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ARTICLE: San Francisco beekeeping

via baynature.org

Eye-level with the eucalyptus canopy of Golden Gate Park, Charlie Blevins stands on his San Francisco rooftop and begins to “suit up.”

He slips on a white jacket, then pulls a spacesuit- like hood over his head that masks his face with a netted veil. A pair of thick, white gloves drawn on and Blevins is ready for “inspection.” He gently pulls a honeycomb frame from the hive.

This is from one of 35 beehives that the San Franciscan beekeeper maintains in the backyards and rooftops of Bay Area properties. Is the queen laying eggs? Is the colony in tip-top shape? Are honey stores adequate? Blevins, a cheery and warm-hearted man in his late 50s, asks himself these questions as he checks each hive for signs of disease.

“You can tell a lot about the egg-laying pattern of the queen. If the queen is not laying, then the hive will die. Bees only live six weeks,” said Blevins.
Honeybee populations are in deep trouble around the world, but in places like San Francisco, urban beekeepers are doing their part to restore the enterprising Apis to their crucial role as ecosystem pollinator. Urban beekeeping is an outgrowth of the local food movement, which has inspired countless farms in urban pockets and has stoked the dream of sustainable cities. Behind every urban beehive is the beekeeper.

Queen Bee

Read the original article here: San Francisco beekeeping: the thrill of the hive

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

ARTICLE: Insecticide Unacceptable Danger

ARTICLE: Insecticide ‘unacceptable’ danger to bees, report finds

“Campaigners say the conclusion by the European Food Safety Authority is a ‘death knell’ for neonicotinoid pesticides

The world’s most widely used insecticide has for the first time been officially labelled an “unacceptable” danger to bees feeding on flowering crops. Environmental campaigners say the conclusion, by Europe’s leading food safety authority, sounds the “death knell” for the insect nerve agent…

Bees and other pollinators are critical to one-third of all food, but two major studies in March 2012, and others since, have implicated neonicotinoid pesticides in the decline in the insects, alongside habitat loss and disease. In April, the European commission demanded a re-examination of the risks posed by the chemicals, including Bayer’s widely used imidacloprid and two others…

“This is a major turning point in the battle to save our bees,” said Friends of the Earth’s Andrew Pendleton: ‘EFSA have sounded the death knell for one of the chemicals most frequently linked to bee decline and cast serious doubt over the safety of the whole neonicotinoid family. Ministers must wake up to the fact that these chemicals come with an enormous sting in the tail by immediately suspending the use of these pesticides.’”

[Click here to view the full article via guardian.co.uk]

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

ARTICLE — TRAVERSE CITY, MI:
Residents buzzing over urban beekeeping approval

“Traverse City officials approved a proposal to allow urban beekeeping within the city on Monday night.

Commissioners voted to amend zoning rules which will allow city residents to have up to two honey bee colonies or hives per property. The idea was initially brought up in may by a group of interested community members.

Since then, the commission says they have done a lot of research on the practice. Community members at Monday night’s meeting were very supportive of the idea and are happy with the outcome.”

[via upnorthlive.com]

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HoneyLove Beekeepers visit the garden!
via farmkingblog.wordpress.com

“There was a buzz in the air when Chelsea from HoneyLove Beekeeping came to visit Farm King garden this week! Students were educated and entertained by all things bees. So much thanks to Chelsea and HoneyLove for opening up the students’ eyes to the wonderfully exciting and important role that bees play!”

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HoneyLove.org featured in this year’s Edible Flowers 2013 Calendar

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HoneyLove.org outreach @ Thomas Starr King Middle School 

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PHOTO: Bee rescue / Cut-out from a storage box Ocean View Farms

Heading to a new home today, thanks to HoneyLove.org
-
Christy Wilhelmi [aka Gardenerd]

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Urban Beekeeping’s a ‘Sweet’ Deal—So What’s the Hold Up?


It may be full of potential, but urban beekeeping is a movement that’s still in its infancy in Los Angeles, with many challenges that prevent it from taking off. Cities all over the world are promoting beekeeping as a necessary practice to increase food security and environmental stability. In fact, beekeeping is so hot, even Michelle Obama has christened the White House garden with two healthy hives. So what’s the hold up, LA?
 
From a social perspective, how can we dispel the fear that has long overshadowed the bees’ reputation: the dreaded beesting? And from a political perspective, how do you legalize urban beekeeping in a city that disallows it and instead maintains a policy to exterminate all wild honey bees? 
 
Rob and Chelsea MacFarland think they’ve figured out the answers to these questions, and have set out to eliminate these barriers with their organization, HoneyLove. They believe that the city is actually the last refuge of the honeybee, since our home gardens, unlike farms in rural areas, are generally free of pesticides. Urban beekeeping is thriving in cities across the U.S., from New York to San Francisco, but is relatively new in Los Angeles. And it’s a shame because unlike most urban areas in the country, there is year-round availability of pollen and nectar for them to feed on in the City of Angels. 
 
Despite the hospitable habitat, urban beekeeping is still illegal in LA—and misinformation about the danger of “killer bees” means most people aren’t rushing to put on a bee suit. So in order to help it take off, HoneyLove is focusing its efforts on the legal matter, petitioning to legalize urban beekeeping in Los Angeles. And when they aren’t meeting with community councils and petitioning the city (a hearing date will be set this month), they are educating the wee ones, pushing the idea that bees are a critical part of the ecosystem—and not something to fear. 
 
I had a chance to catch up with Rob, co-founder of HoneyLove. He says the main issue is that people associate anything that is black and yellow with bees; yet it’s the wasp—not the honeybee—that is likely to sting at the picnic table. Wasps are aggressive and omnivorous, whereas honeybees are vegetarian and peaceful, just defensive. Unfortunately, people are likely to call an exterminator if they come across a hive in their yard or compost bin, when they should actually call HoneyLove to rescue those busy bees. 
 
And in case you’re wondering why this all matters, don’t let their small size fool you. Honeybees pollinate one-third of U.S. agriculture, from avocados to berries to broccoli, and they’re dying rapidly.  With worldwide bee populations threatened with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and urban beekeeping more popular than ever, both the policies and the misconceptions around bees need to change. 
 
You can learn more and sign the petition at honeylove.org; and follow HoneyLove on GOOD.
 
Photo courtesy of HoneyLove.org
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ARTICLE: Mystery of the disappearing bees: Solved!
By Richard Schiffman
 

If it were a novel, people would criticize the plot for being too far-fetched – thriving colonies disappear overnight without leaving a trace, the bodies of the victims are never found. Only in this case, it’s not fiction: It’s what’s happening to fully a third of commercial beehives, over a million colonies every year. Seemingly healthy communities fly off never to return. The queen bee and mother of the hive is abandoned to starve and die.
 

Thousands of scientific sleuths have been on this case for the last 15 years trying to determine why our honey bees are disappearing in such alarming numbers. “This is the biggest general threat to our food supply,” according to Kevin Hackett, the national program leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s bee and pollination program.
 

Until recently, the evidence was inconclusive on the cause of the mysterious “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) that threatens the future of beekeeping worldwide. But three new studies point an accusing finger at a culprit that many have suspected all along, a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.
 

In the U.S. alone, these pesticides, produced primarily by the German chemical giant Bayer and known as “neonics” for short, coat a massive 142 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton seeds. They are also a common ingredient in home gardening products.
 

Research published last month in the prestigious journal Science shows that neonics are absorbed by the plants’ vascular system and contaminate the pollen and nectar that bees encounter on their rounds. They are a nerve poison that disorient their insect victims and appear to damage the homing ability of bees, which may help to account for their mysterious failure to make it back to the hive.
 

Another study published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology journal implicated neonic-containing dust released into the air at planting time with “lethal effects compatible with colony losses phenomena observed by beekeepers.”
 

Purdue University entomologists observed bees at infected hives exhibiting tremors, uncoordinated movement and convulsions, all signs of acute insecticide poisoning. And yet another study conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health actually re-created colony collapse disorder in several honeybee hives simply by administering small doses of a popular neonic, imidacloprid.
 

But scientists believe that exposure to toxic pesticides is only one factor that has led to the decline of honey bees in recent years. The destruction and fragmentation of bee habitats, as a result of land development and the spread of monoculture agriculture, deprives pollinators of their diverse natural food supply. This has already led to the extinction of a number of wild bee species. The planting of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops – some of which now contain toxic insecticides within their genetic structure – may also be responsible for poisoning bees and weakening their immune systems.
 

Every spring millions of bee colonies are trucked to the Central Valley of California and other agricultural areas to replace the wild pollinators, which have all but disappeared in many parts of the country. These bees are routinely fed high-fructose corn syrup instead of their own nutritious honey. And in an effort to boost productivity, the queens are now artificially inseminated, which has led to a disturbing decline in bee genetic diversity. Bees are also dusted with chemical poisons to control mites and other pathogens that have flourished in the overcrowded commercial colonies.
 

In 1923, Rudolph Steiner, the German founder of biodynamic agriculture, a precursor of the modern organic movement, predicted that within a hundred years artificial industrial techniques used to breed honey bees would lead to the species’ collapse. His prophecy was right on target!

Honey bees have been likened to the canaries in the coal mine. Their vanishing is nature’s way of telling us that conditions have deteriorated in the world around us. Bees won’t survive for long if we don’t change our commercial breeding practices and remove deadly toxins from their environment. A massive pollinator die-off would imperil world food supplies and devastate ecosystems that depend on them. The loss of these creatures might rival climate change in its impact on life on earth.
 

Still, this is a disaster that does not need to happen. Germany and France have already banned pesticides that have been implicated in the deaths of bees. There is still time to save the bees by working with nature rather than against it, according to environmentalist and author Bill McKibben:
 

“Past a certain point, we can’t make nature conform to our industrial model. The collapse of beehives is a warning – and the cleverness of a few beekeepers in figuring out how to work with bees not as masters but as partners offers a clear-eyed kind of hope for many of our ecological dilemmas.”
 

[PHOTO: A bumblebee sits on a rhododendron bloom on a sunny spring day in Dortmund, Germany, March 28, 2012. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender]

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DIY: Lavender Honey Soda by Gardenista

First, harvest from five to six lavender flowers, leaving a few inches of stem with leaves on each.

Next, make a simple syrup. Bring two cups of water to a boil, and add 1/2+ cup of honey. 

Add your lavender flowers to the syrup and turn off the heat. Let them steep for from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how floral you prefer your soda.

Pour one or two inches of simple syrup into a glass, add ice, club soda, and a generous squeeze of lemon.

Then sit back and enjoy your garden.

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