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The Uncommon Good | HoneyLove via SoulPancake
Did you know that bees pollinate one out of every bite of food we eat? Rob and Chelsea McFarland founded HoneyLove.org to inspire and educate people about becoming urban beekeepers.
Producer/Director – Ari Weinberger
Cinematographer – Todd Kappelt
Camera Operator – Nash Dutton
Assistant Camera – Kenny Mylar
Sound Engineer – John Betton
Editor – Andrew Golibersuch
Animator – Ian Heifetz
Voice Over Artist – Elan Weinberger
Interview by Colin Berry.
The California Report is a production of KQED Public Radio.
Commercial honeybee colonies around the world are collapsing, and scientists are trying to figure out why. The good news? Bees are thriving in urban areas. In California, San Francisco, San Jose, and other big cities have laws that allow beekeeping. Los Angeles could be next, if a coalition of amateur beekeepers has anything to say about it. Reporter: Colin Berry
Deep in a sunny backyard in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district, a colony of 50,000 Western honeybees is getting oriented to its new surroundings. Yesterday, the swarm was living under the eaves of a house in Whittier, some 20 miles away. But they’re here today because Walker Rollins and Kirk Anderson took the time to remove them — humanely.
Anderson and Rollins are members of a club called Backwards Beekeepers, which relocates bee swarms and colonies in L.A. several times a week. Yet in doing so, they’re breaking the law, because beekeeping here is illegal, and the city’s most common tactic in dealing with feral bees is to exterminate them.
Anderson says most people with a bad opinion about feral bees have barely any experience working with them. “Bees are like people,” he said. “Everybody has a bad day. If a beehive has a bad day, people want to have it destroyed. If a person has a bad day, they put them on Oprah.”
But many Angelenos are frightened of bees, and might be uneasy with the thought of 50,000 of them living next door. Ron Lorenzen, an urban forestry manager for the city, says that while he wouldn’t oppose a law allowing beekeeping in residential areas, his own agency’s rationale for eradicating bees on public property is based on evidence of a dangerous new hybrid.
“I’m not a bee professional, but a pest control adviser [in our office] said that 80 percent of the hives they’re finding are actually Africanized colonies. Evidently the bees are becoming more homogenous.”
Africanized bee colonies have been associated with the “killer” bees that have recently attacked people and animals, causing some fatalities. Western honeybees are considered less aggressive.
Backwards Beekeeper co-founder Kirk Anderson, who’s raised bees for 45 years, thinks what Lorenzen says is nonsense. Bees aren’t pests, Anderson says, and relying on pest experts to determine a city’s bee policy is ludicrous.
“All bees are defensive,” he explained. “There’s always been mean bees, and they can be mean for different reasons. By understanding them, you can do things so you don’t trigger their meanness or their defensive actions.”
Across the city, Rob and Chelsea McFarland run a nonprofit called Honey Love. After piloting feasibility studies and launching petitions, the McFarlands have begun lobbying the city’s 95 neighborhood councils to make beekeeping legal in L.A.
“We go on right after the ordinances for much heavier topics like gangs and drugs,” Chelsea said. “We go up and we’re like, ‘Yay bees!’ and they’re like, ‘You guys are the most delightful ordinance we’ve ever had to vote on.’”
These guerrilla beekeepers believe that cities, with their diverse vegetation and lack of agricultural pesticides, are the bees’ best bet for countering colony collapse disorder (CCD), and that legalizing bees in L.A. would be a big win for everybody. (CCD is a phenomenon where honeybees abandon their hives; it has been on the increase in recent years and is significant economically because many crops worldwide are pollinated by honeybees.)
Rob McFarland says that encouraging people to keep honeybees in cities makes them safer from factors that are endangering the insects commercially.
Rob and Chelsea McFarland have the support of 11th District city council member Mike Bonin. His proposal — allowing beekeeping in single-family neighborhoods — is moving through the Planning Commission and could be up for a vote in as few as five months.
“Currently, we allow single-family homes to do truck gardening — growing berries, flowers, fruits, herbs, mushrooms and nuts for private use or for sale at farmers’ markets,” Bonin explained. “This proposal would afford the same opportunity for beekeeping.”
Beekeeping is legal in San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento. Russell Bates, who founded Backwards Beekeepers with his wife, Amy Seidenwurm, and Kirk Anderson, says interest in beekeeping is rising all over California, especially in urban areas where people are passionate about local agriculture and sustainability.
“We’ve seen it on the rise in Arcata and Berkeley and Oakland,” he said. “It bubbles up wherever people are curious about how to be more in tune with nature.”
Officials estimate there are 10 colonies of feral bees in every square mile of L.A. With support for the new law beginning to swarm, the state’s biggest city could be bee-friendly by this time next year.
[view original post via californiareport.org]
Pass the Plate: Urban Bee Keepers
Get the buzz on urban bee keeping!
Pass the Plate: Urban Bee Keepers on Disney Video
“One day I was out in my garden when a swarm of wild honey bees showed up looking for a new home. We knew we wanted to rescue them so we called a bee expert came out and he taught us how to move that swarm into a hive box. And we were having so much fun with the honeybees that we decided to start HoneyLove to rescue honey bees and help urban beekeepers…”
THIS WEEK IN NEWS via James Rojas
National Honey Bee Day, 2013, Santa Monica. August 17th is National Honey Bee Day & a local non-profit organization, HoneyLove, celebrated in Santa Monica to help spread the message of how important it is to help bees.
People always ask us “what’s the first step I need to take to become a beekeeper?” and our response is always the same: “you need to find and join a community.”
Here you go. We are thrilled to announce the launch of the HoneyLove Forum! This feature—free and open to the public—represents a major step forward in educational and community-building efforts. Forums are an incredible way for communities to collaborate, share information and discuss our shared passion.
Just as the individual bee needs a community of bees to survive, the beekeeper needs a community of beekeepers for continued education and support. Whether you are just getting started as a new-bee and need mentorship, or you’re a multi-generation beek still learning new things and refining old techniques, you can benefit from the group’s collective intelligence through discussions, shared observations/experiments, and by simply being around others who share your passion. There are beekeeping associations, clubs, and non-profits like HoneyLove in almost every city in the United States and throughout the world. We always encourage people to join as many of these as they can, as well as availing themselves of all the information the web has to offer. Now, with the HoneyLove Forums, we can offer a place for people to go—regardless of where they live—to dive into the world of beekeeping to learn and connect with likeminded people from all over.
The threads in the forum are organized into seven basic topics to get started. We encourage you to get in there and start a discussion, answer someone’s questions and bond with fellow HoneyLovers! We want your feedback, so please let us know your thoughts on how we can continue to improve the HoneyLove Forum.
Look inside a plain wood box, in a truck, in the driveway of Rob and Chelsea McFarland’s house on certain spring nights, and you will see them. Bees.
How did they get there? Turn back the clock two years, to another season, another swarm. This one arrived in the afternoon while Rob was working in the backyard — one bee at first, then thousands, clustered into a ball the size of two footballs. It landed in a tree.
Instead of killing the bees, Rob called a group he’d read about online, which “rescues” them: the Backwards Beekeepers. That evening, wearing only a T-shirt and jeans and no protective suit, a volunteer from the group clipped the branch of bees, dropped it into a cardboard box and sealed it up. Rob, now 33, and wife Chelsea, 31, were astounded. “It revealed to me the gentle nature of bees,” Rob says.
Soon he started going on rescues, too — as many as three a day. He climbed a tangerine tree in the middle of the night and brought down the biggest open-air hive Chelsea had ever seen. With a frenzied smile, Rob gripped the severed branch with massive honeycombs dangling off it — a 60-pound lollipop of bees. Chelsea snapped a picture.
Then the dawning realization: “Where the hell do we put them?” It is a recurring question that will consume their next few days, then months, then years.
The tangerine tree hive sat on their roof for a spell. The McFarlands live in a modest house in the Del Rey neighborhood, a narrow, two-mile strip that cleaves Culver City from Mar Vista. They don’t exactly have a lot of space. And what kind of neighbor welcomes a swarm?
By some miracle, after weeks of shlepping hives across the city — after the crazy logistics of matching up people who had bees but didn’t want them with people who want bees but didn’t have them — Chelsea secured a spot: a small, scrubby hilltop in agrarian Moorpark, overlooking an organic farm owned by a friend of a friend. The McFarlands christened the hilltop the HoneyLove Sanctuary.
Today it hosts 16 hives in colorful wood boxes, each from somewhere around L.A., rescued from water meters and birdhouses and compost bins, places Rob can’t recall anymore.
“Each one of these is a family,” Chelsea says. “We’re usually rushing to beat the exterminator out there.”
For the past two years, the McFarlands’ house has been a halfway home for rescued bees. Rob, a YouTube channel manager, rescues them after work in the evenings, and the bees spend the night in his truck on the driveway until he can shuttle them up to the hilltop in the morning.
You do not choose to become obsessed. As anyone who has ever fallen in love with this insect says, “The bees choose you.”
“We always kind of have bees at our place,” Chelsea admits, with a sheepish grin.
Commercial bees — the ones used to pollinate crops in the agriculture industry — are dying off in record numbers, presenting a serious crisis to global food production. Yet in urban areas, bees thrive. No pesticides or monocrops mean healthy living conditions. As improbable as it sounds, cities like Los Angeles may be the bees’ best hope for survival.
