Billboard poster design for the plight of the honey beeeee
“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
- A.A Milne
Victory! Santa Monica Legalizes Beekeeping
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.
“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.”
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