TED TALK – Dennis vanEngelsdorp: a plea for bees
TED TALK – Dennis vanEngelsdorp: a plea for bees
“Please join us this Sunday July 3rd to learn why our project to get urban beekeeping approved in Los Angeles is so critical! Meet Chelsea and Rob McFarland and others from Backwards Beekeepers at the MVCC Green Booth at the Mar Vista Farmers Market from 9AM to 2:00 PM. Get the info on our July 16th screening of Vanishing of the Bees!
Over the last three years, more than one in three honeybee colonies collapsed nationwide, a phenomenon now called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. According to the USDA, about one-third of our food is thanks to the work of bees, making CCD a huge food security issue. 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 which involves artificial insemination of queen bees, trucking thousands of hives great distances to pollinate crops, exposing bees to countless pesticides, and interfering with the species natural defenses by treating them with miticides and antibiotics and feeding them high fructose corn syrup. This deadly cocktail has made bees incredibly vulnerable and on the brink of collapse. 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.
Mar Vista is actively working toward becoming a more sustainable place to live. Los Angeles currently outlaws beekeeping, and the city’s policy is to exterminate all feral bees. With worldwide bee populations threatened with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and urban beekeeping more popular than ever, this policy needs to change. Feral bees, being subject to natural selection but not to the rough treatment and chemicals of commercial beekeeping, are far more robust than their commercial cousins. As commercial colonies collapse at an alarming rate, it is crucial that this population be protected.
Luckily the Mar Vista Community Council is conducting a feasibility study for a Urban Beekeeping Pilot Project.”
“As the national interest in urban beekeeping grows, cities like Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Seattle have joined the movement and legalized the practice. These cities recognize just how important bees are to the future of our way of life.
Yet, as bees are quickly vanishing due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), some cities like Los Angeles have yet to legalize urban beekeeping. In the Mar Vista community of L.A., a group of activists is ready to change that. Chelsea and Rob McFarland recently started a petition on Change.org asking the Mar Vista Community Council to support beekeeping in the region and work to repeal Los Angeles Municipal Code 50.03, which makes beekeeping illegal.
Working in collaboration with the Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee and Backwards Beekeepers, the McFarlands started honeylove.org to raise awareness and gain support for the legalization of urban beekeeping in Mar Vista and Los Angeles as a whole. After speaking in front of the Mar Vista Community Council, Chelsea and Rob gained unanimous approval of a feasibility study on legalizing beekeeping.
Their work is certainly important — bees are responsible for pollinating about one-third of America’s food supply. Without bees, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy staples of our diets like apples, nuts, soybeans, broccoli, and cucumbers, as well as some of the tastiest flowering crops out there, such as peaches, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, citrus fruits, and melons. Even our cattle, which feed primarily on alfalfa, rely on bees to pollinate their food. Even President Obama supports urban beekeeping — he keeps two beehives on the White House lawn.
While the Mar Vista Community Council approved the feasibility study, they’ve yet to fully legalize beekeeping in the community. That’s where the McFarlands’ petition comes in. You can help the couple push for legal beekeeping in Mar Vista. Add your signature to the petition, and enable the citizens of Mar Vista to play their part in saving our food system through urban beekeeping.”
Billboard poster design for the plight of the honey beeeee
Following in the footsteps of cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Seattle — and after receiving nearly 200 signatures each from Change.org members — the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to legalize beekeeping. The very night the legislation passed I received an email from Councilmember Kevin McKeown asking me to please call off the Change.org dogs, so you can bet we all had a hand in pushing this law forward!
The new ordinance allows up to two hives on residential property as long as keepers register with Animal Control and meet modest hive placement, screening, and management requirements. Hives must be kept five feet from a property line, be provided a water source, and have a six-foot screen, fence, or some kind of vegetation to make sure the bees fly up before they fly out. Otherwise, the hive can be kept eight feet up without a screen.
In addition, the city now has a policy of exterminating swarms only as a last resort. Previously, the city had an automatic extermination policy regarding feral bees. Under the new legislation, these renegade bees will be captured and relocated to an apiary in either Ventura or the San Fernando Valley. Only if this is impossible will swarms be exterminated.
The new ordinance spells out just how important bees are to society, noting that they provide pollination services vital to up to 30 percent of our food. They also recognize that bee populations have been in trouble for the last 50 years, and that their populations have declined by 50 percent. Because of Colony Collapse Disorder, some beekeepers have noticed their hives dwindling by 30 to 90 percent since 2006. Legalizing beekeeping in Santa Monica will not only boost local food security, it will help conserve beleaguered honeybees.
While Santa Monica joined a growing number of locales that let residents keep bees legally, several cities still ban the practice. Los Angeles is one of them. As the victory in Santa Monica showed, our pressure can make a difference on local lawmakers. Sign our petition asking the Los Angeles City Council to legalize beekeeping in all parts of the city.
Pesticide Action Network: SIGN THE PETITION!
• U.S. bee populations are still declining and scientists believe pesticides are a critical piece of the puzzle. Clothianidin’s family of pesticides (neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid) are an especially suspect culprit.
• Clothianidin is on the U.S. market on the basis of unsound science and deeply flawed EPA decision-making. Like most pesticides registered in the last 15 years, it was rushed to market prior to safety testing with a “conditional registration.”
• Beekeepers can’t take another season of losses. Beekeepers tell us that like their hives, their industry is on the verge of collapse. With 1/3 of food reliant on bees for pollination, the collapse of commercial beekeeping would devastate U.S. farmers as well.
NRDC ACTION CENTER:
Bees are a critical agricultural resource that help produce $15 billion worth of crops in the United States each year. The recent unexplained mass disappearance of honey bees, called colony collapse disorder, poses a significant threat to honey bees, beekeepers, farmers and our food supply. Most bee experts believe bees could be falling sick due to a combination of factors, including pesticide exposure, invasive parasitic mites, an inadequate food supply and a new virus that targets bees’ immune systems.
Last year Congress recognized colony collapse disorder as a threat and granted the Department of Agriculture emergency funds to study the problem. In addition, the department receives $20 million each year for honey bee research, pest and pathogen surveillance, and other bee-related programs. But to date, the agency has been unable to fully account for how these funds are being used or show any significant results from its work.
The Agriculture Department should be held accountable for a clear and complete annual report of its progress on all of its duties concerning colony collapse disorder. Moreover, the department should determine what resources are needed to fully address the problem and inform Congress of these needs as soon as possible.
What to do:
Urge the Department of Agriculture to fulfill its commitment to fight colony collapse disorder.
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