Thank you Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council for unanimously supporting URBAN BEEKEEPING in Los Angeles tonight!! That brings our total up to 15 NCs in support!
*If you live/work in Los Angeles districts 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 15 – email us!
Thank you Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council for unanimously supporting URBAN BEEKEEPING in Los Angeles tonight!! That brings our total up to 15 NCs in support!
*If you live/work in Los Angeles districts 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 15 – email us!
People always ask us “what’s the first step I need to take to become a beekeeper?” and our response is always the same: “you need to find and join a community.”
Here you go. We are thrilled to announce the launch of the HoneyLove Forum! This feature—free and open to the public—represents a major step forward in educational and community-building efforts. Forums are an incredible way for communities to collaborate, share information and discuss our shared passion.
Just as the individual bee needs a community of bees to survive, the beekeeper needs a community of beekeepers for continued education and support. Whether you are just getting started as a new-bee and need mentorship, or you’re a multi-generation beek still learning new things and refining old techniques, you can benefit from the group’s collective intelligence through discussions, shared observations/experiments, and by simply being around others who share your passion. There are beekeeping associations, clubs, and non-profits like HoneyLove in almost every city in the United States and throughout the world. We always encourage people to join as many of these as they can, as well as availing themselves of all the information the web has to offer. Now, with the HoneyLove Forums, we can offer a place for people to go—regardless of where they live—to dive into the world of beekeeping to learn and connect with likeminded people from all over.
The threads in the forum are organized into seven basic topics to get started. We encourage you to get in there and start a discussion, answer someone’s questions and bond with fellow HoneyLovers! We want your feedback, so please let us know your thoughts on how we can continue to improve the HoneyLove Forum.
“You’ve probably heard about the sudden and mysterious drop in honey bee populations throughout the U.S.A. and Europe. Beekeepers used to report average losses in their worker bees of about 5-10% a year, but starting around 2006, that rate jumped to about 30%. Today, many large beekeeping operations are reporting that up to 40 or 50 percent of their swarms have mysteriously disappeared. This massive die-off of honey bee populations has been dubbed colony collapse disorder, and it is a big, big deal.” [via scishow]
Here you can find a list of neonicotinoids and their trade names (brand name). Please note that not all the brand names are listed and the availability of any chemical and its brands may change through time.
Over the past decade populations of honey bees and other pollinators have been in decline worldwide. This phenomenon, often referred to in media as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is characterized by a rapid loss of a colony’s adult worker bee population, and has been associated with Varroa mites, viruses, environmental stress, and pesticides. Reports of the ‘mysterious disappearance of bees’ abound in scholarly studies and the media, along with disclaimers that no causal effect has been proven.
An article entitled “Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees“, which appeared in an online European Parliament publication (EAA, 2012), describes a causal effect – bee poisoning by neonicotinoid pesticides. Mounting undeniable scientific evidence has surfaced from around the globe linking neonicotinoid pesticides to mass bee deaths.
In order to protect honey bees, various member states of the European Union have taken regulatory action on the use of specific neonicotinoids. The European Parliament report describes that “neonicotinoids block an intrinsic chemical pathway which transmits nerve impulses to the insect central nervous system” causing irreversible and cumulative damage to the central nervous system and death. Bees exposed to neonicotinoids exhibit convulsions, tremors, and uncoordinated movements typical of exposure to neurotoxins.
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are absorbed into plant tissues. The poisons are highly soluble in water and are applied to a variety of agricultural crops with sprays, seed coatings, soil drenchers and granules, injections into tree trunks, or as an additive to irrigation water. Neonicotinoids migrate through soil and the entire plant all the way to the flowers. This causes toxic, lethal, and chronic exposure to non-target species including earthworms, birds, fish, and pollinators (Mason, et al., 2012). Additional exposure routes also exist depending on the method of application. Neonicotinoids are able to remain in the plant tissues for months to several years.
Even low dose exposure to neonicotinoids can result in serious sub-lethal effects on insects. Residues in nectar and pollen often lead to long-term exposure for pollinators. There is no safe level of exposure, as even tiny amounts of insecticides can have long term negative effects. The European Parliament publication (EAA, 2012) reported sub-lethal effects include a wide range of behavioural disturbances in honey bees including:
A recent scientific publication from Kanazawa University in Japan (Yamada, et. al., 2012) explains that “the high-concentration pesticide (neonicotinoids) seems to work as an acute toxicity and the low- and middle-concentration ones do as a chronic toxicity … In supposing that a pesticide is sprayed and diluted in water of a rice paddy or an orchard and its concentration becomes low, the low-concentration pesticide carried by foraging bees continues to affect a colony for a long time and finally leads to a collapse of a colony or the failure in wintering.”
Representing the main Big Ag neonicotinoid pesticide producers, CropLife Canada, maintains that its lucrative neonicotinoid business should not be held responsible and accountable for any honey bee colony declines and instead insists that Varroa mites are primarily to blame (Hepworth, 2013).
A Health Canada (2013) report titled “Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that Coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012” describes:
“an unusually high number of reports of honey bee mortalities were received from beekeepers in corn growing regions of Ontario and Quebec. The majority of reports were from southern Ontario, involving over 40 beekeepers and 240 different bee yard locations. Additionally, one report was received from Quebec involving eight bee yards. Timing and location of these honey bee mortalities appeared to coincide with planting corn seed treated with insecticides.”
