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Advanced Beek Meeting Recap – November 2013

Dr. Roberta Kato, a longtime Bee Rescuer in Los Angeles, Master Gardener, Chicken-keeper and all-around great human being, spoke at the Advanced Beekeeper meeting on November 24 at HoneyLove HQ. Her topic was “Making the World Better, One Beekeeper at a Time,” and Roberta walks the walk. She recommends volunteering, paying it forward, building good karma (no matter what your beliefs are), inspiring others and developing altruism. Her suggested methods for achieving this are doing rescues, mentoring, talking to schools and classes, garden clubs and the public (email volunteer@honeylove.org to get involved with outreach!). Her last suggested method is to be a little unapologetically eccentric.

Roberta Pic

Roberta told the group how she got started doing bee rescues, how it quickly grew out of hand and what she learned by “diving in.” It wasn’t long before she found herself picking up swarms and doing cutouts at 5a.m. before work and in the evenings after a long day. Working at night was how Roberta first learned that bees crawl when it’s dark. Climbing 25-foot ladders never helped her get over her fear of heights but it saved dozens of swarms. So why does she still do it, with gardening and chickens and dogs and rabbits and pediatric pulmonary research to keep her busy? Because she doesn’t want other new beekeepers to make the same mistakes she did, to help reduce the number of times chemicals are used to exterminate a colony, to deepen her appreciation of nature and to make feral bees and beekeeping not such a big deal. There was a time when having a hive in one’s yard was not uncommon.

And while it’s satisfying to introduce hundreds of new people to bees and beekeeping, a mentor also has to understand when to say “No.” Roberta had to turn away more than one overly enthusiastic rogue beekeeper in tulle and crew socks.

Many thanks to Roberta Kato for taking the time to come speak with us, for the hundreds of rescues she’s performed and for making the world a much better place.
photo by rebeccacabage.com

HOW TO BE A BETTER BEEKEEPER.
These events are taking place at the same time as the erstwhile Backwards Beekeeper meetings, at 11a.m. on the last Sunday of the month. 
The forum is to have our experienced treatment-free beekeeper community teach each other what we’ve learned so far.  New beekeeper meetings are held on the 2nd Saturday of each month and feature Chief Mentor KirkoBeeo. Everyone is welcome at any meeting and those with bee fever should attend both.
Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops, HoneyLovin

LA WEEKLY: “Could L.A. Become a Honeybee Mecca?”

By Gendy Alimurung

LA Weekly Article

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.

LA Weekly frame

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]

LA Weekly Paper

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

HoneyLover of the Month: Roberta

HoneyLover of the Month: ROBERTA 

“Beekeeping started out just as way to improve my crops. Seemed easy enough to just get some free bees off a tree limb and stick them in a box and voila, more fruit. Well there was something about my first day that was just magical. I went to watch Kirk do a cutout with someone who had some experience. I came from work and they had gotten most of a very old and big hive out of wall. I got to just watch and learn.

The next door neighbor and her kids were watching from a window and I loved being the person explaining what was happening. Kirk was mentoring, the other beekeeper was learning how to do a cutout, I was just learning how to be around bees and the kids were learning about something so new.

Then Kirk took me to a simple swarm capture and we packaged them up into one of his old nucs and there I was with a new hive. With the swarm, it was just a small cute ball of fuzzy bees. They were gently, buzzing but pretty much content to go wherever we put them. Seemed like an innocent experience.

The excitement of being able to work with these little but powerful creatures took a hold and I had bee fever. I couldn’t get enough cutouts and swarms but then I couldn’t keep them anywhere and that’s how the mentoring started. I loved being able to share a first time cutout or swarm with others. It really felt like giving someone a gift.”

RobertaRoberta

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

HONEYLOVER OF THE MONTH: Ruth Askren

BEES RESCUED FROM: A pile of abandoned carpet-padding in a garage in Bel Aire, two back-to-back wooden fences between neighbors’ yards in Van Nuys; a swarm on a cactus in Pacific Palisades; a tree trap-out in Baldwin Hills; and an overcrowded hive a beekeeper wanted to get rid of.   

When I was a kid I would catch bees and keep them in a jar for a few hours, just to watch them (– I did this with lizards and spiders too!). I became a beekeeper in my 50’s as a project for my aging dad and I to do together, because we both love to tinker, and beekeeping is definitely a hobby for tinkerers! A retired engineer, he enjoyed designing a great anti-ant hive stand and often comes up with new and ingenious solutions for various bee problems. My hives are on my parents’ property in Pacific Palisades, where Dad can keep an eye on them. 

As I wanted to learn more than I could teach myself, I joined the Backwards Beekeepers club and soon began participating in volunteer feral bee-rescues. Saving bee colonies seemed a logical outcome of my naturalist tendencies. I loved being able to see into the world of wild creatures, not in a jar! And, like my dad, I’m obsessed with tools and this work enables me to use most every kind! Learning about others’ beekeeping methods has been a fun and satisfying part of the project. Now I run Bee Capture, a bee rescue business (www.beecapture.com), taking bees out of walls, attics and trees all over the LA basin.

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HoneyLove Beekeeper of the Month: CEEBS
Bees Rescued from:
Water meter in Lakewood, adopted swarms, and a hive that moved into her yard.

“Somehow, I was always meant to be a beekeeper. It wasn’t a matter of if, just a matter of when. My first tattoo 20 years ago was of a honeybee. As soon as I had chickens running around my backyard my next thought was ‘Now where will I put some hives?’ 
I very much believe in the notion that you don’t find the bees; the bees find you.

I’m a lifelong learner and being a beekeeper means that there is always, always something new to learn. Bees are continually fascinating and exemplary. I love the self-reliance and ingenuity and study that being a beekeeper and bee rescuer requires. I didn’t suspect that being a beekeeper would be as special as it is, but it is truly a transformative activity and a global statement.”

“The only time I ever believed I knew all there was to know about beekeeping was the first year. Every year since, I’ve known less and less.” -Sue Hubbell, A Book of Bees

Read more about Ceebs here!

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PHOTOS: National Honey Bee Awareness Day!!
Los Angeles, CA – August 18, 2012 - HoneyLove.org

[click here to view more photos!]

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TOMORROW!!! 

National Honey Bee Awareness Day is AUGUST 18TH!!! 
1:30pm-4pm @ West LA Civic Center Bandshell 
Free!! All ages welcome!! No RSVP necessary!! 
View event on: facebook | meetup 

The 2012 Theme:
“Sustainable Agriculture Starts with Honey Bees!”

WE HAVE A ROCKSTAR LINEUP OF SPEAKERS FOR YOU!!
2PM GEORGE LANGWORTHY > “Vanishing of the Bees” 
2:30PM KIRK ANDERSON > Backwards Beekeepers 
3PM DAVID KING > The Learning Garden 

AFTER PARTY @ 423 West Gallery (7-10pm) 
http://www.facebook.com/events/466949993334201/

[click here to download the flyer]

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WATCH: Calif. Man Finds 50,000 Bees Inside Home
via ABC News: Top Stories!!

Thanks MikeBee for the awesome buzz about HoneyLove.org!!


Audree Steinberg reports:

On July 7 a photojournalist discovered an estimated 50,000 bees living in the walls of his Los Angeles home, and he wasn’t even scared.

Spending little time at home because of work, Larry Chen, 27, initially didn’t notice the bees. According to the beekeeper he hired, the hive was an estimated six to eight months old.

A month ago, Chen began noticing bees buzzing in and out of his window, and he decided to investigate. According to Chen, the bees only came out during a 30-minute window in the day.

“I’m not really terrified of the bees… I just remained calm, and I figured they wouldn’t bother me too much… I got stung once, but I was more curious about how big the hive actually was. I figured it was just a small clump of 1,000 or so,” Chen said.

After his investigation, he spent a month on the road, traveling for work. When he returned, Chen found time to call a professional to assess the situation. He explained that he recently saw a documentary about the endangerment of bees, so he wanted to save – not exterminate – them.

He found a man on Craigslist, who goes by the name Mike Bee, who said he would safely remove the bees. He is a member of the rescue organization Backwards Beekeepers, a group that works with HoneyLove.org in order to educate the public about bees.

“My policy is to relocate, not exterminate,” the beekeeper explained.

It took Mike Bee and his wife five hours to remove the bees from the wall. Mike Bee was stung four times.

The bees entered through a ventilation pipe that airs out the attic and an area near a window, according to Mike Bee. Although the pipes were lined with a wire mesh, the squares were big enough for bees to fit through. Since the area was a dark, protective shelter and featured a convenient entry point, the space was very accommodating to a beehive.

First, the beekeeper located the bees and cut the drywall. Then he burned pine needles, creating a smoke that would calm the bees. Afterwards, he began vacuuming the bees in a custom-made device, so that the comb could be visible. He removed the queen and cut out the comb, placing it in a box with the bees.

