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READ: Sweet! Los Angeles is closer to legalizing beekeeping

Rob McFarland holds a beehive of honeybees. (Los Angeles Times)

By KERRY CAVANAUGH via LA Times

Los Angeles is getting closer to legalizing backyard beekeeping and the proposed ordinance couldn’t come at a better time.

Professional beekeepers reported this week that 42% of their honeybees died in the last year, and, for the first time, they lost more bees during the summer than the winter. That’s surprising and worrisome because bees typically suffer in the cold weather, but fare better during the warm pollination season. And it underscores fears that parasites, pesticides and farming practices might be weakening the bee population, which is essential for pollinating the nation’s food crops.

Backyard beekeeping can’t replace commercial beekeeping operations, but the urban honeybees may help replenish the diminishing supply, or provide disease-resistant genes that can be introduced in the commercial bee lines. The more healthy bees in the environment, the better for everyone.

Current city law prohibits beekeeping, except on land zoned for agricultural uses. The proposed ordinance, approved Thursday by the city Planning Commission, would allow beekeeping by right in single-family neighborhoods. The resident would need to register as a beekeeper with the Los Angeles County agriculture commissioner, have no more than one hive per 2,500 square feet of lot, keep the hives at least five feet from the neighbors’ yards and 20 feet from the street or sidewalk and keep a source of water for the bees so they don’t seek water from the neighbors’ swimming pool or bird bath. There’s no pre-approval needed, but the city will respond to complaints and if residents break the rules or can’t manage their bees, the city can revoke the right to keep hives.

The City Council still needs to OK the new backyard beekeeping policy before it can take effect, but city leaders have been supportive of urban agriculture. And why not? L.A. has the ideal climate and long growing seasons. The city has hillsides, vacant lots and yards that can support small farms and hobby farmers. A vegetable garden or orchard is a more productive use of our precious water supply than a green lawn. And more fruits and vegetables grown locally mean less produce has to be trucked and shipped over great distance, meaning fresher food and less fossil fuels burned in transport.

[Read original article on LA Times]

 

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, News

READ: A Sharp Spike in Honeybee Deaths Deepens a Worrisome Trend

NY TIMES

A prolonged and mysterious die-off of the nation’s honeybees, a trend worrisome both to beekeepers and to farmers who depend on the insects to pollinate their crops, apparently worsened last year.

In an annual survey released on Wednesday by the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories, about 5,000 beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies in the 12-month period that ended in April. That is well above the 34.2 percent loss reported for the same period in 2013 and 2014, and it is the second-highest loss recorded since year-round surveys began in 2010.

Most striking, however, was that honeybee deaths spiked last summer, exceeding winter deaths for the first time. Commercial beekeepers, some of whom rent their hives to farmers during pollination seasons, were hit especially hard, the survey’s authors stated.

“We expect the colonies to die during the winter, because that’s a stressful season,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant entomology professor at the University of Maryland who directs the survey for the bee partnership. “What’s totally shocking to me is that the losses in summer, which should be paradise for bees, exceeded the winter losses.”

Bees are not in danger of extinction, but their health is of major concern to agriculture, where honeybees’ pollination services are estimated to be worth $10 billion to $15 billion a year.

Nobody knows with certainty why honeybee deaths are rising. Beekeepers once expected to lose perhaps 10 percent of their bees in an average year. But deaths began to spike in the middle of the past decade, when a phenomenon in which bees deserted their hives and died en masse, later named colony collapse disorder, began sweeping hives worldwide.

Those mass die-offs have abated somewhat in recent years, experts say, but colonies remain in poor health, and overall death rates remain much higher than in the past.

Dr. vanEngelsdorp said increasingly poor nutrition could be a factor in the rising summer death rate. Rising crop prices have led farmers to plow and plant millions of acres of land that was once home to wildflowers; since 2007, an Agriculture Department program that pays farmers to put sensitive and erosion-prone lands in a conservation reserve has lost an area roughly equal to half of Indiana, and budget cuts promise to shrink the program further. Dr. vanEngelsdrop and other scientists cite two other factors at work in the rising death rate: a deadly parasite, the varroa mite,and pesticides.

In recent years, some experts have focused on neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides used almost universally on some major crops in the United States. The European Commission has banned the use of three variants of the pesticide on flowering plants, citing risks to bees, and questioned whether they should be used at all.

The Environmental Protection Agency said last month that it was unlikely to approve any new uses of the pesticides until more tests on the risks to bees and other pollinators have been completed.

Neonicotinoid manufacturers say that the pesticides are much safer than others they have supplanted, and that in any case, they are safe when used according to instructions.

In a news release, an entomologist at one of the major neonicotinoid manufacturers, Bayer CropScience LP, called the survey results good news because wintertime bee deaths appeared to have stabilized at a lower rate than in the past. The entomologist, Richard Rogers of the company’s Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said that scientists had yet to establish a normal range for summer bee deaths.

The annual survey released on Wednesday did not directly address the causes of honeybee deaths. But it said varroa mites were a much bigger problem among so-called backyard beekeepers, who keep fewer than 50 hives, than among commercial beekeepers, who are probably on higher alert for deadly infestations.

The survey’s authors called the spike in summer honeybee deaths troubling, noting that in the past, more bees have died during the winter months than in good weather.

The Bee Informed Partnership has collected data on summer bee deaths since 2006, and it expanded its survey to cover winter deaths in 2010. The surveys are financed largely by the Agriculture Department.

[read original article via nytimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Brood diseases and lagging bees

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Spring is the time of year when bees go into high gear to get ready to do their instinctive reproductive act of procreation—swarming. A colony grows to fill its space, replacement queens are drawn and nurtured, and the final event is a leaving from the mother hive of about 50% of the workers and the old queen. These bees will attempt to found a new colony somewhere else and begin the cycle again. During this build up in Spring we urban beekeepers must watch carefully for the signs of swarm preparation and guide it so that a swarm is not the outcome—in the city such swarms are not appreciated by the general public living in close proximity to us.

I have now been keeping bees almost four years and am getting a better feel for the rhythm of the growth cycle in a colony. We have mild winters in Los Angeles, so the Spring brooding up period often begins in January. This means we will begin seeing drones and drone brood, new brood comb being drawn, and a general increase in the number of bees and activity of the queen.

However, early this year, two of my hives at the house were not showing these changes and I really began to notice by February. It seemed they were just staying in a holding pattern—no new comb was being drawn and, at first, this was the most noticeable issue. By the beginning of March, I was seeing sac brood, perforated cappings (small holes in the brood caps), lots of uncapped pupae in the purple eye stage, dried up “mummies” of brood in cells, and some cells of open brood with watery goop that may have been European Foul Brood.  There were also some adult bees with DWV, or deformed wing virus. The wings of the bee are twisted little stumps or thread-like and useless. The colonies had plenty of stored honey and many frames of bee bread. Together, these conditions and the different maladies of the larvae and pupae are sometimes lumped under the name “Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome”  which describes diseases vectored by the activities of the varroa mite.

Here is a website entry detailing what I was seeing—

Information compiled by Beekeeper Lonnie E. Campbell of The Loudoun Beekeepers Association.

Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome was first named by The Beltsville Bee Lab to explain why colonies infested with both varroa mites and tracheal mites were not thriving. BPMS was first reported by European beekeepers whose colonies were already stressed by varroa mites. Colonies that are apparently very healthy and productive suddenly experience a sudden decrease in adult population often resulting in the total loss of the colony. Plenty of food stores are often present, but very spotty and unhealthy brood are observed.

I began searching my readings and books to find out what I might do to help these two formerly thriving hives (one hive is 5 mediums, the other 2 deeps and 3 mediums). I wanted to support them before their population dropped too much that they would be weakened beyond recovery. I saw on inspection March 22 that very little open brood was present and no eggs. One queen was seen (in the biggest colony) but in the other I didn’t find the queen.

Michael Bush’s book offered the best information for this situation that I could find. A brood break, or a cessation of egg laying by the queen, is one of the best responses for breaking the cycle of the pests and diseases that may afflict a hive. By denying the pathogens a food source the disease cycle is automatically broken. One way of doing this is to find and kill the queen and then introduce a new queen. Another way is to dispatch the queen and let them raise another one. By the time the new queen is laying, the brood break will have cleansed the disease cycle.

But the method I thought I would settle on was the use of a push in cage. This is a small confinement cage made out of eighth inch hardware cloth that holds the queen on the face of a frame for a period of time to prevent her laying eggs in the normal pattern. It is just a shallow 3 sided box of wire, 5 X 10 inches, pushed into the face of the wax comb. You try to place it in a zone with some honey cells, some emerging brood, and some open cells—all of these to serve the needs of the confined queen.

On March 28, after preparing two cages and getting my mind clear about what I was going to do, I opened up the first hive to start my search for the queen. I had at hand a  good tool for safely catching a queen— a “hair clip” catcher.

However, I soon saw that something better than my plan had already occurred. The frames that had lacked any eggs or open brood were now completely filled with eggs! The queens had stopped laying eggs by their own accord and interrupted the brood cycle of the diseases and varroa that had been afflicting them. I was very excited that the queens and their workers seemed to have a inborn strategy to get over their problems. My notes to Michael Bush to report this were confirmed in his answer here:

         Yes, the bees often do a brood break to resolve the issues.  Sometimes it’s done by dispatching the old queen and sometimes she just shuts down. EFB usually clears up on it’s own when whatever stress was the cause is relieved.  Usually by a flow in a dearth.

And this one:

It doesn’t always work out well, but then interfering doesn’t always work out well either.

“Our attentions may be useful to them but are oftener noxious to them; thus far goes our interference.” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

“…without the foresight, or rather the astonishing presence of mind of the bees, who always do at the proper time what needs to be done…” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

So, there we have it. Another beek lesson learned!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Urban beekeeping becomes therapy for at-risk communities

By North By Northwest, CBC News

Julia and Sarah Common started their urban beekeeping non-profit organization in 2012

Bees play an important role in the ecosystem, as they pollinate plants and produce honey, but it turns out they can also play a therapeutic role for humans.

Since 2012, Julia Common and her daughter Sarah have been engaging at-risk communities in urban beekeeping through their non-profit organization, Hives for Humanity.

Mother and daughter started by placing a colony of bees at a community garden on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The community really quickly took ownership of that hive and responsibility for the protection and care of this living, breathing colony of working insects that are just this inspiration to everyone who sees them,” Sarah told North By Northwest‘s Sheryl MacKay.

The Commons say beekeeping is therapeutic because it brings people together and the responsibility gives them a sense of self worth and community pride.

“At the beginning, we thought it was the beekeeping, but then from beekeeping, other things come,” said Julia.

“The bees have wax, someone needs to [process] the wax. Other people come forward who want to help with equipment maintenance.”

Hives for Humanity now has almost a hundred hives placed in community gardens, the rooftops of single room occupancy hotels and people’s backyards.

“No matter where you are, people take great pride in taking care of the bees, keeping them safe,” said Julia.

“Everyone from kindergarten right up to somebody who is 92 realizes bees are threatened and they just feel wonderful that they’re playing their [part].”

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver beekeeping program engages at-risk communities

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Bees prefer the buzz of a town

Bees prefer the buzz of a town: Urban sites found to have more species than rural areas

By Fiona Macrae via dailymail.co.uk

  • Agriculture and mass crops blamed for decline of bee numbers 
  • Towns and cities have wider variety of plants and flowers in autumn
  • Pesticides, climate change and disease causing bee numbers to fall 

We think of them as thriving in wildflower meadows and rolling fields. But new research suggests Britain’s bees are happier near towns and cities.

A study of wildlife sites across four English counties has found that most are home to fewer species of bee today than they were in the past.

It found that the expansion of farmland has actually been more damaging to Britain’s bee population than the concreting over of the countryside for housing.

Reading University researcher Deepa Senapathi believes intensive agriculture is to blame.

While the gardens, parks and churchyards of towns and cities provide bees with a variety of plants to forage on and an extended flowering season, popular crops such as oilseed rape only bloom for a few weeks.

She said: ‘While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanisation may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture.

‘Urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland by providing a wide variety of flowering plants, providing a cosmopolitan menu for insects from spring through to autumn.

‘Over the past century rural landscapes in Britain have become increasingly dominated by large expanses of monoculture – the growing of a single type of plant, which has helped boost crop production.

‘But without a mixture of habitat and food sources, rural areas can sometimes be little better than green deserts for biodiversity.

Scientists around the country are trying to work out why populations of bees and other insects are plummeting.

Pesticides, climate change and disease may, like intensive farming, be playing a role.

[view full article here: dailymail.co.uk]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

READ: Organic Beekeeping Conference in Oracle Arizona

Oracle_2015_2

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

One of the most delightful and informative ways beeks can advance their understanding of bees and beekeeping is by attending conferences. The American Beekeeping Federation conference was held in Anaheim this year in January and I went to several presentations. This was a completely academic conference, combined with a large trade show—no live bees to work with. This group also reflects a strong conventional management and commercial pollinator representation. There are always things to be learned though, and I found the time well spent.

However, a number of smaller and more appropriate conferences for us treatment free folk also occur every year. The 8th Annual Organic Beekeeping conference at Oracle AZ, put on by Dee Lusby allows participants to visit the 9 bee yards kept by Dee in the remote Sonora desert near the Mexican border. These bees are never moved (no migratory pollination) are at least 4 deeps tall, are not re-queened or supported with any feeds, and are visited (on average) just 5 times a year. Dee’s honey is very dry and dark, reflecting the dry climate and mixed desert flora the bees have for forage. These flowers include many desert shrubs, cactus, wildflowers, and introduced weed species too numerous to mention. The Spring rains this year have been abundant and well spaced, so we saw lots of wildflower and cactus blooms. The desert smelled wonderful—fresh, sage-y scented with alternating bright blue skies and looming smokey thunderclouds.

Oracle_2015_1

Rob McFarland (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) and I drove to Oracle, which is in a very remote area. The conference is sited at the YMCA, with cabins and bunk beds for sleeping and 3 full cafeteria meals a day. Some of the best time is spent at meals in talking with other bee keepers from all over the US and even other parts of the world.

The conference lasts 3 days, with speakers on a range of subjects—apitherapy (using bee stings for health reasons), introduction of a new national on-line register for swarm calls to beekeepers, the beekeeping management calendar year from a extreme climate perspective, and new information on genetics and breeding of queens. Michael Bush and Sam Comfort, our great friends in treatment free beekeeping not only spoke individually, but on the last night gave us a melodious, heartfelt performance for almost a hour. Michael plays guitar and sings, Sam plays ukelele and banjo and a MEAN harmonica!! It was stupendous and had people’s roaring approval.

Our final day was devoted to driving on dirt roads to Dee’s remote beeyards—she has 700 hives. The day was a bit windy and cold, with threatening rain, but we went anyway, and the desert was glorious with color. The desert bees were very ferocious in defending their colonies, reflecting the weather and forage conditions they must deal with. We were fully suited and gloved to help restore some hives that were tipping wildly from the undermining of the bottom board by tunneling rodents. The hives had to be totally unstacked, the bottom board leveled and supported by fresh soil and the hives re-stacked—each at least 4 deeps.

I urge all that wish to really know beekeeping and infuse the relationship with new knowledge to attend these bee conferences.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops, Yay Bees

READ: Commercial bees, the unsung heroes of the nut business

[HoneyLover] Bill Lewis is waiting for the sun to set, the time of day when his bees crawl back inside the short white boxes that house their colonies. As the sky turns pink behind the San Gabriel mountains, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Lewis climbs into the seat of a forklift and starts moving the hives onto the back of a flatbed truck. These bees are on the move. “As soon as you get on the freeway and there’s air flowing past the entrances, all the bees run back inside,” says Lewis, of any stragglers. Lewis, who runs Bill’s Bees, is taking about 700 of his hives on a road trip to the California’s Central Valley, where he’ll unload them across acres of almond orchards, working until 1 or 2 a.m. under the light of full moon. All across the country, more than a million-and-a-half colonies are making a similar journey – traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to pollinate California’s almonds. Farmers rent hives for few weeks because in order for almond trees to produce nuts, bees need to move pollen from one tree to another. No bees, no almonds. “This pollination season there will be [some] 800,000 acres of almonds that need to be pollinated,” says Eric Mussen, a honey bee specialist at the University of California Davis. He says more than 100 different kinds of crops need these rent-a-bees, but almonds are significant for the number of acres that require pollination all at the same time. About 85 percent of the commercial bees in United States – which Mussen calls “bees on wheels” – travel to California for almonds. The state supplies roughly 80 percent of the world’s almonds, worth $6.4 billion during the 2013-2014 season, according to the Almond Board of California. “It’s a matter of numbers,” he says. “You’re trying to provide enough bees to be moving the pollen around between the varieties and whatnot. It’s just a huge, huge number of bees. The only way we can get a huge number of bees in one place at one time is to bring them in on trucks.” In fact, bees are such an important part of the almond business that Paramount Farms, one of the biggest almond growers in the world, has decided they need to be in the bee business, too. The company just bought one of the largest beekeepers in the United States, based in Florida. “Bees are so essential for the process of growing almonds,” says Joe Joe MacIlvane, Paramount’s president. “If we don’t have a reliable supply of good strong colonies, we simply won’t be a viable almond grower, so that’s our primary motivation for getting into the business.” Renting bees is about 10 to 15 percent of Paramount’s production costs, but the motivation to keep their own bees isn’t simply economic. “Many bee keepers are individual or family business and many people are getting on in years and we don’t see a lot of young people coming into the business,” says MacIlvane. Additionally, bee populations are struggling. A significant number having been dying each year for the past decade or so, thanks to a mix of factors, from pesticides to lost habitat for feeding. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what’s killing them. “We had a large problem last year with bees dying in the orchard because of something that was going on during bloom,” says Bill Lewis. He thinks a pesticide or fungicide may have been to blame. This year, Lewis and his bee broker are being pickier about the farms they’re working with, vetting them more carefully because those lost bees had big economic consequences – about $300,000 in lost income for Lewis.
Read full story · Posted in News

WATCH: Girl Next Door Honey

Girl Next Door Honey from kelsi dean on Vimeo.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

LOS ANGELES LEGALIZATION UPDATE!!

Public Hearing Notice: Backyard Beekeeping Draft Ordinance

All interested persons are invited to attend a public hearing for a proposed City of Los Angeles Zoning Code amendment to allow backyard beekeeping in single-family residential zones. At the hearing, you may listen, speak, or submit written information related to the proposed ordinance. This is the first in a series of public hearings regarding this proposed ordinance as it moves on to the City Planning Commission, Planning and Land Use Management committee of the City Council, and City Council.

PLACE: Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1010, 10th Floor – 200 N. Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
TIME: Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Please see the link below to the public hearing notice, Q&A and draft ordinance for more information.
http://goo.gl/gpZHWQ 

For more information, please contact staff:
Katie Peterson
KATHERINE.PETERSON@LACITY.ORG
213-978-1445

Read full story · Posted in News

Bee Informed Partnership Hive Scale Project

Susan BIP Scale
via HoneyLover Susan RudnickiHave you ever wondered how our local, LA Urban beekeeping differ from other areas of the country? I just read the other day that beekeepers in Wales expect about 25 pounds of honey per year on their hives—33 pounds is a bumper crop!   This does not seem like much. Our bees are active year ’round, making brood, honey and drones. This growth is very different from temperate climate bees and, as well, we are using Africanized hybrid ferals—a relatively rare population to survey. We now have a opportunity to participate in amassing data on our specific niche by the generosity of HoneyLove who purchased the SolutionBee Hive scale for me to monitor a hive in my backyard garden.

The project is managed by BIP (the Bee Informed Partnership)  and the hive data is automatically sent to their website as well as the SolutionBee team, the manufacturers of the hive scale (purchased from Brushy Mountain). The colony I selected came from a large swarm hived on April 27, 2014 which has proven to be super productive and nicely behaved. They now occupy 3 deep boxes and 2 mediums after seven months and have produced 60 pounds of honey.  I have also raided their brood nest for frames of brood for weak nuc hives. They are VERY strong bees and a pleasure to work.

The goal of the project is summarized below, as taken from the initial offering to participate sent out by BIP. I am having great fun with this, watching my bee’s growth graph going ever upward in weight gain. For the first time I am also having to learn how to use a cell phone—my son’s iphone—as the data recording and uploading device. Arghh!  —this is not my strong suit.

The Bee Informed Partnership is dedicated to helping beekeepers make informed data-based management decisions. Monitoring weight changes in colonies has huge potential to help us understand disease and parasite population growth, as well as the timing of management practices. We are seeking some innovative beekeepers who are willing to help us develop and beta test the hive scale tools’ ability to develop a system that will provide the best regionally specific management practices based on real time data. We are collaborating with NASA’s Honeybee Net, under the direction of Wayne Esaias, to test this exciting effort.

Why hive scales?

Hive scales weigh individual colonies at regular intervals, keeping track of strong nectar flows, swarming, and other conditions that affect management decisions.  Beekeepers may respond to rises in weight by putting supers on, inspecting colonies for swarm cells, and extracting full honey supers. Conversely, weight loss may indicate a need to feed colonies, robbing or indicate the colony has swarmed and is at increased risk of becoming queenless.

With new digital hive scales, beekeepers can track the weight of colonies without having to do a hive inspection. The scale we are using for our beta testing will utilizing Bluetooth with an Android device (e.g., Android phone or tablet), and a visit to the apiary is required to read the data. The data can be viewed on the device or be uploaded via cellular or WIFI communication. However, in the future these same scales when used with a data collector will allow for data to be automatically uploaded via cell phones or cell phone service data plans that allow for remote monitoring.

Armed with data from hive scales and other disease monitoring efforts, the Bee Informed Partnership hopes to make predictive models of honey flows and disease population growth. These models will help us develop an “alert system” that will make management recommendations based on real-time and regionally specific data.

As to my particular case,  I don’t expect the disease/pest monitoring aspect will be so relevant to my bee population. The varroa mite has not been a great destroyer of my bees in the past and they seem to manage the pest well on their own. When Spring comes, it will be interesting to observe the growth of the brood nest and respond with management techniques to overcome swarming tendencies.   One thing is sure—that time will be sooner than any other part of the country.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, Newsletter Articles