Del Rey home.

“We have an organic garden and we knew about [colony collapse disorder]. We knew the bees were in trouble,” she said.

When the McFarlands contacted the city for advice about handling the swarm, they were told “the only thing to do was exterminate [them],” she recalled. “That’s still the case. Part of the [city’s] policy should be not only to legalize [beekeeping] … but to try and rescue rather than exterminate.”

Sylvia Henry is also a Los Angeles beekeeper and Honey Love member. She started keeping honeybees in March after Hekimian brought a swarm to her Mar Vista home, where her hive shares space in the backyard with eight chickens. “I’m an old farm girl,” Henry said. “I grew up on a farm in Chino.”

Henry said she is “thrilled” with her hive, which has already produced 30 pounds of honey. She’s “read all of the books in the library on bees” and is fascinated by the “whole entire cycle” of beekeeping and the “social set-up” of honeybees.

Not far from Henry’s backyard, another group of bees live on the roof of Louie’s of Mar Vista, a popular neighborhood restaurant and bar on Grand Avenue south of Venice Boulevard.

John Atkinson and his wife Laura opened the restaurant last year at the site where his grandfather, Bill Atkinson, and Bill’s buddy Louie operated a butcher shop from 1954 to 1969.

While renovating the property, John Atkinson noticed a swarm of bees had gathered inside a large sign above the building.

“Rather than poison them, we got them out of the sign and cut off access for them to get back into the sign,” he recalled.

The bees were placed in hive boxes on the restaurant’s roof, and Atkinson hired a beekeeper to take care of them. Over the past year, the population of what the restaurant’s website calls “Mar Vista’s bees” has increased threefold.

Louie’s of Mar Vista uses honey from these hives in some of its dishes and to create its signature Bee Sting cocktail — a combination of applejack brandy, ginger beer, lemon and honey, served with a slice of lime and a mix of sugar and ginger around the rim of the glass.

“It’s not like having a goldfish”

As part of its education and support mission, HoneyLove conducts monthly seminars, including some at its bee sanctuary in Moorpark, to train backyard beekeepers.

“It’s not like having a goldfish,” Chelsea McFarland said. “You definitely want to know what you’re doing.”

Hekimian, on the HoneyLove board of directors, agrees that wanna-be beekeepers need training before they can graduate to get a beehive.

Beekeeping, Hekimian adds, is the art of observation: “You watch the behavior of the bees as they go in and out the front door. Are they going out? Are they bringing in pollen?”

Beekeeping comes fairly naturally to Hekimian. His father, Kevork G. Hekimian, kept bees when Paul was growing up in Houston.

“My dad started out with a couple of hives and then had 60 hives,” he said. “I got him back into beekeeping,”  Hekimian said of his father. “It’s come full circle.”

 

[read the full article via argonautnews.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews