“Dan Susman is making a documentary called Growing Cities about urban farming across America. He and his partner Andrew Monbouquette shot this segment about a hive rescue with LA Backwards Beekeeper Warren, who does a great job of explaining our mission.”
What’s That Buzz in Mar Vista?
The Mar Vista Community Council is studying a proposal to legalize beekeeping in the neighborhood.
“Mar Vista may soon become home to the city of Los Angeles’ first urban beekeeping farms. The Mar Vista Community Council unanimously approved a feasibility study Tuesday on legalizing beekeeping within the coastal enclave.
The move comes as scientists seek to explain the mysterious death of billions of bees nationwide, a problem many experts think urban beekeeping could help ameliorate.
“We will have no more bees by 2035 if nothing is done,” warned Rob McFarland of the urban beekeeping advocacy group Backwards Beekeepers. “The future of beekeeping is not one man with 60,000 hives, but rather 60,000 men with one hive.” [Simon Buxton, Vanishing of the Bees]
Honeybees pollinate more than a third of America’s crops. Many farmers in the Central Valley import the insects every year to pollinate almond trees and other important regional crops.
Millions of hives have collapsed without warning in recent years. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says beekeepers began reporting the inexplicable loss of 30-90 percent of their hives during the winter of 2006-07. EPA officials attribute the phenomenon to Colony Collapse Disorder, the cause of which continues to elude scientists. Theories include an invasive mite and harsh pesticides used to protect crops.
The Backwards Beekeepers—named for celebrated writer-beekeeper Charles Martin Simon’s philosophy that people should conform to nature instead of forcing nature to conform to them—formed in 2008 to promote urban beekeeping in Los Angeles. Urban beekeeping, the group leaders say, allows bees to thrive in highly controlled environments.
One of the Backwards Beekeepers’ major accomplishments is the legalization of beekeeping in Santa Monica last year. Before the city ordinance passed in 2010, Santa Monica had a blanket policy of euthanizing bees in so-called “feral” hives.
The Backwards Beekepers had a strong presence at the Mar Vista Community Council meeting Tuesday to support a proposed resolution legalizing beekeeping. “This gives bees another get-out-of-jail-free card,” McFarland told the council. “We believe this is a necessary measure requiring immediate action,” he said.
Mar Vista resident Mark Lebovitz has battled numerous bouts of cancer and ascribes his current good health to a well-balanced diet high in organic fruits and vegetables.“Food is my medicine,” he said. “Suddenly, we’re looking into the possibility that we’re not going to have any more good foods to eat.”
Council members enthusiastically embraced the idea of urban beekeeping, with Kate Anderson even volunteering up her backyard for the venture.
Maurice Vickers of Backwards Beekeepers voiced his approval of the council’s vote outside the Mar Vista Recreation Center after the meeting. Legalizing beekeeping, Vickers said, just makes sense. “After all, bees are keeping themselves all over Mar Vista. Are they here legally or do they have to have someone’s approval? I think it’s better to have a controlled beekeeping situation. … Let’s put bees in their rightful place,” he said.
Once the study is complete, the council will decide whether to legalize beekeeping in Mar Vista.”
“Those of us who grew up reading Winnie-the-Pooh know that know that honey plays a very important role in Pooh’s life. Honey is Pooh’s favorite snack, his ultimate temptation… and the goal of most of his adventures.
And while Pooh’s tactics might be a little extreme, it appears that he is onto something. His favorite honey is that which comes directly from the hive — aka: raw honey.
Raw honey is by definition unheated, unfiltered and unpasteurized with nothing added or removed. Its meant to be as close as possible to the state of the honey when it left the beehive, often including portions of the comb itself.”
Southern California Coastal Pollinator Planting Guide (pdf)
“I’ve always thought that beehives are organized similarly to how we do things here at Google. Bees have a flat management structure and they adapt quickly and change roles throughout their career (nurse, guard, foragers, quality control, etc.) depending on demands. And the bees that collect nectar from the forager bees at the entrance to the hive also scrutinize it for quality. If it’s not high enough, they send the foragers back out to get a fresh start… it reminds me a bit of a Google code review!
If Google’s a beehive, then I’m what you might call a forager. I work on the culinary team and we strive to serve food that’s produced locally and grown in a sustainable manner. But we wanted to take the effort to the next level. So, with help from the Marin Bee Company, we’ve installed four hives of bees to help us be as self-sufficient as possible.
The four hives—collectively known as the Hiveplex, of course—are each painted in one of Google’s colors. We’ve placed them close to large areas of wild flowers on our campus, far enough away that anyone who isn’t fond of bees can easily avoid them, but close enough that anyone who wants to can walk over and watch them at work. Many Googlers have signed up to contribute to beekeeping and honey extraction efforts, and, come the harvest in the fall, we’ll round the season off with a series of cooking classes and candle-making sessions for all those who have signed up to help.
With this project, we’re also hoping to raise awareness of impact of Colony Collapse Disorder(CCD)—a phenomenon in which worker bees abandon the hive for reasons that aren’t fully understood. This has become a cause of global concern and in some parts of the world more than 50 percent of the hives have been found abandoned. This has grave implications for us all as bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 70 percent of the fruit and vegetables we eat. The loss of bees has serious consequences for plants, wildlife and human survival. (You can read more here.)
To see our newest colleagues at work, check out the album below. Someday we might create a Buzz account for our bees so you can all track their progress and follow our bee keeping activities—but we promise not to drone on.”
I inspected Sophie Anne’s hive yesterday and she has drawn quite a bit of comb, but it would appear (unless I am mistaken, and correct me if I am) that the workers have designs on replacing their queen. You’ll notice in the middle of the photo a unique cell that sticks out. I believe this to be a queen cell, and more specifically a supercedure cell. Bees will create these cells when they believe their queen is failing and want to replace her. That would appear to be the case with Sophie Anne. Perhaps she was injured or just not laying enough brood. I didn’t see her during the inspection so I can’t speak to her condition or existence for that matter. At any rate, I’m excited to see what happens. Hopefully they will emerge a stronger, healthier hive.
“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.”
Cat House Cut-Out
I responded to a call on the Backwards Beekeepers rescue hotline last week when a guy got back from an extended trip to Mexico to find that bees had taken up residence in his cat’s house on the balcony of his Marina del Rey apartment. He returned home to find his balcony covered in dead bees and peeled back a rolled up carpet to find the hive bulging out of the fabric cat house. Penniless from his vacation, he plied my conservation guilt to take the bees off his hands gratis. In cases where I don’t have to drive very far, I often find myself making this bargain, though as my beekeeping expenses add up, I find myself a little resentful of the exterminators making hundreds to kill or remove the “pests.” At any rate, I digress.
The morning after picking up the bees from the balcony, I brought them to a couple’s house I had met on a previous rescue. As vegans, they have no interest in the honey, but they know that the urban environment is the future for the honeybee and were only happy to make their beautifully landscaped backyard available to my cat house bees.
This was my first cut-out, and like all firsts, I made a few mistakes. The first mistake was that I did it by myself. Probably could have used someone with some experience in my ear, but I figured I had read enough and watched enough videos…not so much. The second mistake was that on my first cut-out, I elected to move the bees into a top-bar hive I had just built. The hive in itself wasn’t the problem – it was built to spec with wood molding for comb guides. The problem was tying in the salvaged comb. It did not want to cooperate at all. In the end, completely covered in honey, pollen and all things sticky, I was able to make it work but it wasn’t without tremendous effort. The final mistake I made was briefly unzipping my veil just a fraction of an inch. It was just enough time for a bee to shoot the gap and sting me between the eyes. It actually didn’t hurt all that bad, but later that night my face had swelled up pretty good. I woke up the next morning looking like a Navi from Avatar.
The best part of the entire experience came when I found the queen in a pile of bees on the ground. I held out my finger for her and she walked right on. I then held my finger just inside the top bars and she instantly rejoined her compadres.
I was also able to harvest a Mason jar full of fresh, raw honey. Nothing has ever tasted quite so sweet. This was easily one of the best, most educational experiences of my life. Can’t wait for the next cut-out, though no matter how itchy my nose gets, I’m staying zipped up
WHO: Dr. Mark Winston
WHAT: Bee Talker – The Secret World of Bees
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