Bee colonies are vital to our food supply, but they have been dying off for nearly a decade. CBS News’ Ben Tracy reports on the rise of urban beekeeping, and the push in Los Angeles for a “pro-bee” ordinance to officially allow beekeeping.
Other cities have done it without major problems.
By The Times editorial board—December 27, 2013
Los Angeles is honeybee heaven. The warm Southern California climate and long growing seasons provide year-round food for bees. The city’s trees, flowers and flora are largely free of pesticides. It’s the perfect place for backyard beekeeping — except that beekeeping is not legal here.
That could soon change. A group of bee advocates and neighborhood councils has been lobbying the City Council to expressly allow beekeeping on single-family residential lots. Current law permits it only in areas zoned for agriculture. Next month, the City Council will decide whether to move forward with legalized beekeeping.
There’s a good reason to allow it. Commercially raised bees used to pollinate crops are disappearing in big numbers because of what’s known as colony collapse disorder, but nobody knows what’s causing the problem. Urban honeybees may end up replenishing the diminishing supply, or providing disease-resistant genes that can be introduced in the commercial bee lines.
Los Angeles should follow the lead of other major cities and draft rules that allow residents to keep bees, while providing some common-sense protections for neighbors. There’s already an established backyard beekeeping community in Los Angeles despite the fact that it is not legal. The growing urban agriculture movement has spurred more interest in homegrown hives (in part because the bees are needed to pollinate the new urban crops) and more confusion over what is and isn’t allowed.
New York City allowed illicit apiarists to come out of the shadows in 2010, and since then hobbyists have established hives on building roofs and in backyards. The city set basic rules: Colonies must be in well-maintained, movable frame hives with a constant water source, in a location that doesn’t pose a nuisance. Beekeepers file a one-page hive registration form with the city health department each year.
Santa Monica permitted beekeeping in 2011 with similar requirements. Residents are allowed two hives per backyard, and the hives must be at least five feet from the property lines. Apiarists who don’t follow the rules or who let their hives become a nuisance to neighbors face fines or misdemeanor charges.
Both cities said they’ve had no major problems; beekeepers have largely followed the rules or moved their hives in response to complaints. And city officials said there’s been a benefit: a larger network of amateur beekeepers to call upon to remove swarms rather than exterminate them.
There will understandably be some concern and fear from neighbors — a swarm of feral honeybees can look like something out of a horror movie. Beekeeping experts say there are already lots of naturally occurring, unmanaged hives in the region. A managed hive in which bees have adequate food and space is less likely to produce a swarm.
We need bees. We want more bees. It’s time to legalize beekeeping.
[view original article via latimes.com]
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee directed city staff to study the idea and report back in two months.
[Posted by Alexander Nguyen on Patch.com]
A City Council committee Tuesday took the first steps toward allowing residents to keep beehives in their yards for the production of honey and wax and to pollinate their gardens.
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee directed city staff to report back in two months on the best ways to allow “beekeeping” activity in single-family residential areas.
Council members who last year proposed overturning the city’s prohibition on beekeeping in those areas said promoting the practice will “foster a healthier bee population.”
The bee population has been reported to be “in steep decline,” prompting concerns that the local economy and the state’s agricultural industry would be negatively affected, according to a related motion introduced Tuesday by Councilman Jose Huizar.
His motion calls for city staff to come up with “humane and non-lethal” ways to relocate or remove unwanted bee hives to serve as alternatives to existing methods used by government agencies, “given the usefulness of bees to California’s agricultural industry and the growing popularity of urban beekeeping.” — City News Service
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Tuesday, December 10, 2:30PM
@ City Hall (3rd Floor – Public Works Board Meeting Room)
Please come out and show your support for urban beekeeping in Los Angeles!
And if you haven’t done so already, please sign our petition and send a quick email of support!!
By: Christina Sarich, Natural Society.
Many pesticides have been found to cause grave danger to our bees, and with the recent colony collapses in Oregon, it’s time to take a hard look at what we would be missing without bee pollination.
In just the last ten years, over 40% of the bee colonies in the US have suffered Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Bees either become so disoriented they can’t find their way back to their hives and die away from home, or fly back poison-drunk and die at the foot of their queen. There are many arguments as to what is causing CCD, but the most logical and likely culprit is the increased usage of pesticides by the likes of Monsanto and others.
A study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has labeled one pesticide, called clothianidin, as completely unacceptable for use, and banned it from use entirely. Meanwhile, the U.S. uses the same pesticide on more than a third of its crops – nearly 143 million acres. Two more pesticides linked to bee death are imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam. These are also used extensively in the US, while elsewhere, they have been taken out of circulation.
Recently, the FDA also seized Terrence Ingram’s bees, a naturalist who had been studying bees for over 30 years, and had a colony that was resistant to Monsanto’s Round Up. Ingram’s prized hives, along with their queens, were destroyed by the FDA, and Ingram was given no warning that his bees would be demolished.
List of Crop Plants Pollinated by Bees
While we don’t need bees to pollinate every single crop, here is just a brief list of some of the foods we would lose if all our bees continue to perish:
- Kiwi Fruit
- Rose Hips
- Black and Red Currants
- Prickly Pear
- Passion Fruit
- Lima Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Adzuki Beans
- Green Beans
- Orchid Plants
- Custard Apples
- Acerola – used in Vitamin C supplements
- Macadamia Nuts
- Sunflower Oil
- Goa beans
- Palm Oil
- Star Apples
- Brazil Nuts
- Mustard Seed
- Brussels Sprouts
- Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
- Congo Beans
- Sword beans
- Chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
- Black Eyed Peas
If one of your favorites is on this list, you should consider becoming a bee activist.
[read original post via realnews24.com]
The beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME, but it looks like managed honeybees will still pull through. Wild bees—and wild species in general—won’t be so lucky in a human-dominated planet.
I’ve written this week’s cover story for the magazine, on the growing threat to honeybees. You can read it (with a subscription) over here. The short version: beginning nearly a decade ago, honeybees started dying off at unusually and mysteriously high rates—this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared. At first this appeared due to something called colony collapse disorder (CCD); hives would be abandoned without warning, with bees seemingly leaving honey and intact wax behind. The apocalyptic nature of CCD—some people really thought the disappearance of the bees indicated that the Rapture was nigh—grabbed the public’s attention. More recently, beekeepers have been seeing fewer cases of CCD proper, but honeybees keep dying and bees keep collapsing. That’s bad for our food system—bees add at least $15 billion in crop value through pollination in the U.S. alone, and if colony losses keep up, those pollination demands may not be met and valuable crops like almonds could wither.
More than the bottom line for grocery stores, though, the honeybee’s plight alarms us because a species that we have tended and depended on for thousands of years is dying—and we don’t really know why. Tom Theobald, a beekeeper and blogger who has raised the alarm about CCD, put that fear this way: “The bees are just the beginning.”
But while we don’t now we exactly what causes CCD or why honeybees are dying in larger numbers, we do know the suspects: pesticides, including the newer class of neonicotinoids that seem to affect bees even at very low levels; biological threats like the vampiric Varroa mite; and the lack of nutrition thanks to monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn, which offer honeybees little in the way of the pollen they need to survive. Most likely, bee deaths are due to a mix of all of those menaces acting together—pesticides and lack of food might weaken honeybees, and pests like Varroa could finish them off, spreading diseases the bees don’t have the strength to resist. Unfortunately, that means there’s no simple way to save the honeybees either. Simply banning, say, neonicotinoids might take some of the pressure off honeybees, but most scientists agree it wouldn’t solve the problem. (And getting rid of neonicotinoids would have unpredictable consequences for agriculture—the pesticides were adopted in part because they are considered safer for mammals, including human beings.) Honeybees are suffering because we’ve created a world that is increasingly inhospitable to them.
Still, for all the alarm, honeybees are likely to pull through. As I point out in the magazine piece, beekeepers have mostly managed to replace lost colonies, though at a cost high enough that some long-time beekeepers are getting out of the business altogether. Beekeepers are buying new queens and splitting their hives, which cuts into productivity and honey production, but keeps their colony numbers high enough to so far meet pollination demands. They’re adding supplemental feed—often sugar or corn syrup—to compensate for the lack of wild forage. The scientific and agricultural community is engaged—see Monsanto’s recent honeybee summit, and the company’s work on a genetic weapon against the Varroa mite. Randy Oliver, a beekeeper and independent researcher, told me that he could see honeybees becoming a feedlot animal like pigs or chickens, bred and kept for one purpose and having their food brought to them, rather than foraging in the semi-wild way they live now. That sounds alarming—and it’s not something anyone in the beekeeping industry would like to see—but it’s also important to remember that honeybees themselves aren’t exactly natural, especially in North America, where they were imported by European settlers in the 17th century. As Hannah Nordhaus, the author of the great book A Beekeeper’s Lament, has written, honeybees have always been much more dependent on human beings than the other way around.
The reality is that honeybees are very useful to human beings, and species that are very useful to us—think domesticated animals and pets—tend to do OK in the increasingly human-dominated world we call the Anthropocene. But other wild species aren’t so lucky—and that includes the thousands of species of wild bees and other non-domesticated pollinators. Bumblebees have experienced recent and rapid population loss in the U.S., punctuated by a mass pesticide poisoning in Oregon this past June that led to the deaths of some 50,000 bumblebees. A 2006 report by the National Academies of Science concluded that the populations of many other wild pollinators—especially wild bees—was trending “demonstrably downward.” The threats are much the same ones faced by managed honeybees: pesticides, lack of wild forage, parasites and disease. The difference is that there are thousands of human beings who make it their business to care for and prop up the populations of honeybees. No one is doing the same thing for wild bees. The supposed beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME magazine, but “you don’t hear about the decline of hundreds of species of wild bees,” says Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
That’s meant almost literally—we don’t hear them anymore. The plight of the bees illustrates our outsized influence on the this planet as we reshape it—consciously and not—to meet our immediate needs. But just because we have this power doesn’t mean we fully understand it, or our impact on our own world. We are a species that increasingly has omnipotence without omniscience. That’s a dangerous combination for the animals and plants that share this planet with us. And eventually, it will be dangerous for us, too.
[Read original post via science.time.com]
In Kentucky, Project Pollinator is replacing grass with native flowers—and the early results for bees have been very promising.
The prairies, sloughs and forests of the great North American continent are home to a dazzling array of flowering plants that nourish pollinators from bees to butterflies and hummingbirds (like a green beauty, probably a ruby-throated hummingbird, I saw feeding from a purple coneflower this weekend in my relative’s otherwise grass-dominated backyard in Indianapolis).
But in case you hadn’t noticed, humans have the unfortunate habit of replacing these environs with crop fields and lawns. Perfect, manicured, American lawns.
Both cornfields and lawns are examples of monocultures, swaths of land made up of identical species that provide little food and habitat for native pollinators. They are, in a way, wastelands for pollinators, as pointed out in a story at Scientific American.
These beds of ubiquitous green blades, especially when sprayed with herbicides, offer virtually nothing to bees and other creatures on the hunt for food. Even when grasses are allowed to flower—which isn’t often, since unruly lawns are frowned upon and can decrease property values—most grasses are wind-pollinated and don’t need these animals to carry on their sessile lives.
However, many people are beginning to question the wisdom of the all-encompassing green lawn, and turf is increasingly being replaced by flowering native plants to help pollinators and for aesthetic value. (They also require less maintenance.)
One initiative, called Project Pollinator, is replacing grass with native flowers in Kentucky. Emily Dobbs, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, and colleagues have planted swaths of indigenous blooms at five golf courses in the state. The project, in its second year, is already having an impact, Dobbs said.
When they began the surveys on turf-dominated ground, the researchers mostly came across a single species of honeybee, besides bumblebees and sweat bees. But now, after introducing eight to 16 native species, Dobbs has found about eight bumblebee species, two dozen species of small solitary species like miner and diggers bees, and butterflies, she said. In the fall they will finalize their recommendation as to what mixture of native plants brings in the most indigenous insects.