But there’s a catch.
Urban beekeeping is legal in New York, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Denver, Atlanta, San Francisco, Paris, London, Tokyo and Vancouver. In New York and San Francisco, people keep hives on the roofs of luxury hotels and apartment buildings.
In Los Angeles, however, bees exist in a legal gray area. The county allows them. But the city has no laws specifically pertaining to urban beekeeping. Currently, if bees are found on public property, the city’s only option is to exterminate them. As a result, the past few years have seen the emergence of groups like the Backwards Beekeepers, which are devoted to rescuing and keeping these wild swarms of so-called “feral” hives within city limits.
The Backwards Beekeepers represent a whole new kind of thinking about bees. While older, established groups frown on feral hives, the Backwards Beekeepers see them as the way of the future. Where traditional bee clubs use pesticides and antibiotics to help struggling bee populations, the Backwards Beekeepers favor organic, “natural” methods. The city, in a Backwards Beekeeper’s eyes, is a bee’s ideal stomping ground.
Yet as long as the rules about keeping hives on private property are anyone’s guess, beekeepers live in fear. No one has been prosecuted, but that doesn’t seem like security enough. And so Rob and Chelsea McFarland have been working to change the city’s codes one neighborhood group at a time.
When the McFarlands consulted beekeepers in Seattle, they were advised to build support from the ground up. So the McFarlands formed a nonprofit foundation, HoneyLove, and they do endless events and outreach: wax symposiums, honey tastings, mead workshops, pollen parties, art shows, festivals, concerts, garden tours, grocery consortiums, school visits, equipment demonstrations, film screenings, radio shows, television appearances, guest lectures and video blogging. They organized a four-month feasibility study with the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council, which includes surveys with residents, testimony from a pediatric pulmonologist on the effects of bee stings and, for a little bedtime reading, 75 scholarly articles on beekeeping.
In the process, their small social circle has become a massive one; the bees opened up a community for them in a way that nothing had before. “You’d be amazed at how many people have a particular interest in bees for one reason or another,” Rob says.
How does someone get into bees? For the McFarlands, the more salient question is, how did they manage so long without bees?
The couple is well versed in the art of taking up causes. Previously they championed orangutans. But orangutans were an abstraction, thousands of miles away in the forests of Borneo. Bees were literally right in their backyard.
Chelsea, a video editor and something of a natural-born cheerleader, wanted to fix their bad rep. “You see a swarm coming, and it’s, like, ‘Killer bees! Run for the hills!’?” she says. “But actually it’s the least aggressive a bee will ever be. Because they have nothing to defend. They’re all homeless. They have no honey. They have no babies.”
Rob, who is quiet and thoughtful, with a mind prone to drawing connections, saw the intrinsic fascination of the insect itself. There were infinite, engrossing facts to learn. Did you know that bees see in ultraviolet light, so flowers look like neon signs to them? Did you know that bees are essentially plants’ way of having sex?
Collecting signatures at the Mar Vista Farmers Market one morning, they meet Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who is there picking up greens for his turkeys and chickens and finches and cockatiels… [continue reading article via laweekly.com]
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In recent years, honeybees have been impacted by a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a problem that results in adult honeybees disappearing from their hives. The cause remains unknown, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“There’s so much adding to the problem that it can’t be any one thing,” Hancock Park resident Sean Austin said.
Austin, along with his fiancée Anne Marie Host, tends to bees at the HoneyLove Sanctuary in Simi Valley, where Austin’s sister, Chelsea McFarland, runs the nonprofit conservation organization with her husband, Rob…
In May, Councilman Bill Rosendahl drafted a motion to have the city formally support beekeeping initiatives in the city and decrease the inhumane removal of the insects. Chelsea said the motion is now in the city’s Planning and Land Use Committee.
Although some people may be concerned about living near a beehive, there are likely 9 to 11 colonies of bees living in every mile of Los Angeles right now, she said…
Austin said he and his fiancée would keep bees at their home near Larchmont Boulevard if they could.
“It’s actually a really cool pet,” he said.
While people continue to sign HoneyLove’s petition on change.org and vie for legalized beekeeping, HoneyLove goes to schools and educates children about the necessity of honeybees.
“A lot of fear around bees comes from early childhood experiences,” Chelsea said, adding that her nephew was recently stung by a wasp, and he now has an aversion to bees. “We need kids to grow to like bees.”
Next, HoneyLove and its supporters will undergo a pesticide-free movement. Chelsea said that once a person thinks about the smallest common denominator — the honeybee — their concern for the environment increases substantially.
“Bees are the gateway drug to a sustainable lifestyle,” she added.
[click here to read the full article via parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com]
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