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READ: Swarm-less Spring and Summer?

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki


It is the natural reproductive urge of honey bees to build up numbers in the Spring in order to swarm and establish new colonies. This activity has other benefits for bees besides the increasing of numbers—it helps bees cleanse their colonies of carpetbagging diseases and pests by initiating a break in the brood rearing cycle. Many pathogens depend on a continuous occupancy of the brood nest and young bees, so when the swarm leaves the hive and takes up to two weeks to find a suitable cavity, draw comb, and the queen commences egg laying, the pathogens drop away.

But, as some of you may have noticed, there seems to have been a dearth of swarms this year. Many  hopeful newbees have put out swarm boxes, watching carefully for a swarm to move in, but it has sat empty. My normal connections with a bee swarm removal service that delivers the boxed swarms after a client call, have been dismal. Both Wendy and Sam, the contacts I work with to re-home these boxed swarms, have had no calls in weeks from the public in the South Bay. My own network with the city of Manhattan Beach and the listing with the Agriculture Department have yielded very few calls. Most of the swarms I am getting I am hiving myself rather than listing them for adoption.I have asked other beeks about their impression of swarming this year. Rob Stone with Orange County Beekeepers Club says not much swarming activity is being seen down South. Scott Davis in Palos Verdes has had half the number of swarm calls he would expect and thinks the issue is the prolonged drought.

So for the time being, the ongoing drought is affecting the forage sources of the bees such that fewer have the numbers to swarm successfully, are making less honey, and finding less pollen for raising brood.

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Sacramento City Council approves urban farm ordinance


Buying locally sourced fruits and vegetables may soon become as simple as walking over to a neighbor’s garden, thanks to a new urban farm ordinance passed Tuesday night by the Sacramento City Council.

In a 6-1 vote, the city effectively opened the door to minifarms on private properties and in vacant lots that would be able to sell produce out of urban farm stands, despite reservations from some council members about urban beekeeping and how urban agriculture may affect those who live close to the new farms.

The new ordinance enables city residents to grow and sell food directly from their properties and offers tax incentives to landowners who allow their properties, including vacant lots in residential, commercial, industrial and manufacturing zones throughout the city, to be turned into minifarms. The farms would be restricted to 3 acres.

The aim, in part, is to reduce urban blight and bring fruit and vegetables to so-called “food insecure” populations, whose access to fresh produce has been limited by a lack of healthy options in low-income neighborhoods.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people do not have access to a supermarket within a mile of their home.

Urban farm stands in residential neighborhoods would be restricted to operating Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., except those on vacant lots, which would be allowed to operate without time or day restrictions.

Advocates of urban farming played on Sacramento’s campaign to market itself as the farm-to-fork capital of the country and challenged the city to get farm food to “every fork.”

More than 100 people packed the council chambers to support the ordinance.

James Brady, a self-proclaimed urban farmer who works as an aquaponics consultant, told the council that the benefits to low-income communities and people extend beyond the nutrition. He said giving people the opportunity to sell the food they produce would grow a new population of entrepreneurs and allow low-income people to grow their own food and earn additional income by selling to their neighbors.

Representatives from the Southeast Asian American community said another, less visible benefit to low-income and immigrant communities is purpose, pride and empowerment.

“My family arrived in this country with very few skills and spoke no English,” said Cha Vang, an organizer with Hmong Innovating Politics. “But my mom knew that she could always rely on her ability to grow, cultivate and garden anything, anywhere. Not only did gardening empower her, it also provided our family’s dinner table with fresh produce when most other low-income families had to settle for unhealthy fast food.”

More than 300 Sacramento residents signed a petition asking the council to pass the ordinance, according to the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition.

In passing the urban farm ordinance, Sacramento followed the lead of several cities around country that have looked to inner-city agriculture to combat blight and produce more fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods with few grocery stores. Among them: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

The ordinance’s passage Tuesday was not without concerns from council members.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said in Natomas, properties are often divided up among several people or families. She worried that the person with control of the yard could unilaterally make a decision to delve into urban farming without consulting with other people in the property.

Councilman Larry Carr, the lone no vote on the measure, worried about the urban beekeeping aspects of the ordinance and asked whether the insects could be contained or kept away from people. In an attempt to quell his concerns, Councilman Jeff Harris, himself a beekeeper, invited Carr to his home.

Prior to passing the ordinance, agriculture activity – growing produce for sale – was only allowed in specially zoned lots.

New urban farmers would be subject to city water conservation ordinances and would be required to adhere to the same restrictions as other outdoor water users.

Anyone attempting to sell their produce out of an urban farm stand would be required to obtain a business operations tax certificate, city officials said Tuesday. For a stand that earns less than $10,000 per year, a certificate would cost $31.

No liability insurance would be required.

Tax incentives for lot owners who allow their property to be turned into minifarms could add up to $6,127 an acre each year, according to Sacramento city staff estimates, but a New York City study found community gardens boosted the values of nearby properties.

Read full story · Posted in News

The Flowers of Winter

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Flower-nectar and pollen are the life’s blood of our bees and—even though we are in the month of November—much is in bloom in the city. Many plants from the Southern Hemisphere bloom in Winter and irrigation of city gardens blurs the droughty conditions naturally seen in the wild lands of California.

I’m often surprised by the relatively sparse knowledge beekeepers have about the plant resources that are so fundamental to bees’ health and prosperity. We must try to hone our observational skills on the plant life around us and what those blossoms are offering our bees. When we pay attention, we can easily conjecture what bees will be storing in their combs and how colonies may be growing. A LOT of beekeeping is taking a long view of a process and not so much a set of strict rules of what to expect.

Here are a few things in bloom I’m seeing now:

  • Melaleuca quinquenervia (Paperbark tree)—white, bottlebrush flowers and thick, squishy, peeling white bark.  There are several types of melaleucas.
  • Eucalyptus of various kinds—E. ficifolia (now called Corymbia ficifolia)—Huge trusses of flowers in shades of red, pink or orange. E. camaldulensis (Red River Gum)—white or pale yellow flowers. And E. globulus (Blue Gum)—white flowers.
  • Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian Pepper Tree)—Tiny but profuse white flowers.
  • Callistemon rigidus (Bottlebrush tree)—red, bottlebrush flowers.
  • Rosemary, Lavender and Basil—all have the small flowers bees seem to be most attracted to.
  • Citrus trees—lemon, orange, lime.

Take a look around and notice something new. What plants are attracting the bees’ attention in your neighborhood?

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

California Dearth Conditions

via HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Beeks—As you are probably reading everywhere, California is in the middle of a extended drought and this significantly affects the available food—pollen and nectar—for our bees. People can get a false sense of security about this problem since all around are extensive irrigated landscapes— golf courses, industrial parks, shopping malls with fountains and lush landscaping, apartment and condo blocks, and private homes.

However, all this is carried out by the importation of precious water from underground aquifers and water resources channeled from the middle and northern part of the state. Irrigation with re-claimed sewer water—-designated by the required violet colored pipes and valve box covers—is still a anomaly, unfortunately. Our streets are still running with rivers of wasted water, too.

For a simple tabulation of the history of the rainfall pattern, go here:

You will see, since 2000, we have been much under normal 8 years and only in excess 5 years—and not that much in excess, when the average for 135 years is only 15 inches. The population of California is projected to be 60 million by 2050, from the 34 million counted in 2007. The water is not going to be there to sustain this many people in the lifestyle currently practiced.

Many beeks are noticing their bees have small stores of honey, or sometimes, nothing. I am seeing cutouts with lots of brood, but almost NO honey/nectar stores. As beekeepers, this is important for us to monitor when doing inspections of our hives and when trying to support small nucs and cutouts after the trauma of the operations when we move them. We may need to feed our bees to help them manage the loss of available food supply—called a “dearth” –if we wish for them to be around for us come Spring. The best food for bees is their natural food—honey. This can be provided by frames of honey taken from strong hives. “junk comb” from cutouts, and honey purchased for the specific feeding purpose. A bee has a natural acidic pH in her gut that is supported by many strains of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes adapted to that pH environment. When we feed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, the more alkaline nature of these sugars alters the gut pH. Some scientists believe this is not beneficial to the gut microbes that serve the bee’s immune system. However, if the situation is one of the choice between starvation or feeding sugar, we may need to feed the sugar syrup to get by until there is a natural nectar flow.

Big thank you to Susan for contributing to our blog as well as moderating the HoneyLove Forum!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

Advanced Beek Meeting: October Recap

Adv Beek Mtg 1
The new Advanced Beekeeper meetings began at HoneyLove on October 27. Held on the last Sunday of each month at 11am at the HoneyLove office, these meetings will fill the gap left by the Backwards Beekeepers and will help advance the learning of the L.A. treatment-free community.

Each meeting will have a member-speaker teaching us all something new as well as a general open Q&A and mentorship opportunities. Beekeepers of all levels are welcome to attend; HoneyLove also has more introductory-level beekeeper meetings on the 2nd Saturday of each month. Attendees are encouraged to join for extra benefits and the tax-deductible donation.

The October speaker was Josip Benko, a second-generation beekeeper with over 30 years of experience. Josip is from the former Czechoslovakia and shares the philosophy of observing the bees because they’ll show you what they need. He is also big on experimentation and customizing his hive boxes.

Josip brought several hive box samples; these are reduced for education purposes. He now uses 7 or 9 frame boxes because his observation is that bees don’t like even numbers.

ADV Beek 1
Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, HoneyLove Workshops

LISTEN: "Guerrilla Beekeeping in L.A." via KQED Public Radio

Interview by Colin Berry.
The California Report is a production of KQED Public Radio.


Commercial honeybee colonies around the world are collapsing, and scientists are trying to figure out why. The good news? Bees are thriving in urban areas. In California, San Francisco, San Jose, and other big cities have laws that allow beekeeping. Los Angeles could be next, if a coalition of amateur beekeepers has anything to say about it. Reporter: Colin Berry

Deep in a sunny backyard in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district, a colony of 50,000 Western honeybees is getting oriented to its new surroundings. Yesterday, the swarm was living under the eaves of a house in Whittier, some 20 miles away. But they’re here today because Walker Rollins and Kirk Anderson took the time to remove them — humanely.

Anderson and Rollins are members of a club called Backwards Beekeepers, which relocates bee swarms and colonies in L.A. several times a week. Yet in doing so, they’re breaking the law, because beekeeping here is illegal, and the city’s most common tactic in dealing with feral bees is to exterminate them.

Anderson says most people with a bad opinion about feral bees have barely any experience working with them. “Bees are like people,” he said. “Everybody has a bad day. If a beehive has a bad day, people want to have it destroyed. If a person has a bad day, they put them on Oprah.”

But many Angelenos are frightened of bees, and might be uneasy with the thought of 50,000 of them living next door. Ron Lorenzen, an urban forestry manager for the city, says that while he wouldn’t oppose a law allowing beekeeping in residential areas, his own agency’s rationale for eradicating bees on public property is based on evidence of a dangerous new hybrid.

“I’m not a bee professional, but a pest control adviser [in our office] said that 80 percent of the hives they’re finding are actually Africanized colonies. Evidently the bees are becoming more homogenous.”

Africanized bee colonies have been associated with the “killer” bees that have recently attacked people and animals, causing some fatalities. Western honeybees are considered less aggressive.

