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How LA homes lost their hives

via Mark Vallianatos
historyofbeesinamerica
The decision by the Los Angeles City Council to consider legalizing bee-keeping on single family properties raises the question: why were backyard bees banned in the first place? While researching some zoning and building code changes, I came across a council file from the 1940s that contained dueling petitions on beekeeping in the west San Fernando Valley. This sparked my interest in how Los Angeles has regulated bees over the years, especially through the zoning code. Zoning is a tool that local jurisdictions utilize to regulate land use. The zoning of residential properties, and what agricultural uses were allowed on single family homes, changed as Los Angeles transformed from the nation’s leading farming region to a suburban and industrial powerhouse.  I’ve tracked down a partial history of the regulation of bee-keeping in the city of LA.  These controls on (and controversies about) bees represent competing visions of the city and how we should live in it. I hope reflecting on when and why LA homes “lost their hives” can provide context that will be useful as the City re-legalizes urban bee-keeping.

J.P. McIntyre and his bees, circa 1880 | California Historical Society

Bee-keeping grew alongside Agriculture in Southern California and the benefits of bees to farmers and the economy were widely recognized.  The keeping of bees was, however, banned within the city limits of Los Angeles on June 10th 1879. A decade later, in 1889, when the city adopted its first home-rule city charter, the power to restrict bees was enshrined in a list of nuisances. The Charter authorized Los Angeles “to suppress and prohibit … the keeping of bees within the city limits, and any and all obnoxious, offensive, immoral, indecent or disreputable places of business or practice.”  (Charter of the City of Los Angeles as Adopted, January 1889).
Was bee-keeping really considered to be that bad? Some of the other activities on the charter’s list of problematic businesses, like bawdy-houses and gambling dens, were regulated out of moral concerns. Others, such as laundries and cattle yards, were considered to be types of businesses that should be limited to certain areas because of the risks (fire, odors, etc) associated with their operations. Bee-keeping fell into this latter type of activity. I was surprised to see, in news accounts from the late 19th century, that the biggest perceived threat from bee hives wasn’t people getting stung by bees. It was the belief that bees threatened the fruit crop fruit by eating and stinging pieces of fruit. Proponents of banning bee-keeping in LA also cited the danger posed to horses by swarms of bees.

This law didn’t stop all bee-keeping in residential areas. As the City grew by annexing surrounding land, exceptions to the bee ordinance were made for newly added districts that were primarily agricultural. In 1915,  the San Fernando Valley was exempted from the bee-keeping ban when it was annexed to LA. The ban itself didn’t seem to be widely enforced in parts of the city where it did apply.  A 1917 Los Angeles Times article on the benefits of back-yard bee-keeping, for example, dismissed the law against bees as “an ancient and still-unrepealed city ordinance.” (‘Back-Yard Bee Keeping Cuts Living Cost Here.’ Los Angeles Times, Jan 28, 1917.)

The legality of the ‘ancient’ ordinance was eventually tested at the California Supreme Court. In 1936, Mrs. Edna Ellis was accused of violating the LA city ordinance by keeping five hives of bees at a residential property on the 4000 block of Sequoia St. The Deputy City Attorney prosecuting the case called bees “a nuisance” and “vicious.” “They are stinging people all over the neighborhood,” he claimed. “Children go outside and get stung. They can’t even pick flowers.” In her defense, Mrs. Ellis told the court: “I love bees. To me, they’re pets… Like cats and dogs to some people. My father kept bees before me and I have been keeping them myself for twenty-five years.” (‘Court Hears Bee Defense: Woman Accused of Keeping Apiary in Violation of City Ordinance.’ Los Angeles Times. June 27, 1936.) Ellis was convicted and appealed the decision, arguing that the ban was unconstitutional. The California Supreme Court accepted her statements about “the benefits to the residents in her community resulting from the cross-pollination of the fruit blossoms and flowers in addition to the commercial value of the bees” but still found that there is “a reasonable basis for the exercise of the police power in prohibiting beekeeping within the city limits,” upholding the law and Ellis’ conviction.  (In re Ellis, 11 cal.2d 571, 1938.)

