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KCET: How Bees Came Buzzing to Los Angeles

By Jaime Henderson

On February 12, 2014 a group of Los Angeles backyard beekeepers gathered together to urge the Los Angeles City Council to consider making the practice of beekeeping in Los Angeles residential zones legal. These guerilla beekeepers outlined their reasons for cultivating bees and their hives, describing their commitment to locavore living and urban farming and their personal belief in the health benefits of locally derived honey. On a larger scale, they pointed out, their work prevents colony collapse disorder, a significant problem in which pollinating honeybees desert their hives, leaving at risk important agricultural crops such as almonds, avocados and blueberries. The beekeepers argue that the urban environment’s diverse vegetation and lack of agricultural pesticides discourage such abandonment of hives. Fortunately the city council agreed to review the laws against backyard beekeeping.

Perhaps the city council members should consider that beekeeping is not new to Los Angeles and has, in fact, long been a part of the county’s agricultural history.

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

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

Like many of the early beekeepers themselves, bees made their way to California from the Eastern United States by ship — migration to the Western states by land was made nearly impossible by the arid mid-western plains. Typically setting off from New York, the bees and their hives made their way through the hot and humid Isthmus of Panama, landing in San Francisco wharfs, crowded and dazed upon disembarking the steamer, much like their human shipmates. The July 1, 1852 issue of the Daily Alta California reported the first importation of bees to California by Mr. W.A. Buckley and Lady of Newburgh, New York. This eccentric sounding couple arrived in San Francisco on June 28 on the steamship New Orleans, carrying the one last remaining beehive of the three they had in their possession when they left New York. Although the Daily Alta reported the hive to have arrived “with its industrious inmates in healthy working condition,” Lee H. Watkins, in his 1968 article “California’s First Honey Bees,” refutes this notion. Watkins notes that because of the bees’ long term confinement, Buckley’s admittance that he knew very little of caring for bees, and Watkins’ inability to unearth any record of W.A. Buckley or his last remaining hive, make it highly unlikely Buckley’s bees were as the Daily Alta described.

Most histories on beekeeping in California credit Christopher A. Shelton as being the first to import healthy, living hives, in 1853. After arriving by ship in San Francisco, Shelton settled in Santa Clara County with his hives — these colonies being the earliest California ancestors of the honeybee. While one of Shelton’s wayward bees might have made its way southward from Santa Clara County to Los Angeles County, historical records indicate that it is O.W. Childs who first brought a beehive into the Southland on September 4, 1854. Childs purchased his hive in San Francisco for $150, from a ship carrying many hives that had originated in New York. It is unknown where Childs settled in Los Angeles County with his hive, although the Los Angeles County foothills became a popular spot for bee ranches, or apiaries.

A Bee Ranch - San Antonio Canon, Los Angeles County, 1902 | Courtesy California Historical Society

A Bee Ranch – San Antonio Canon, Los Angeles County, 1902 | Courtesy California Historical Society

According to Thompson and West’s “History of Los Angeles County, California,” by 1860 many county residents were beekeeping, with one particular party in the county harvesting twenty-five colonies, and “several others in the same business, all doing well.” Cary McWilliams, in “Southern California: an Island on the Land,” noted that “bee-ranching became a type of bonanza farming by 1870. On a foothill homestead, the bee rancher would start with a swarm of 100 stands in October, quickly increase the swarm to 400 stands, and ship 40,000 pounds of the finest comb-honey by July.”

Most honey was shipped to San Francisco for sale, where it sold for a good profit. W. McPherson recorded that San Francisco buyers of “Los Angeles Mountain Honey” were told that “it is the purest and most delicate-flavored honey that ever comes to this market, and commands the highest price.” In fact, according to “The Surveyor General’s Report for 1871,” Los Angeles County is recorded as the greatest producer of honey of the five honey-producing Southern California counties, including Kern, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Santa Barbara, bringing in 168,000 pounds of honey at a net worth of $11,760. According to McPherson, “there [was] no easier way to make money than that of ‘Bee-Ranching,’ in Los Angeles County.”

Miller Box Manufacturing Company, Bee Keepers' Supplies, 1919 | Courtesy California Historical Society

Miller Box Manufacturing Company, Bee Keepers’ Supplies, 1919 | Courtesy California Historical Society

The growing apiary industry created the need for manufacturers of beekeeping supplies. Miller Box Manufacturing Company, located right next to the Los Angeles River at 201-233 North Avenue 18 at Pasadena Avenue, offered their customers hives, honey extractors, swarm catchers, smokers and veils for both lady and gentlemen apiarists.

Bee Keepers' Short Course, Riverside, Dec. 1919 | Courtesy California Historical Society

Bee Keepers’ Short Course, Riverside, Dec. 1919 | Courtesy California Historical Society

The popularity of beekeeping continued to grow in Los Angeles County and surrounding counties. At its first meeting in El Monte on August 18, 1873, the nine members of the Bee Keepers Association of Los Angeles gathered to adopt the organization’s constitution and by-laws. By 1880 the organization had, at its peak, 56 members. The organization continues today as the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, promoting educational outreach on all things bee related, and supporting bee friendly legislation.

Beekeeping has enjoyed a long history in Los Angeles County. While initially practiced primarily for profit, it has of late grown into an environmental choice, reflecting the beekeepers’ belief in the health benefits of local honey and an advocacy of local farming practices and the proliferation healthy bees and their colonies.
Resources

McPherson, W. Homes in Los Angeles city and county. Los Angeles: Mirror Book and Job Printing Establishment, 1873.

McWilliams, Carey. Southern California: an island on the land, 9th edition. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1980.

Reproduction of Thompson and West’s History of Los Angeles County, California, 1880. Berkeley: Howell-North, 1959.

Watkins, Lee H. California’s first honey bees. American Bee Journal, Vol. 108 (5): 190-191.

[view the original article on KCET.org]

Read full story · Posted in News

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

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: Beekeepers urge L.A. council to allow backyard hives

LA Times article about backyard beekeeping

Beekeepers urge L.A. council to allow backyard hives

by Emily Alpert Reyes—February 12, 2014, 8:22 a.m.

Backyard beekeepers are urging the city to allow Angelenos to keep hives at home, joining the ranks of cities such as New York and Santa Monica that already permit the practice in residential areas.

The Los Angeles City Council is slated to vote Wednesday on whether to ask city officials to draw up a report on allowing beekeeping in residential zones, a possible first step toward permitting backyard beekeeping.

Under Los Angeles city codes, beekeeping isn’t allowed in residential zones, according to city planning officials. Backyard beekeeping has nonetheless blossomed as Angelenos committed to locavore living or worried about the health of honeybees have started tending hives at home.

“It’s the yummiest way of breaking the law,” said Max Wong, who keeps bees in her backyard in Mount Washington. Her neighbors were stunned when she told them it wasn’t allowed there under city code, she said.

“Beekeeping should never have been illegal,” Wong said. The image of urban greenery is “part of what makes Los Angeles, Los Angeles,” she said.

So far, both beekeepers and city officials say few complaints have been lodged about illegal beekeeping in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Such complaints are so rare, said Department of Building and Safety spokesman Luke Zamperini, that the department doesn’t track them in their own category.

Beekeepers argue that new rules would nonetheless wipe out the legal unease they now face in the city, clearing up exactly what is allowed.

“Regulations would bring Los Angeles up to speed with pretty much all the other major metropolitan areas around the country,” said Rob McFarland, co-founder of the Los Angeles beekeeping nonprofit HoneyLove. In addition, “it would give beekeepers the guidelines to help make it as safe as possible.”

More than a dozen neighborhood councils, including those in Van Nuys, Eagle Rock, Hollywood and Palms, have backed at least exploring the idea. Some supporters invoke the threat of colony collapse disorder, which has devastated commercial hives that pollinate billions of dollars in crops globally…

[view the complete article via latimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews

KCRW: Making LA a bee-friendly city

by Saul Gonzalez [KCRW]

KCRW_2014_2

“In many parts of the world honeybees are in trouble, with their populations in sharp decline. That decline has scientists, environmentalists, farmers and bee lovers worried because of the bees/ importance to pollination and, thus, agriculture.

But there’s some good news: here in Los Angeles the wild bee population is thriving, with as many as a dozen hives per square mile in some neighborhoods. And where there are bees there are beekeepers. L.A. has a surprisingly big community of urban beekeepers who have backyard hives. These urban beekeepers are motivated both by their love of straight, fresh-from-the-hive honey and a desire to do something to help save the global bee population.

However, when it comes to municipal rules and regulations, urban beekeeping in the City of L.A. isn’t explicitly legal. Urban beekeeping advocates, led by a group called HoneyLove, are trying to change that.  They’d like to see the city adopt rules and regulations that both promote urban beekeeping and safeguard wild bee hives reported by the public.”