Backwards Beekeeper co-founder Kirk Anderson, who’s raised bees for 45 years, thinks what Lorenzen says is nonsense. Bees aren’t pests, Anderson says, and relying on pest experts to determine a city’s bee policy is ludicrous.

“All bees are defensive,” he explained. “There’s always been mean bees, and they can be mean for different reasons. By understanding them, you can do things so you don’t trigger their meanness or their defensive actions.”

Across the city, Rob and Chelsea McFarland run a nonprofit called Honey Love. After piloting feasibility studies and launching petitions, the McFarlands have begun lobbying the city’s 95 neighborhood councils to make beekeeping legal in L.A.

“We go on right after the ordinances for much heavier topics like gangs and drugs,” Chelsea said. “We go up and we’re like, ‘Yay bees!’ and they’re like, ‘You guys are the most delightful ordinance we’ve ever had to vote on.’”

These guerrilla beekeepers believe that cities, with their diverse vegetation and lack of agricultural pesticides, are the bees’ best bet for countering colony collapse disorder (CCD), and that legalizing bees in L.A. would be a big win for everybody. (CCD is a phenomenon where honeybees abandon their hives; it has been on the increase in recent years and is significant economically because many crops worldwide are pollinated by honeybees.)

Rob McFarland says that encouraging people to keep honeybees in cities makes them safer from factors that are endangering the insects commercially.

Rob and Chelsea McFarland have the support of 11th District city council member Mike Bonin. His proposal — allowing beekeeping in single-family neighborhoods — is moving through the Planning Commission and could be up for a vote in as few as five months.

“Currently, we allow single-family homes to do truck gardening — growing berries, flowers, fruits, herbs, mushrooms and nuts for private use or for sale at farmers’ markets,” Bonin explained. “This proposal would afford the same opportunity for beekeeping.”

Beekeeping is legal in San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento. Russell Bates, who founded Backwards Beekeepers with his wife, Amy Seidenwurm, and Kirk Anderson, says interest in beekeeping is rising all over California, especially in urban areas where people are passionate about local agriculture and sustainability.

“We’ve seen it on the rise in Arcata and Berkeley and Oakland,” he said. “It bubbles up wherever people are curious about how to be more in tune with nature.”

Officials estimate there are 10 colonies of feral bees in every square mile of L.A. With support for the new law beginning to swarm, the state’s biggest city could be bee-friendly by this time next year.

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Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews

PHOTOS: School Outreach in Manhattan Beach

Thank you to Susan for doing another awesome school outreach in Manhattan Beach! YAY BEES!

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Join the HoneyLove School Outreach Team!
Interested in helping to spread a buzz for bees at local Los Angeles schools? We are starting a new task force to visit 50 schools in 2014 and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
HoneyLove will provide outreach materials to all volunteers who complete the training!

Contact us and let us know you are interested in learning how to volunteer!

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin, School Outreach

Gunther Hauk Interview by Focus on Food

Spikenard Farms Radio
Listen to the latest Focus On Food interview with renowned biodynamic beekeeper Gunther Hauk via

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, Yay Bees

Flash Mob: National Honey Bee Day Waggle Dance

On August 17th HoneyLovers, beekeepers and honey bee enthusiasts across the country celebrated National Honey Bee Day to honor nature’s hardest working insect, and HoneyLove decided to celebrate with a Waggle Dance Flash Mob. We choreographed a routine and invited everyone to participate in person or by uploading a video. Special THANK YOU goes out to LUSH Cosmetics and all who joined in the festivities to help make it the best National Honey Bee Day EVER!!!

MUSIC: “When You’re Smiling” by the Leftover Cuties:

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel HERE:


Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin, Yay Bees

This Week in News features and National Honey Bee Day!

THIS WEEK IN NEWS via James Rojas

National Honey Bee Day, 2013, Santa Monica. August 17th is National Honey Bee Day & a local non-profit organization, HoneyLove, celebrated in Santa Monica to help spread the message of how important it is to help bees.

this week in news

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz