JOIN US this SATURDAY as we SWARM LMU!!
FREE film screening and photobooth shenanigans ?
REMEMBER TO WEAR SOME YELLOW AND BLACK!!
JOIN US this SATURDAY as we SWARM LMU!!
Learning to Love the Swarm
Victim of disease and pests, the threatened bee finds a new caretaker in Vancouver’s young and eco-savvy.
“It’s easier than owning a dog,” says Alaina Thebault, East Van gardener and coordinator for the Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA). “But more work than a cat.”
Thebault’s not talking about pet iguanas or even backyard chickens. The next darling of urban agriculture junkies seems to be, well, bees.
“You grow up your whole life being afraid of insects that sting you. I don’t recall ever being stung as a child, but it was always something I was afraid of,” she says. But beginning this year, Thebault’s relationship with the world’s leading pollinators took on a whole new dimension.
“I caught my first swarm back in May,” she explains. “I was at my parent’s house in Chilliwack and my dad found this swarm in the yard.” Faced with a buzzing mass of insects orbiting a queen, Thebault had her first up-close-and-personal encounter with a wild bee colony.
“I was like, ‘Oh crap.’ I had no idea what to do.”
Coached by an experienced colleague over the phone, Thebault took charge of the rogue swarm. “She told me to grab a box and put a little bit of sugar in it. She said, ‘Just be calm.’ I didn’t have anything — no veil, no gloves — I just grabbed this branch, and it was surrounded in this big football of bees.”
While her parents observed in a mild state of shock, Thebault says in that moment she knew she wanted to look after a hive of her own.
“I was like, ‘I’m hooked.’ You know, these things are really special.”
Not many can claim to have maneuvered thousands of live bees with their bare hands. In fact, most people — including Thebault’s own family — would gladly call it crazy. But a little bit of learning has pushed Thebault and dozens more young people like her to think about bees in a new light.
“You might not know this, but bees are incredibly docile when they swarm,” she explains. “They eat as much honey as they can before they leave the hive. They basically gorge themselves, and so they’re incredibly lethargic and harmless.”
For the record, Thebault was not stung once during this entire episode. “Once they swarm, they don’t have any space to protect so they’re not as defensive either,” she adds. “So they’re very easy to work with.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, says Thebault. The more she researched the importance of bees in B.C.’s ecosystems and the threat of colony collapse, the more she wanted to bring the tiny creatures into her own backyard…
Beekeeping: not just for ‘geezers’
In stark contrast to big-time commercial apiaries, urban beekeepers often maintain low-impact organic hives near community gardens. With ecology rather than profit in mind, young people in the city have taken beekeeping into their own hands…
“The commercial industry is still dominated by older farmers but I’ve seen a lot of interest in urban hives,” she adds. Taught at the Means of Production garden in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood, McKenna’s classes — attended predominantly by 20-something women — show students how to avoid pesticides and antibiotics and employ more sustainable practices.
Garr says he, too, has noticed youth interest in beekeeping grow. “It was geezers mostly,” he jokes about beekeepers’ association meetings in the past. He says attendance at beekeeping functions has jumped to nearly 100 from around 10 in the last couple years. “People are into it now, which was not the case five or eight years ago”…
Mar Vistan Innovators Well Represented at Green Festival L.A.
“Los Angeles’ first ever Green Festival drew thousands of visitors this weekend, and several of the presenters offering up their expertise and tips in sessions came from Mar Vista.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officially opened the weekend festival with a green ribbon-cutting ceremony, and was introduced by festival co-founders, Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange and Alisa Gravitz of Green America.
Speaking to attendees, Villaraigosa welcomed everyone and touted the city’s successful implementation of several clean air and zero waste projects. He also reiterated his commitment to making Los Angeles the greenest city in the country…
Rob and Chelsea McFarland of the Mar Vista-based non-profit conservation organization HoneyLove.org, also spoke at the Sustainable Home and Garden Pavilion on “Urban Beekeeping.”
In their presentation they discussed the main reasons for the decline of the honey bee; why the urban environment is the last refuge of the honey bee; solutions on how people can do their part to help the honeybees; and they gave an update on their efforts to legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles through their initiative in Mar Vista. The couple have been working for six months on a feasibility study to allow beekeeping in R-1 Residential zones in Los Angeles with a possible pilot project in Mar Vista…”
California Farmers Plant Bee-Friendly Habitat to Bolster Populations
“Farmers in California and other states have begun planting bee-friendly flowers and shrubs to attract bees, whose populations have been severely declining in recent years under a complex set of circumstances. Farmers hope to sustain native bees and strengthen dwindling honey bee populations as well as lower their pollination costs. For many farmers that rely on bees to pollinate their crops, creating safe bee habitat and reducing chemical assaults can help stem the tide of declining pollinator populations…
California farmers are provided seeds for native plants like wild rose, aster, sage, manzanita, and other shrubs and trees to entice bees… The effort comes as honey bees, maintained by beekeepers, and native, or wild, bees are perishing in great numbers. Bees are essential pollinators of about one-third of the U.S. food supply, and they’re especially important in California, the nation’s top producer of fruits and vegetables. This makes the pollinator problem dire in this state, where large farms often grow single crops that rely on pollination and don’t offer bees a varied diet.
The die-off is blamed on colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly die. The disorder has destroyed honey bee colonies at a rate of about 30 percent per year since it was recognized in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before that, about 15 percent of colonies died per year from a variety of pests and diseases. Researchers aren’t sure what causes the disorder, but they suspect a combination of stressors, including pesticides, mites and parasites, and lack of proper nutrition…
Read Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet: “Backyard Beekeeping” on what you can do to boost pollinator populations…”
Crenshaw Water Meter Rescue – 10/23/11
We first met Jeremy & Lorina (and their adorable kiddos) at the Venice High School Learning Garden at our Pollination Workshop. Earlier this week they called to alert us to a beehive in their neighborhood in need of rescue. Once again, the bees had set up shop in a water meter, only this time just across the street from an elementary school in Crenshaw. Apparently the neighbors had been complaining to the city for over a year, so they were thrilled to learn that we would be taking care of them.
All of the neighborhood children were out in force to watch as we rescued the bees and gave out samples of the honey, which happened to be some of the darkest, sweetest honey we’ve ever tasted. As soon as it is legalized in Los Angeles we would LOVE to help one of the neighbors become an urban beekeeper so we can get more of that wonderfully unique honey.
Can’t help but wonder what type of plant produces honey the color of motor oil? Whatever it is, it’s delicious!
MVCC Green, Outreach and PLUM Committees approve a motion to support urban beekeeping in Los Angeles.
“Following an hour of discussions and deliberations over its feasibility study, the Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee, Outreach Committee and Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved a motion Wednesday night to support urban beekeeping in Los Angeles.
The motion will be presented to the MVCC Board of Directors at its next monthly meeting on November 8.
The initiative began back in May, when local residents Chelsea and Rob McFarland approached the Green Committee about creating a feasibility study for a pilot beekeeping program in Mar Vista, similar to the recently-adopted Santa Monica beekeeping ordinance. The motion was passed unanimously and was approved by the MVCC the following month, where outreach began in earnest.
At the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market the committee collected 511 signatures in support of legalizing beekeeping in Mar Vista. Scores of people turned out to a free screening of The Vanishing of the Bees, and the Green Committee set up an online survey on the MVCC website that garnered 275 responses, with 81percent of those people supporting a pilot beekeeping project in Mar Vista. The MVCC also hand delivered a copy of the survey to 10,000 households with its quarterly newsletter. Between the survey and the petition over 3,000 people stated they were in favor of the pilot project.
The 34-page feasibility study, which was presented at Wednesday night’s meeting, also included a comparison survey of urban beekeeping cities throughout the country including Chicago, New York, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle…
“Given the [positive] response we’ve seen in Mar Vista, we can be the catalyst to get the city to embrace the program but it shouldn’t be limited to us,” she said. She added that it was important to network with other community councils that have also expressed interest in being part of a pilot program.
MVCC Chair Albert Olson agreed, noting that there’s currently a similar survey being undertaken in Del Rey.
The final motion, which was approved unanimously (and to great applause), states:
The Feasibility Study concludes that there is a strong community interest in supporting beekeeping efforts and that doing so would result in positive changes that permit the healthy growth of honey bee colonies and increase the production and quality of fruits, vegetables and flowers in Mar Vista’s organic home gardens while providing a community service as a resource for the removal of feral (wild) hives. Research indicates that such a program would be cost neutral to the city of LA.
The MVCC Board therefore recommends the implementation of a Beekeeping Pilot Program in to test safety and develop best practices for future expansion. We urge the City of LA to adopt a policy that includes conditions relating to maintenance, location, registration and notification to assure for the safety of all residents, which may result in the continued preservation of quality of life and preservation of single-family residential districts.
*Chelsea and Rob McFarland will be presenting a session on urban beekeeping on Sunday at the Los Angeles Green Festival.”
Questions for HoneyLove from the 2nd graders at Wildwood School in Mar Vista:
Are pesticides bad for bees?
How long does a queen bee live?
How do you raise a baby bee?
Why do bees buzz?
What do bees eat?
What is their life-cycle?
Do they go through metamorphosis?
Why are the bees dying?
How are the bees dying?
How do bees make their hives?
How long do bees live?
How do you take a bee out of a yard?
What tools do you use?
How do you keep them from running away?
How do you know if they are your bees?
Why are people killing bees?
How do bees make honey?
What types of bees sting?
What eats bees?
What time of the day do bees go to work?
Where are beehives located?
If the beekeepers have questions, who do they ask?
Do all bees really die if they sting you?
How do beekeepers keep from getting stung?
How fast do bee wings move?
How many types of bees are there?
Who is their enemy?
Does every bee have a hive?
Is there a king bee?
What plants do bees like most?
How big can bees get?
How many bees can there be in one hive?
What do you do if a bee stings you?
How much nectar can one bee collect?
Why do you use a steamer?
Who makes baby bees?
What’s your favorite kind of honey?
What’s your favorite kind of bee?
and my favorite…
Why do bees have fuzzy tummies?
Click here to download the Mar Vista Fall Newsletter 2011 (google docs pdf – no preview)
Honey bees are mentioned on FIVE OF THE EIGHT PAGES!!!
Los Angeles Councilmember Bill Rosendahl addressing the crowd last Saturday at HoneyLove’s National Honey Bee Awareness Day Event!!
Help us save the honey bees!!
Your contribution directly supports the educational outreach, community action and advocacy efforts to protect the health and well-being of honey bees. HoneyLove is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible.