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PRESS RELEASE! Los Angeles swarms City Hall in support of urban beekeeping!

Click here to view full press release and photo

Photo by Karim Sahli 

LA Planning Commission unanimously approves backyard beekeeping ordinance today.

After years of public outreach and grassroots efforts[1] at the local community councils led by beekeepers across Los Angeles, the Department of City Planning, Policy Division[2] presented its recommendations for backyard beekeeping to the LA Planning Commission today and received unanimous support.

In addition to the swarm of local beekeeping supporters who all spoke in favor of legalizing backyard beekeeping, Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD-5), Clare Eberle, planning deputy for Councilmember José Huizar (CD-14), and former Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells were also in attendance speaking in favor of the ordinance.

LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz surprised the Planning Commission by showing up to testify. “There is no one more nervous about bees than I am.  I stepped on a bee years ago, got stung, my leg swelled up and I had to walk with a cane for three weeks,” Koretz said. “There are currently 9 to 11 beehives per square mile in Los Angeles.  When this ordinance passes, there will remain 9 to 11 beehives per square mile, but we will have more beekeepers to know where they are and to manage those hives.  Which is a great idea in my book.”

“Bees are an essential part of our food system. According to the USDA, bees are responsible for the production of about a third of our diet. In addition, bees are a boon to local gardeners and urban farmers. As you may be aware, honeybees worldwide are in crisis, falling prey to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder at an alarming rate, making beekeeping a serious food security issue.” - Rob McFarland, Los Angeles Resident (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) 

NY Times just reported on May 13, 2015: “Since April 2014, beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of their colonies, the second highest loss rate in nine years, according to an annual survey conducted by a bee partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”[3]

“Hunger is a huge problem in our city. Currently, there are over 1.1 million citizens using the SNAP program for food assistance. Honeybees are such effective pollinators that they are able to increase agricultural yield by 30 to 60 percent. A 30 to 60 percent increase in productivity in an urban garden can mean the difference between a family needing food assistance and a family who can pull themselves out of poverty, and even participate in a local, green economy! Urban beekeeping is a powerful tool that we can use to help provide food security for our most vulnerable neighbors. Honeybees enable people of all economic levels to eat better and have the empowering and deeply satisfying experience of successfully growing their own food.” – Max Wong, Los Angeles Resident

Most cities have already legalized urban beekeeping including Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Culver City, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, Paris, London… the list goes on.

“It’s great to see Los Angeles catching up with all the other great cities of the world in making beekeeping legal. The City Planning department did a great job in crafting a common sense set of regulations. Once the City Council approves the changes to the code we can get on with the work of saving bees and creating a city friendly to pollinators.” – Erik Knutzen, Los Angeles Resident

“The most common concern about honey bees is bee stings. Honey bees are not aggressive by nature and are unlikely to sting. Only 0.4% of Americans report an allergy to insect stings in the U.S., and almost none of these are caused by honey bees. In addition, less than 1% of the US population is at risk of systemic reaction to stings by honey bees. Severe reactions from the sting of any one insect in a year are 1 in 5,555,556. The chance that someone will be hit by a car is 59.3% higher.”[4]

“There are so many environmental reasons to support urban beekeeping but there is also a really critical safety element. When beekeeping is legal, then feral hives can be properly managed which makes our city safer.” - Meghan Sahli-Wells, Current Councilmember and former Mayor of Culver City 

“I am one of the minuscule percentage of people who is actually systemically allergic to honey bees and I am full support of legalizing urban beekeeping in Los Angeles. Beekeepers are our first line of defense in helping to make the city safer by managing the feral populations of bees that already live naturally in our environment. I am very happy to see this ordinance move forward!” – Chelsea McFarland, Los Angeles Resident

“I am a registered urban beekeeper with two boys 4 and 8 years old who have NEVER been stung by any honey bees from our two managed hives in our backyard.  Unlike the 9 to 11 unmanaged feral hives already existing per square mile in Los Angeles[5], my hives are managed and carefully looked after. Having more educated beekeepers will in fact provide a safer environment for everyone.” – Paul Hekimian, Santa Monica Resident


[2] Planning Department: Spearheaded by Katherine Peterson and supervisors Tom Rothmann and Erick Lopez, and Student Professional Worker, Jaime Espinoza.



[5] 9-11 colonies of bees per square mile was a stat given by LA County Agricultural Commissioner during the Mar Vista Beekeeping Feasibility Study in 2011 –

About HoneyLove

HoneyLove is a Los Angeles based 501(c)3 non-profit conservation organization with a mission to protect the honeybees by educating our communities and inspiring new urban beekeepers. Founded in 2011, HoneyLove believes that the city is the last refuge of the honeybee. Our home gardens are generally free of pesticides, and in cities like Los Angeles, there is year-round availability of pollen and nectar for the honeybees!  Learn more about HoneyLove’s events and services at

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LA WEEKLY: “Could L.A. Become a Honeybee Mecca?”

By Gendy Alimurung

LA Weekly Article

Look inside a plain wood box, in a truck, in the driveway of Rob and Chelsea McFarland’s house on certain spring nights, and you will see them. Bees.

How did they get there? Turn back the clock two years, to another season, another swarm. This one arrived in the afternoon while Rob was working in the backyard — one bee at first, then thousands, clustered into a ball the size of two footballs. It landed in a tree.

Instead of killing the bees, Rob called a group he’d read about online, which “rescues” them: the Backwards Beekeepers. That evening, wearing only a T-shirt and jeans and no protective suit, a volunteer from the group clipped the branch of bees, dropped it into a cardboard box and sealed it up. Rob, now 33, and wife Chelsea, 31, were astounded. “It revealed to me the gentle nature of bees,” Rob says.

Soon he started going on rescues, too — as many as three a day. He climbed a tangerine tree in the middle of the night and brought down the biggest open-air hive Chelsea had ever seen. With a frenzied smile, Rob gripped the severed branch with massive honeycombs dangling off it — a 60-pound lollipop of bees. Chelsea snapped a picture.

Then the dawning realization: “Where the hell do we put them?” It is a recurring question that will consume their next few days, then months, then years.

The tangerine tree hive sat on their roof for a spell. The McFarlands live in a modest house in the Del Rey neighborhood, a narrow, two-mile strip that cleaves Culver City from Mar Vista. They don’t exactly have a lot of space. And what kind of neighbor welcomes a swarm?

By some miracle, after weeks of shlepping hives across the city — after the crazy logistics of matching up people who had bees but didn’t want them with people who want bees but didn’t have them — Chelsea secured a spot: a small, scrubby hilltop in agrarian Moorpark, overlooking an organic farm owned by a friend of a friend. The McFarlands christened the hilltop the HoneyLove Sanctuary.

Today it hosts 16 hives in colorful wood boxes, each from somewhere around L.A., rescued from water meters and birdhouses and compost bins, places Rob can’t recall anymore.

“Each one of these is a family,” Chelsea says. “We’re usually rushing to beat the exterminator out there.”

For the past two years, the McFarlands’ house has been a halfway home for rescued bees. Rob, a YouTube channel manager, rescues them after work in the evenings, and the bees spend the night in his truck on the driveway until he can shuttle them up to the hilltop in the morning.

You do not choose to become obsessed. As anyone who has ever fallen in love with this insect says, “The bees choose you.”

“We always kind of have bees at our place,” Chelsea admits, with a sheepish grin.

LA Weekly frame

Commercial bees — the ones used to pollinate crops in the agriculture industry — are dying off in record numbers, presenting a serious crisis to global food production. Yet in urban areas, bees thrive. No pesticides or monocrops mean healthy living conditions. As improbable as it sounds, cities like Los Angeles may be the bees’ best hope for survival.

But there’s a catch.

Urban beekeeping is legal in New York, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Denver, Atlanta, San Francisco, Paris, London, Tokyo and Vancouver. In New York and San Francisco, people keep hives on the roofs of luxury hotels and apartment buildings.

In Los Angeles, however, bees exist in a legal gray area. The county allows them. But the city has no laws specifically pertaining to urban beekeeping. Currently, if bees are found on public property, the city’s only option is to exterminate them. As a result, the past few years have seen the emergence of groups like the Backwards Beekeepers, which are devoted to rescuing and keeping these wild swarms of so-called “feral” hives within city limits.

