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

By Adrian Florido via

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.

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READ: 5 Healing Honeys Known For Their Medicinal Power

by Anna Hunt via

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.


Waking Times

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Almond growers plant wildflowers to help bees


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 or (209) 578-2385.


$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


Project Apis m. has free seed for almond growers hoping to supplement the food available to pollinating honeybees. Send an email to Other interested people can learn about the effort at

Read more here:
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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. 

For more information, please contact staff:
Katie Peterson

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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]

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4 States Just Got a Little Bit Safer for Bees

by Alicia Graef via

Environmentalists have been warning about the problems associated with a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids (neonics) on pollinators and other wildlife, but now there’s some good news that comes with a decision from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to phase out these toxic chemicals on wildlife refuges in the Northwest and Hawaii.

Neonics can be used in sprays, but are often applied as a coating on agricultural seeds and when it is, it spreads throughout the plant as it grows making the whole thing poisonous to a variety of insects. Studies have shown that they can be lethal to honey bees, bumble bees and other species at high doses, but even a little bit can cause problems by making them more vulnerable to other stressors. They’ve also been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder and have recently been found to be harmful to aquatic invertebrates and birds.

That’s not just bad news for pollinators, it’s bad news for us and the wild animals who depend on them to help pollinate crops and other wild plants we all depend on for food.

Earlier this year environmental organizations petitioned the agency to ban both genetically engineered crops and neonics throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System over concerns about the dangers they pose to wildlife and protected species and because their use is inappropriate on land that’s supposed to be designated to protect wildlife and conserve habitats.

In a memorandum published by the Center for Food Safety earlier this month, the FWS acknowledged that neonics could have adverse effects on a “broad-spectrum of non-target species” and agreed that their use does not meet the intent of policies that are supposed to cause the least harm to wildlife and their habitats. The agency also noted that they’re not only potentially being used on agricultural crops that are grown on wildlife refuges, but that they may be getting introduced through plants used in restoration projects.

Kim Trust, the deputy regional director of the FWS, told the AP that the agency made the decision because it is concerned about the global decline in all pollinators.

As of now, refuge managers will be required to take other steps to avoid their use on close to 9,000 acres of land in Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and should have neonics completely phased out by January 2016.

“We commend the Service for taking its first step to ban neonicotinoids in the Pacific region, and now we call on the agency to permanently institute this policy on wildlife refuges nationwide,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety. “Federal wildlife refuges were established to protect natural diversity. Allowing chemical companies to profit by poisoning these important ecosystems violates their fundamental purpose and mission.”

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Those Insecticides We’re Told Aren’t Killing Bees Are Also Hurting Birds

by Steve Williams

Despite many politicians being in complete denial about the mounting evidence of a connection between certain insecticides and the collapse of bee populations, new research shows that those same insecticides are probably indirectly leading to bird die-offs, too.

A new study published this month in Nature looks at data from the Netherlands which the researchers say shows a sharp decline in certain bird populations in areas where insecticides known as neonicotinoids were used the most.

Neonicotinoids are among the new wave of insecticides that have been developed in the past 50 years. They were supposed to be revolutionary for the farming industry and were billed as less damaging for the environment and wildlife. However, study after study has linked them to a decline in pollinators and even to bee Colony Collapse Disorder, while a 2013 examination of peer reviewed literature called for tighter restrictions on neonicotinoid use as, used in the concentrations and amounts that we see on farms today, the scientists concluded there is enough evidence to suggest that these insecticides are harming bees and other insects who aren’t supposed to be targeted.

Concerns have also been raised about the wider impact on wildlife beyond our pollinators. While neonicotinoids are billed as not being as toxic to mammals, and in particular birds of prey, scientific literature has suggested an unintended impact: by killing insects that the mammals eat, they may be driving down certain sensitive populations, and that’s precisely what the study from the Netherlands found.

Interestingly the researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands started their research not by exploring the impact of neonicotinoids, but by looking at two different data sets, one of bird counts, and the other of surface water measurements of the most common neonicotinoid, and through this the scientists were able to track the decline in bird numbers during the period of 2003 to 2010 while leaving the door open for other possible causes of bird population decline.

They found that there may be several factors contributing to the fall in numbers, such as an intensification of farming which often means uprooting bird habitats, like digging up hedges or dismantling barns.

Still, the researchers found that the presence of imidacloprid, one of the leading neonicotinoids, is incontrovertibly impacting birds and may be the main cause of bird decline in the region. They found that if ground water had just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per liter, there was a 30 percent fall in bird numbers during the study period–and what’s more, some areas had pollution levels that was 50 times higher than that figure.