“We’ve seen much more diversity on samples we’ve taken from the Operation Pollinator plot than in surveys of turf,” Dobbs added.
Thanks to the project, the Marriot, which owns many golf courses, has decided to place native flowers on half of its East Coast courses, according to Scientific American.
For people who want to replace their grass lawns with native plants, “two of the most useful online resources are the websites of The Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to the conservation of invertebrates, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a research unit of the University of Austin Texas dedicated to native plants,”Scientific American reports.
Most states also have extension offices, run by their land grant universities, which can recommend native plants to buy.
About one-third of the major industrial crops are also pollinated by bees and other insects. (Such is not the case with wheat and corn, which are mostly wind-pollinated.) Besides flowers cropping up along plots of turf, demand for native crops, pollinated by indigenous insects, has grown, Dobbs said. These include native squash, alfalfa, cranberries and blueberries, Dobbs said.
Supporting locally-grown foods also helps conserve native pollinators.
One contributor to the recent decline of honeybees may be the lack of diversity found in monocultures, research suggests. But this decline also highlights the importance of maintaining populations of local pollinators, many of which are indeed important for engaging in the dance of pollination that allows farmers to put bread (or cranberries) on the table.
So what are you waiting for? Add some flowers to that lawn. The bees will thank you.
[read original post via takepart.com]
Mass deaths in bee colonies may mean disaster for farmers–and your favorite foods
You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls you’ll eat today. Honeybees — which pollinate crops like apples, blueberries and cucumbers — are the “glue that holds our agricultural system together,” as the journalist Hannah Nordhaus put it in her 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament. But that glue is failing. Bee hives are dying off or disappearing thanks to a still-unsolved malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD), so much so that commercial beekeepers are being pushed out of the business.
So what’s killing the honeybees? Pesticides — including a new class called neonicotinoids — seem to be harming bees even at what should be safe levels. Biological threats like the Varroa mite are killing off colonies directly and spreading deadly diseases. As our farms become monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn — plants that provide little pollen for foraging bees — honeybees are literally starving to death. If we don’t do something, there may not be enough honeybees to meet the pollination demands for valuable crops. But more than that, in a world where up to 100,000 species go extinct each year, the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet.
“You’ve probably heard about the sudden and mysterious drop in honey bee populations throughout the U.S.A. and Europe. Beekeepers used to report average losses in their worker bees of about 5-10% a year, but starting around 2006, that rate jumped to about 30%. Today, many large beekeeping operations are reporting that up to 40 or 50 percent of their swarms have mysteriously disappeared. This massive die-off of honey bee populations has been dubbed colony collapse disorder, and it is a big, big deal.” [via scishow]
Wildlife-loving gardeners across the world enthuse about planting butterfly gardens, but relatively few think to design and plant a bee garden. Designing and planting a bee garden will bolster the health of your garden and help conserve one of earth’s treasures.
Why Design and Plant a Bee Garden
There are over 3,500 species of bees native to the United States. Unfortunately, due to land development and the extensive use of pesticides, their numbers are declining. In fact, the entire world is experiencing a shortage of bees. Why is this a problem?
Bees provide the much-needed service of pollinating plants. Approximately 80 percent of the flowering plants on earth require the help of pollinators, such as bees, for survival. That includes the plants which serve as food for humans. It is estimated one out of every three bites of food we take is made possible by bees and other pollinating wildlife.
Planting a well-designed bee garden provides food and shelter for bees, allowing them to nest and increase their population in safety. In return, the bees will increase the health and productivity of your garden and the gardens of those around you.
How to Design and Plant a Bee Garden
Variety is the spice of life to a bee. Bee gardens that use 10 or more species of bee-preferred plants tend to be the most successful. Bees will even visit less attractive plants in these gardens while they are there. Using a wide variety of preferred plants in your bee garden will also attract a wide variety of bees. This is especially true when you choose to use a nice assortment of plants native to your area.
Bee season goes from March through October. Choose a selection of plants that will bloom successively during this time period. A continuous provision of nectar and pollen will be available to bees if one type of bloom becomes available as another is dying out.
Flowers should be planted in large patches of like varieties to allow bees to dine in one spot for long periods of time. Gardens with scattered plants do not attract as many visits, and therefore receive less pollination, because bees expend too much energy flying between locations.
Bees thrive in gardens that are not extremely manicured, as solitary bees (ones who do not live in colonies) often prefer to make their nests in the ground. If you prefer the manicured look of mulch, leave some areas of dirt exposed for solitary bee nesting. Bee houses are an option when a manicured garden look is preferred. Place them in the shady areas of your garden where they will not be disturbed. Another option is to create bee nesting areas by filling planters and barrels with soil or sand. Place these where they will be protected from direct sunlight and rain.
Bees require a bit of water in addition to their nectar. A good bee garden will include a few puddles from which the bees can drink. Keep the puddles in muddy areas, as the bees will absorb needed minerals and salt from the soil as they sip the water.
Pesticides should not be used in bee gardens. Many pesticides work indiscriminately, killing off helpful insects along with the intended pest victims. If you truly need a pesticide in your garden, use a natural one made from microbes or plant derivatives and apply after sundown.
Choosing Plants When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden
The best plants to choose for your bee garden are varieties that are native to your area. Native plants will attract a nice variety of native bees. Certain bees require the native plants of their area to survive. Shop for your bee garden plants at a reputable nursery with knowledgeable staff who can assist you.
Plants that are not native to your area will attract bees as long as you pick the correct varieties. Stay away from anything with the word ‘double’ in the name or description. ‘Double’ plants have been bred to grow extra petals instead of anthers, the reproductive parts of the flowers, from which bees collect pollen. Stick to the old-fashioned single varieties of both non-native and native plants for your bee garden.
Bees are especially attracted to flowers that are purple, blue or yellow. They do not have the capability to see red and will rarely visit flowers in variations of that primary color. A few red flowers, such as bee balm, attract bees by reflecting ultraviolet light.
Small bees, which have short tongues, are most often attracted to small, shallow flowers. Use flowers such as daisy, marigold, butterfly weed, valerian, buttercup, aster, yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace.
Larger bees, which have longer tongues, can handle slightly deeper flowers. They enjoy plants such as delphinium, larkspur, columbine, monkshood and snapdragon. Long-tongued bees are also attracted to various herbs, such as sage, oregano, mint and lavender.
Leaf-cutting bees are drawn to plants in the legume family and sweet clover.
Flowers to Use When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden
Bees require two types of plants to survive: pollen plants and nectar plants. Pollen from plants is taken back to their nests to feed the young bees. Nectar plants feed the adult bees to give them energy while looking for pollen. Some of the nectar is also added to the nests to feed the baby bees.
Below is a short list of bee-preferred plants based on blooming season. Some of these plants will provide bees with just nectar or just pollen, while others will provide both. Speak to specialists at your local nursery for additional suggestions for your bee garden based on your location.
Nectar plants - Barberry, Bee plant, Blue Pea, Borage, Chinese Houses, Horehound, Lavender, Sage, Salvia, Scented Geranium, Wisteria
Pollen plants - Bush Anemone, California Poppy, Yarrow
Combination - Bidens, Blanket Flower, Blazing Star, Daisy, Marigold, Tansy
Nectar plants - Basil, Catnip, Horehound, Lavender, Lamb’s Ear, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Sea Holly, Spearmint, Thyme, Toadflax, Verbena
Pollen plants - Borage, California Poppy, Chaparral Nightshade, Tomato, Yarrow
Combination - Bidens, Black-eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Bluebeard, Calenula, Cosmos, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Goldenrod, Gum Plant, Lemon Queen, Pincushion, Purple Coneflower, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini
Nectar plants - Autumn Sage, Rosemary, Toadflax, Verbena, Yellow Trumpet bush
Combination - Bluebeard, Cosmos, Pumpkin, Squash
Sunflowers are excellent bee plants that bloom throughout the season. They come in two types: with and without pollen. They will attract more bees to your bee garden if you choose the varieties with pollen.
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