The Backwards Beekeepers represent a whole new kind of thinking about bees. While older, established groups frown on feral hives, the Backwards Beekeepers see them as the way of the future. Where traditional bee clubs use pesticides and antibiotics to help struggling bee populations, the Backwards Beekeepers favor organic, “natural” methods. The city, in a Backwards Beekeeper’s eyes, is a bee’s ideal stomping ground.

Yet as long as the rules about keeping hives on private property are anyone’s guess, beekeepers live in fear. No one has been prosecuted, but that doesn’t seem like security enough. And so Rob and Chelsea McFarland have been working to change the city’s codes one neighborhood group at a time.

When the McFarlands consulted beekeepers in Seattle, they were advised to build support from the ground up. So the McFarlands formed a nonprofit foundation, HoneyLove, and they do endless events and outreach: wax symposiums, honey tastings, mead workshops, pollen parties, art shows, festivals, concerts, garden tours, grocery consortiums, school visits, equipment demonstrations, film screenings, radio shows, television appearances, guest lectures and video blogging. They organized a four-month feasibility study with the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council, which includes surveys with residents, testimony from a pediatric pulmonologist on the effects of bee stings and, for a little bedtime reading, 75 scholarly articles on beekeeping.

In the process, their small social circle has become a massive one; the bees opened up a community for them in a way that nothing had before. “You’d be amazed at how many people have a particular interest in bees for one reason or another,” Rob says.

How does someone get into bees? For the McFarlands, the more salient question is, how did they manage so long without bees?

The couple is well versed in the art of taking up causes. Previously they championed orangutans. But orangutans were an abstraction, thousands of miles away in the forests of Borneo. Bees were literally right in their backyard.

Chelsea, a video editor and something of a natural-born cheerleader, wanted to fix their bad rep. “You see a swarm coming, and it’s, like, ‘Killer bees! Run for the hills!’?” she says. “But actually it’s the least aggressive a bee will ever be. Because they have nothing to defend. They’re all homeless. They have no honey. They have no babies.”

Rob, who is quiet and thoughtful, with a mind prone to drawing connections, saw the intrinsic fascination of the insect itself. There were infinite, engrossing facts to learn. Did you know that bees see in ultraviolet light, so flowers look like neon signs to them? Did you know that bees are essentially plants’ way of having sex?

Collecting signatures at the Mar Vista Farmers Market one morning, they meet Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who is there picking up greens for his turkeys and chickens and finches and cockatiels… [continue reading article via]

LA Weekly Paper

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

RESCUED FROM: Bird house in their own backyard!

“I’m so happy to have come across Honeylove. We’ve had bees in our birdhouse for several years and I didn’t think much of it. Until they got crowded and swarmed, and swarmed again. For a moment I thought after the third swarm maybe they shouldn’t live here. But but now we all do, and happily. I don’t think they miss the little birdhouse.” – Michael

“Michael and his bees are some of HoneyLove’s favorites… for the same reasons: good-natured, loyal, and productive!” – Rob McFarland (HoneyLove)

If you happened to see our observation hive at our Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase, you saw some of Michael’s very happy bees in action.  Our observation hive will be back for your viewing pleasure at our booth at the upcoming TreePeople’s Green City Fair on May 5. 

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Del Rey: Approved motion to support pilot program (December 2011)

Mar Vista: Approved motion to support pilot program (November 2011)

Santa Monica: LEGALIZED!!! (December 2010)

South Robertson Neighborhoods Council
Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council
(Venice & Culver City coming soon…)

“The 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.”

Click here to view resources to help legalize urban beekeeping in YOUR community!

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?”ANALOG LIVING” featuring HoneyLove @ Crash Space – 12/1/11 in Culver City, CA

“Analog Living is a series of lectures and workshops focusing on self-sufficiency and the do-it-yourself spirit. Topics will include off-the-grid living, urban homesteading, sustainability, and cultivating an alternative mindset toward consumerism and our way of life.

Our new series ANALOG LIVING kicks off with Rob & Chelsea McFarland, co-founders of – a local non-profit conservation organization with a mission to protect the honeybees and inspire and educate new urban beekeepers. Hear the latest buzz on the honeybee situation and how to get involved.”

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Live near Los Angeles?
Join HONEYLOVE on MEETUP.COM to hear about our upcoming events!

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