After removing the bees, he scraped off any remnants of wax from the honeycombs and cleaned the area of the hive. He then stapled screening mesh over the ventilated pipes in order to deter a new swarm from finding the same spot.

The bees filled two boxes that fit 20,000 bees each, but there were still many strays. The beekeeper explained that the bees would be returned to the city after he completes a process called an orientation flight.

“It’s good we caught it at this time because it could have been a lot bigger,” Chen said.

[click here to view the original story by ABC News]

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THRASHLAB VIDEO: “Urban Beekeeping | Subculture Club”
Featuring Kirk Anderson / Backwards Beekeepers and HONEYLOVE!!

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ONE YEAR AGO TODAY we made our first speech to the Mar Vista Community Council to begin the process of legalizing urban beekeeping in Los Angeles! 

Since then we have had a total of 7 COMMUNITY COUNCILS within Los Angeles pass motions in support of our efforts (Mar Vista, Del Rey, South Robertson, Greater Griffith Park, Silver Lake, Hollywood United, and Atwater Village).

And last month we received a motion by Los Angeles Councilmember Bill Rosendahl instructing the city’s planning department to begin preparing a report ”relative to the feasibility of allowing beekeeping in R1 zones as a practive to foster a healtheir bee population.” - View the full motion here!

WE ARE GETTING CLOSE!! THANK YOU FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT!! 
Click here sign our petition!


Below is the speech Rob McFarland of HoneyLove.org gave to the Mar Vista Community Council last year:

They say that you don’t choose to be a beekeeper, but rather the bees choose you. My wife, Chelsea, and I got involved with bees out of passion, but also out of chance. When a swarm of feral honeybees came into our garden one afternoon, we were recruited into the ranks of beekeepers, an order that includes everyone from Aristotle, the Apostle Luke, Alexander the Great and several of our country’s founding fathers, to Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart and Michele Obama. The problem was, giving them a home was not legal, but incomprehensibly, exterminating them was.

As avid gardeners, Chelsea and I had been following the Backwards Beekeepers blog for several years prior to the swarm showing up, so we knew exactly who to call. A few hours later, a volunteer from the organization showed up and removed the bees without incident. We were able to find a new home for them in Santa Monica where they are now happily making honey. This experience drove us to learn more about honeybees and start HoneyLove.org an organization committed to saving bees from extinction by educating and inspiring urban beekeepers.

The histories of the human species and that of the honeybee are inseparable. Neither species could have evolved to present conditions without the symbiotic relationship that we harbor. Albert Einstein is thought to have said, “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” The reason for his grim prognosis is the fact that bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants including 90 different food crops, which means that 1 out of every 3 bites of food is thanks to a bee.

Unfortunately, we have real reason to fear the specter raised by Mr. Einstein. Since 2006, more than one third of honeybee colonies collapsed nationwide, a global phenomenon now called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. And while there is no one smoking gun causing CCD, scientists now widely agree that it is a result of a combination of factors, made manifest by industrial beekeeping. The practice of trucking hives great distances to pollinate crops, exposing bees to countless pesticides, interfering with the species’ natural defenses by treating them with miticides and antibiotics, and feeding them high fructose corn syrup – junk food – has made bees incredibly vulnerable and on the brink of collapse. If present trends continue, scientists estimate there will be no more bees by 2035. That is, only if we fail to act, if we fail to recognize this disaster in the making and don’t take strong action to counter the slow march to extinction.

So what do we do? According to Simon Buxton as quoted in the new documentary Vanishing of the Bees, “the future of beekeeping is not in 1 beekeeper with 60,000 hives, but rather 60,000 people with 1 hive.”

The best science tells us that the future of the honeybee is within the urban environment; cities actually provide safer habitat than the farms and rural areas traditionally associated with beekeeping. Monocultures, or the planting of a single crop, are problematic for bees because outside of the brief window when the crop is in bloom, these vast plots become devoid of the pollen and nectar that hives require for survival.

Cities, however, provide greater biodiversity for foraging bees throughout the year, which drastically reduces if not eliminates the need to feed bees or disturb them by moving their hives. And due to most people not wanting pesticides on their property or near their family, bees are granted a ‘get out of jail free’ card, thus eliminating one more reason for their decline. The city environment is therefore the last refuge of the honeybee.

Atlanta, New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Spokane, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and most recently Santa Monica  [AND REDONDO BEACH!!] have all taken decisive action and legalized urban beekeeping. We believe it to be a necessary and just measure requiring immediate action. We humbly request that you support our motion in the spirit of preserving the future of the honeybee.

Thank you!

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