As World War II drew to a close, LA planners tried to balance the San Fernando’s Valley’s agricultural heritage with pent-up demand for space for housing and industry. It was on this shifting terrain that arguments about bees started to define what types of residential properties were suitable for keeping hives. In April 1945, 13 residents of Canoga Park sent a petition to the Los Angeles City Council requesting a law “prohibiting stands of bees in the west end of the San Fernando Valley. Bees in this locality are not only a nuisance and danger, but they cause a great deal of damage to crops such as peaches, grapes and others. .. As they ripen, the bees sting the fruit and cause them to rot. It is dangerous to try to gather fruit with so many bees around. At present, people who live in the city, but who own vacant acres, are putting in bees just to annoy those of us who really make our homes out here.” (Council File 19744, April 23, 1945).

Los Angeles City staff and the Council’s Public Health and Welfare Committee considered this request. They concluded that it was unreasonable to outlaw bee keeping in agricultural parts of the valley and that “expert testimony does not support the contention that bees really damage fruit.”  (May 5, 1945 letter from Chas Senn, Director of Sanitation to George M. Uhl, MD, Health Officer). In early April, 1946, the City Council, did direct the City Attorney to draft an ordinance to prohibit keeping bees in congested parts of the San Fernando Valley. This move prompted another group of Canoga Park residents to send a competing petition to Council: “we the undersigned residents of said district, ask that the keeping of bees in the west San Fernando Valley should not be outlawed for the following reasons: Said district is sparsely settled and is mostly devoted to agriculture and bees do not constitute a nuisance. The bees render a great service to agriculture, trees and flowers by pollination, which fact is well known and the plaintiffs could not suggest a better substitute. However, there are also wild bees, which could not be outlawed. It is well know that bees do not spoil fruit. First fruit must be pecked by birds before a bee could feed on it.  We the undersigned are convinced that the bees are harmless and useful and therefore we ask that no ordinance against keeping bees should be enacted.” (Council File 23159, April 23, 1946.)

The LA City Council soon passed an ordinance, effective June 1, 1946, that split the difference between the anti-bee and pro-bee petitions. The City’s anti-beekeeping law was amended to forbid the keeping of bees on any premises within 300 feet of another dwelling or within 100 feet of an exterior boundary. This would allow bees to be kept at a single family house only if it had a huge lot. Agricultural zones and the Residential Agriculture zone were exempted, allowing bee-keeping to continue in parts of the Valley with rural zoning.

By shifting the law from a blanket prohibition on bee-keeping (with an exception for the San Fernando Valley) to a zoning-based system, planners could allow different animal and agriculture-related uses in different residential zones. In 1950, for example, a new Residential Suburban zone was created to be a hybrid between the R1 and RA zones. Residents of RA or RS zoned homes could raise “poultry, fowl, bees, rabbits, chinchillas, fish, or frogs;” but if you lived in a house zoned R1 (the most common single family zone) you were limited to poultry, rabbits and chinchillas, plus goats, horses and cows if your lot was at least 20,000 square feet. (Ordinance 97359, 1950).

At some point between 1950 and 1980, bee-keeping was eliminated as a legal use in the RA and RS zones. I haven’t yet run across the ordinance that made this change. Today, bee-keeping is only allowed in the City of Los Angeles in agricultural zone and in most manufacturing zones. Hopefully this will change soon, and hives of bees, governed by sensible regulations, will be permitted in backyards throughout the City for the first time in 135 years.


Mark Vallianatos works and teaches at Occidental College and is on the Zoning Advisory Committee for the City’s re:code LA process to revise Los Angeles’ zoning code. Mark can be reached at mvalli@oxy.edu 


LEGALIZE URBAN BEEKEEPING IN LOS ANGELES!!

Sign the petition | Email a letter of support to City Council Council File: 12-0785 Beekeeping

Legalize Urban Beekeeping
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Yellow Tie Event 2014 Recap!

Big thanks to all who sponsored, donated, volunteered and attended!

Special shout out to Whole Foods Market, Plaza El Segundo for the FOOD, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey for the DRINKS, LUSH Cosmetics for donating and VOLUNTEERING, and the Loo Family for HOSTING!

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

New video on our YouTube Channel!

Click here to subscribe to HoneyLove on YouTube!!

Our goal is to get 10,000 subscribers by this year’s NATIONAL HONEY BEE DAY (August 2014)—Please help us spread the word by sharing this link: honeylove.org/subscribe

Big THANK YOU to She Shoots. He Scores. for producing this sweet little video on HoneyLove Co-Founder Chelsea McFarland as part of their Google funded INSIDE JOB series featuring “women with amazing and inspirational jobs”!
Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove HQ, HoneyLove Interviews

NEW HoneyLove Shirts – ONE WEEK ONLY

THIS WEEK ONLY: FLOAT.org  Apparel is donating $8 from every purchase to HoneyLove

THIS WEEK ONLY: FLOAT.org Apparel is donating $8 from every purchase to HoneyLove

Pick up an Urban Honey Tee this week and help the HoneyLove protect the health and well-being of honeybees! $8 from your purchase will be donated to HoneyLove.

Get a 10% off coupon code here – http://floatapparel.refr.cc/L4DVD8R

10 different shirt styles!!
Shirts printed on 93% combed & ring-spun cotton/7% polyester using eco-friendly, water-based inks.

CLICK HERE TO GET ONE BEFORE THE SALE ENDS!!

float

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HoneyLove nominated for the GOOD 100

Rob_Chelsea_GOOD100

Login and vote for HoneyLove HERE!
Click the little blue “It’s Good!” triangle on their site!

Illustration by Lauren Tamaki
I first met Rob McFarland while working at a tech startup in Venice, Calif. One day, not long after our company had moved into a new office, a few co-workers discovered a beehive in the alley behind the parking lot. While someone else wanted to tell the office to call pest control and have it removed, Rob had other plans. He explained about the mass die-offs of bees around the globe, how human survival and food production rely on bees, and the irony of how the urban environment is one of the last havens for these creatures because fewer pesticides are used in the city. Rob came into the office in full beekeeping garb the next day, armed with a cardboard box and lid to help remove the hive and find it a new home.  It wasn’t the first time he had done something like this. Several months earlier, Rob and his wife Chelsea called a beekeeper to relocate a neighbor’s unwanted hive into their backyard and started championing the legalization of urban beekeeping in Los Angeles.
Rob and Chelsea started a nonprofit named HoneyLove, after their nicknames for each other. HoneyLove’s mission is to protect honeybees, legalize urban beekeeping, and encourage and educate new urban beekeepers. They started with town halls and city council meetings, but, as with anything Rob and Chelsea seem to do, they have brought their creative touch to it, utilizing photo booths, dance videos, and an annual, yellow-tie formal to spread their message. And it’s working. In the three short years they have been running HoneyLove, Rob and Chelsea have convinced more than 20 neighborhood councils to send letters of support to the city to legalize beekeeping in L.A., held dozens of events, trained hundreds of new beekeepers, and facilitated the rescue of hundreds of hives. In the next year, they are hoping to increase their education reach to more people to get urban beekeeping officially legalized in L.A.  I nominated Rob and Chelsea for the GOOD 100 because they took an issue—the global, mass die-off of bees—that felt out of reach and inaccessible, and they did something tangible and creative about it.
Paris Marron is a Product Manager at GOOD.
Gap has teamed up with GOOD to celebrate the GOOD 100, our annual round-up of individuals at the cutting-edge of creative impact. Gap + GOOD are challenging you to join in. We all have something to offer. #letsdomore

 

Good100

[view full size article via dropbox.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, Yay Bees

The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life

The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life
A slew of factors—its acidity, its lack of water and the presence of hydrogen peroxide—work in perfect harmony, allowing the sticky treat to last forever 

[By Natasha Geiling via smithsonianmag.com]

Modern archeologists, excavating ancient Egyptian tombs, have often found something unexpected amongst the tombs’ artifacts: pots of honey, thousands of years old, and yet still preserved. Through millennia, the archeologists discover, the food remains unspoiled, an unmistakable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.

There are a few other examples of foods that keep–indefinitely–in their raw state: salt, sugar, dried rice are a few. But there’s something about honey; it can remain preserved in a completely edible form, and while you wouldn’t want to chow down on raw rice or straight salt, one could ostensibly dip into a thousand year old jar of honey and enjoy it, without preparation, as if it were a day old. Moreover, honey’s longevity lends it other properties–mainly medicinal–that other resilient foods don’t have. Which raises the question–what exactly makes honey such a special food?

The answer is as complex as honey’s flavor–you don’t get a food source with no expiration date without a whole slew of factors working in perfect harmony.

The first comes from the chemical make-up of honey itself. Honey is, first and foremost, a sugar. Sugars are hygroscopic, a term that means they contain very little water in their natural state but can readily suck in moisture if left unsealed. As Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at Univeristy of California, Davis explains, “Honey in its natural form is very low moisture. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die. They’re smothered by it, essentially.” What Harris points out represents an important feature of honey’s longevity: for honey to spoil, there needs to be something inside of it that can spoil. With such an inhospitable environment, organisms can’t survive long enough within the jar of honey to have the chance to spoil.

Honey is also naturally extremely acidic. “It has a pH that falls between 3 and 4.5, approximately, and that acid will kill off almost anything that wants to grow there,” Harris explains. So bacteria and spoil-ready organisms must look elsewhere for a home–the life expectancy inside of honey is just too low.

But honey isn’t the only hygroscopic food source out there. Molasses, for example, which comes from the byproduct of cane sugar, is extremely hygroscopic, and is acidic, though less so than honey (molasses has a pH of around 5.5). And yet–although it may take a long time, as the sugar cane product has a longer shelf-life than fresh produce, eventually molasses will spoil.

So why does one sugar solution spoil, while another lasts indefinitely? Enter bees.

“Bees are magical,” Harris jokes. But there is certainly a special alchemy that goes into honey. Nectar, the first material collected by bees to make honey, is naturally very high in water–anywhere from 60-80 percent, by Harris’ estimate. But through the process of making honey, the bees play a large part in removing much of this moisture by flapping their wings to literally dry out the nectar. On top of behavior, the chemical makeup of a bees stomach also plays a large part in honey’s resilience. Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF). When the bees regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs to make honey, this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. “Then,” Harris explains, “hydrogen peroxide is the next thing that goes into work against all these other bad things that could possibly grow.”

For this reason, honey has been used for centuries as a medicinal remedy. Because it’s so thick, rejects any kind of growth and contains hydrogen peroxide, it creates the perfect barrier against infection for wounds. The earliest recorded use of honey for medicinal purposes comes from Sumerian clay tablets, which state that honey was used in 30 percent of prescriptions. The ancient Egyptians used medicinal honey regularly, making ointments to treat skin and eye diseases. “Honey was used to cover a wound or a burn or a slash, or something like that, because nothing could grow on it – so it was a natural bandage,” Harris explains.

What’s more, when honey isn’t sealed in a jar, it sucks in moisture. “While it’s drawing water out of the wound, which is how it might get infected, it’s letting off this very minute amount of hydrogen peroxide. The amount of hydrogen peroxide comes off of honey is exactly what we need–it’s so small and so minute that it actually promotes healing.” And honey for healing open gashes is no longer just folk medicinein the past decade, Derma Sciences, a medical device company, has been marketing and selling MEDIHONEY, bandages covered in honey used in hospitals around the world.

If you buy your honey from the supermarket, that little plastic bottle of golden nectar has been heated, strained and processed so that it contains zero particulates, meaning that there’s nothing in the liquid for molecules to crystallize on, and your supermarket honey will look the same for almost forever. If you buy your honey from a small-scale vendor, however, certain particulates might remain, from pollen to enzymes. With these particulates, the honey might crystallize, but don’t worry–if it’s sealed, it’s not spoiled and won’t be for quite some time.

A jar of honey’s seal, it turns out, is the final factor that’s key to honey’s long shelf life, as exemplified by the storied millennia-old Egyptian specimens. While honey is certainly a super-food, it isn’t supernatural–if you leave it out, unsealed in a humid environment, it will spoil. As Harris explains, ” As long as the lid stays on it and no water is added to it, honey will not go bad. As soon as you add water to it, it may go bad. Or if you open the lid, it may get more water in it and it may go bad.”

So if you’re interested in keeping honey for hundreds of years, do what the bees do and keep it sealed–a hard thing to do with this delicious treat!

[Read original article via smithsonianmag.com]

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

CBS NEWS: Urban beekeeping flourishes: Inside the L.A. push to legalize backyard hives

Bee colonies are vital to our food supply, but they have been dying off for nearly a decade. CBS News’ Ben Tracy reports on the rise of urban beekeeping, and the push in Los Angeles for a “pro-bee” ordinance to officially allow beekeeping.