In total, the researchers found that 14 out of 15 common insect-eating bird species, like barn swallows, tree sparrows and starlings, had suffered sometimes dramatic population declines.

Research similar but not identical to this has been dismissed in the past because it didn’t control for other factors, but this research did, yet the pattern still emerged. That is why lead researcher Hans de Kroon believes its time to take this problem seriously because, if neonicotinoids are indirectly harming birds, they’re probably harming other wildlife that prey on insects, too.

David Gouslon of the University of Sussex, who wasn’t involved in this study but did write a separate commentary, says this research is convincing. He tells the Guardian: “The simplest, most obvious, explanation is that highly toxic substances that kill insects lead to declines in things that eat insects. … This work flags up the point that this isn’t just about bees, it is about everything. When hundreds or thousands of species or insect are being wiped out, it’s going to have impacts on bats, shrews, hedgehogs, you name it. It is pretty good evidence of wholesale damage to the environment.”

Goulson also highlights that unlike the Netherlands, the UK (and much of Europe) isn’t monitoring neonicotinoid pollution. The UK agency responsible for overseeing matters dealing with the environment and wildlife, called Defra, remains stalwart that the research isn’t overwhelming and that, at the moment, there isn’t compelling evidence to show a definite link between neonicotinoids and harm to wildlife.

Defra says that these kinds of pesticides are safe when used as recommended and points to the admittedly (usually) rigorous short-term trials carried out by neonicotinoid producers. The problem though is precisely that they are only short-term trials. Manufacturers haven’t used longer-term systematic trials but if they did, scientists say the data would show the harms neonicotinoids can create over longer periods of time.

It was hoped that this message was, at last, getting through, when in 2013 the EU imposed a two-year suspension of thre neonicotinoids, but it emerged the suspension is largely toothless because the EU is failing to track data during this time, and a two year suspension is unlikely to give any meaningful data anyway.

We have to be clear that this latest study implies a link and not causation, but because this adds to a wider body of data that all suggests a link, the evidence for probable causation is growing ever more formidable. All this leads us to ask: how much scientific data do we need, and how many impartial experts need to speak out, before our politicians will act?

Or perhaps the better question is, how many animal populations have to collapse before our governments see fit to do something and actually tackle the issue of neonicotinoids?


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Beekeeping is booming in Vienna

People living in Vienna have got a new hobby – beekeeping.

The idea really took off a few years ago after the city council started investing in beehives and placing them in prominent locations. The State Opera House, the Burgtheater and the Museum of Natural History all have bee populations on their roofs, and there are even hives on the terraces of the Vienna General Hospital (AKH).

From there however, with all the publicity, people living in Vienna also started buying rooftop beehives, and now the local beekeeping association estimates there are hundreds of tonnes of honey being harvested in Vienna. The meadows, trees, parks, gardens, roadside verges, balconies and green rooftops provide a constant, yet ever-changing palette of blossoming flowers for the insects to feed on. Temperatures also remain higher for longer in the city than in rural areas.

Over 600 Viennese have even started investing in so many hives that they have registered officially as beekeepers with a special association, the Stadt-Imker (urban beekeepers), which is dedicated to monitoring and managing the various hives in the capital.

Josef Beier who is head of the Vienna beekeeping association said: “I never would have thought it possible but it really is getting to the situation now where the only problem is space for the beehives and to store the equipment needed for the honey gathering.

“With the fact that many colonies have been dying out en masse, the subject has been very present in the media and as a result a lot of people had become interested in it – and some of those have decided to do their bit to help the bees. With many having positive experiences, others have become involved and so it has spread.

“To keep healthy bees you need a wide variety of plants and with all the exotic varieties available in window boxes and gardens, it’s a paradise for these. There is always something in bloom and at the same time the bees of course are great for Vienna’s plants.

“It only takes about 250 GBP to start off as an amateur beekeeper, which includes the beehive and the basic equipment and tools as well as protective clothing.”

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Edmonton moves forward with urban beekeeping

By Mack D. Male 

Urban beekeepers are buzzing in Edmonton now that City Council has given the green light to a pilot project that will allow hives in backyards within city limits. On July 7, the Community Services Committee approved the pilot with urgency, pushing for the rules against urban beekeeping to come to an end. The City will now undertake a pilot and will report back with recommended bylaw changes in early 2015.

The battle to keep bees has been going on for quite some time and given that numerous other cities allow urban beekeeping, this decision was seen by many as long overdue. Importantly, it’s another recommendation from Fresh that will see implementation, and it’s a sign from Council that they are serious about food and agriculture in Edmonton.

Here’s an audio story about the news:

Edmonton moves forward with urban beekeeping by Mack Male on Mixcloud

Further Reading


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