KCRW_2014_1

View full article:
http://blogs.kcrw.com/whichwayla/2014/01/making-la-a-bee-friendly-city

 

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews

HoneyLove Newsletter JANUARY

CLICK BELOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MONTHLY NEWSLETTER!
http://goo.gl/QZxZ3W

January Newsletter 2014

View full newsletter here: http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=bd28d4b1ae114be68c43384ee&id=ac76a82563

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove HQ, HoneyLove Workshops, School Outreach

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

HONEYLOVE OUTREACH Volunteer Training!

HoneyLove Outreach

Interested in helping HoneyLove to spread the buzz for bees?

We would LOVE for you to attend our monthly outreach volunteer training session and get all set up with the supplies and tools you need to do event/school outreach!

No experience necessary, just a passion for bees. We’ll teach you what you need to know.

RSVP: Meetup | Facebook

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, HoneyLovin, School Outreach

City Council Looks into Urban Beekeeping Ordinance

The Planning and Land Use Management Committee directed city staff to study the idea and report back in two months.
[Posted by Alexander Nguyen on Patch.com]

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A City Council committee Tuesday took the first steps toward allowing residents to keep beehives in their yards for the production of honey and wax and to pollinate their gardens.

The Planning and Land Use Management Committee directed city staff to report back in two months on the best ways to allow “beekeeping” activity in single-family residential areas.

Council members who last year proposed overturning the city’s prohibition on beekeeping in those areas said promoting the practice will “foster a healthier bee population.”

The bee population has been reported to be “in steep decline,” prompting concerns that the local economy and the state’s agricultural industry would be negatively affected, according to a related motion introduced Tuesday by Councilman Jose Huizar.

His motion calls for city staff to come up with “humane and non-lethal” ways to relocate or remove unwanted bee hives to serve as alternatives to existing methods used by government agencies, “given the usefulness of bees to California’s agricultural industry and the growing popularity of urban beekeeping.” — City News Service

[view original post via Patch.com]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

Advanced Beek Meeting Recap – November 2013

Dr. Roberta Kato, a longtime Bee Rescuer in Los Angeles, Master Gardener, Chicken-keeper and all-around great human being, spoke at the Advanced Beekeeper meeting on November 24 at HoneyLove HQ. Her topic was “Making the World Better, One Beekeeper at a Time,” and Roberta walks the walk. She recommends volunteering, paying it forward, building good karma (no matter what your beliefs are), inspiring others and developing altruism. Her suggested methods for achieving this are doing rescues, mentoring, talking to schools and classes, garden clubs and the public (email volunteer@honeylove.org to get involved with outreach!). Her last suggested method is to be a little unapologetically eccentric.

Roberta Pic

Roberta told the group how she got started doing bee rescues, how it quickly grew out of hand and what she learned by “diving in.” It wasn’t long before she found herself picking up swarms and doing cutouts at 5a.m. before work and in the evenings after a long day. Working at night was how Roberta first learned that bees crawl when it’s dark. Climbing 25-foot ladders never helped her get over her fear of heights but it saved dozens of swarms. So why does she still do it, with gardening and chickens and dogs and rabbits and pediatric pulmonary research to keep her busy? Because she doesn’t want other new beekeepers to make the same mistakes she did, to help reduce the number of times chemicals are used to exterminate a colony, to deepen her appreciation of nature and to make feral bees and beekeeping not such a big deal. There was a time when having a hive in one’s yard was not uncommon.

And while it’s satisfying to introduce hundreds of new people to bees and beekeeping, a mentor also has to understand when to say “No.” Roberta had to turn away more than one overly enthusiastic rogue beekeeper in tulle and crew socks.

Many thanks to Roberta Kato for taking the time to come speak with us, for the hundreds of rescues she’s performed and for making the world a much better place.
photo by rebeccacabage.com

HOW TO BE A BETTER BEEKEEPER.
These events are taking place at the same time as the erstwhile Backwards Beekeeper meetings, at 11a.m. on the last Sunday of the month. 
The forum is to have our experienced treatment-free beekeeper community teach each other what we’ve learned so far.  New beekeeper meetings are held on the 2nd Saturday of each month and feature Chief Mentor KirkoBeeo. Everyone is welcome at any meeting and those with bee fever should attend both.
Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops, HoneyLovin