CBS This Morning

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, News

2 DAY Queen Rearing Workshop with Les Crowder

If you are interested in the mysterious task of rearing queens perhaps you would like to join Les Crowder and OneStrongHive for a TWO DAY WORKSHOP! We will do some first hand queen cup making, grafting and all that bringing these precious gals into being entails.

This will be a two day workshop on Saturday and Sunday the 8th and 9th of March, from 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM each day. 

The price for the 2 day workshop is $130 and it will take place in Silver Lake, California. Payment can be made in advance with PayPal (payments to: oramomi@gmail.com) or you can pay with cash or check at the workshop in person.

RSVP
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/675162239191982/
Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/HoneyLove/events/165698232/

Queen Rearing Workshop

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops

HoneyLove.org Press Coverage

Following the recent BEE VOTE at LA CITY COUNCIL… the press was BUZZING! Check out some of the press coverage below!

LA Times

AP Feb 2014

ABC News

ABC_2014

CBS

CBS: “Los Angeles abuzz over push for urban beekeeping”

FOX 11 News

Fox News

Time Magazine

Politico

POLITICO“LA abuzz about push for urban beekeeping”

KPCC
KPCC“LA City Council takes step to allow urban beekeeping”

CurbedLA

CURBED LA: “Los Angeles on Its Way to Legalizing Backyard Beekeeping”

laist

laist“Los Angeles Considers Legalizing Urban Beekeeping”

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

LA TIMES: “We need bees. We want more bees. So legalize beekeeping, L.A.”

LAtimes2013

Rob McFarland holds a beehive at a Culver City residence in 2012. He and his wife have led an effort to make beekeeping legal in LA.

We need bees. We want more bees. So legalize beekeeping, L.A.
Other cities have done it without major problems.

By The Times editorial board—December 27, 2013 

Los Angeles is honeybee heaven. The warm Southern California climate and long growing seasons provide year-round food for bees. The city’s trees, flowers and flora are largely free of pesticides. It’s the perfect place for backyard beekeeping — except that beekeeping is not legal here.

That could soon change. A group of bee advocates and neighborhood councils has been lobbying the City Council to expressly allow beekeeping on single-family residential lots. Current law permits it only in areas zoned for agriculture. Next month, the City Council will decide whether to move forward with legalized beekeeping.

There’s a good reason to allow it. Commercially raised bees used to pollinate crops are disappearing in big numbers because of what’s known as colony collapse disorder, but nobody knows what’s causing the problem. Urban honeybees may end up replenishing the diminishing supply, or providing disease-resistant genes that can be introduced in the commercial bee lines.

Los Angeles should follow the lead of other major cities and draft rules that allow residents to keep bees, while providing some common-sense protections for neighbors. There’s already an established backyard beekeeping community in Los Angeles despite the fact that it is not legal. The growing urban agriculture movement has spurred more interest in homegrown hives (in part because the bees are needed to pollinate the new urban crops) and more confusion over what is and isn’t allowed.

New York City allowed illicit apiarists to come out of the shadows in 2010, and since then hobbyists have established hives on building roofs and in backyards. The city set basic rules: Colonies must be in well-maintained, movable frame hives with a constant water source, in a location that doesn’t pose a nuisance. Beekeepers file a one-page hive registration form with the city health department each year.

Santa Monica permitted beekeeping in 2011 with similar requirements. Residents are allowed two hives per backyard, and the hives must be at least five feet from the property lines. Apiarists who don’t follow the rules or who let their hives become a nuisance to neighbors face fines or misdemeanor charges.

Both cities said they’ve had no major problems; beekeepers have largely followed the rules or moved their hives in response to complaints. And city officials said there’s been a benefit: a larger network of amateur beekeepers to call upon to remove swarms rather than exterminate them.

There will understandably be some concern and fear from neighbors — a swarm of feral honeybees can look like something out of a horror movie. Beekeeping experts say there are already lots of naturally occurring, unmanaged hives in the region. A managed hive in which bees have adequate food and space is less likely to produce a swarm.

We need bees. We want more bees. It’s time to legalize beekeeping.

[view original article via latimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in News