Beekeepers monitored their affected hives throughout the season and reported on the ongoing effects. These included lack of recovery, dwindling colonies, and lack of honey production. Prior to their exposure the bees were healthy.
“Residue analysis was conducted to determine whether bees were exposed to the insecticides used on treated corn seeds. … Clothianidin was detected in approximately 70% of the samples analyzed in Ontario and clothianidin and thiamethoxam were detected in the samples analyzed from Quebec. On a bee yard basis, these residues were detected in approximately 80% of the bee yards where dead bee samples were collected and analysed.”
Our research apiary is located in a semi-agricultural area with large stretches of forests and scattered residential homes. To the East is grazing land and an estimated 100 acres of cultivated land. In 2010 and 2011 this field was planted with corn and in 2012 it was planted with soy. In early May of 2010 we observed several hundred dying and dead bees on the ground in front of some of the colonies. They displayed the typical signs of insecticide poisoning; many were dead while others were on their backs with their legs twitching and proboscis extended. By late July, six colonies displayed dying brood and dwindling population, both signs of colony collapse disorder.
Since 1992 we have kept four hives on scales so that their weight changes could be measured daily in the summer and weekly in the winter. Also since 1992 we have been closely monitoring Varroa mite populations (Szabo 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, Szabo & Szabo, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003). During the first 18 years (1992-2010), from a total of 72 different colonies in the four scale hives, only one colony had died. Then, during the winter of 2010-2011 all four scale colonies died. From the other 51 colonies in the same bee yard 31 (61%) died. In the winter of 2011-2012, 10 (33%) of the 30 colonies and two of the four scale colonies died. In early May of 2012 we found hundreds of dead bees in front of four hives. In order to replace the losses 11 new colonies were made up. By October 2012, only 19 of 31 colonies had survived and were prepared for wintering. The collapse of colonies continues to the present.
In early May 2012, old partly decomposed dead bee samples were collected from the front entrances of four colonies and blooming dandelion flowers were collected from the bee yard and ditch near a treated soybean field that had been planted with treated corn in 2010 and 2011. Neonicotinoids in these samples were not detected at the reporting limit of 0.005 ppm for Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam and 0.001 ppm for Clothianidin. Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) personnel did not collect fresh samples from dying colonies or soil and water samples from the field where the crops had been planted.
In early May 2013 another apiary showed extreme colony loss immediately after a neighbouring field had been planted with treated soybean. Exposed treated seed was visible (Figure 1) on the soil surface. Near the edges of the field we found treated seed coats (Figure 2). The bees in the apiary displayed symptoms consistent with neonicotinoid exposure. Out of 50 colonies, 49 immediately showed signs of acute poisoning and a drastic drop in adult bee populations. Samples of the bees were again taken by PMRA personnel. We are still waiting for the test results from these samples.
In 2010 it was first noticed that previously solid brood patterns became irregular and some of the larvae were twisted and dead. In the following months more and more larvae became affected (Figure 3) and the adult bee population shrank to a few hundred per colony. Despite this condition the queen continued to lay eggs (Figure 4) until the entire bee population gradually disappeared. Because neonicotinoid pesticides remain in contaminated pollen and nectar which are fed to the brood, many young larvae cannot develop and mature. As older bees succumb to the chronic poisoning and die there are no replacements. The larvae that do mature emerge into young adult bees that can be found dying and twitching at the hive entrance. Young bees found in this state at the front of hives are a sign that the colony has been compromised by neonicotinoids.
Video 1. Adult bee dying and twitching at hive entrance after soy planting.
Water is essential for honey bee colonies. Bees fly out from hives even in cold weather to collect water from leaves, soil and wherever they can find it. According to Hunt and Krupke (2012) “each corn seed theoretically has enough pesticide to kill well over 100,000 bees.” Rain water leaches pesticides into the soil where it can remain active for up to three years and honey bees collect water from wet soil, puddles and ditches. Bees consume the water and if the exposure does not cause acute death, the bees bring the water home to poison their colonies resulting in chronic poisoning. Annual applications of neonicotinoids compound the problem. Figure 5 shows water standing in a treated corn field that bees use for water foraging.
In early spring bees are desperate to collect pollen. They try to collect dust from bird feeders, sawdust, and white powder from poplar tree trunks. A few exposed corn seeds coated in toxic neonicotinoid dust are sufficient to poison entire apiaries as honey bees foraging for pollen carry it back to the colony.
Since neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic and appear in all parts of a plant including roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit, honey bees become exposed while gathering nectar, pollen, and water.
A 25m × 10m area of grape hyacinth was planted to provide a source of pollen and nectar in early spring and in another area native star thistle was allowed to grow and bloom. Star thistle flowers all summer and grape hyacinth flowers for a month at end of April and in early May. On a sunny day in 2009, 30 foraging bumblebee queens were counted in 10 minutes on the grape hyacinth and in 2012 and 2013 none appeared. The last time the large solitary Megachile was observed visiting the star thistle was in 2008 (Figure 6). The sudden death of foraging bees, the subsequent slow decline and disappearance of colony populations and increase in winter losses coincided with the planting of treated corn 150 m from the bee yard.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010) recommends the following label warnings for Clothianidin treated seeds:
“This chemical has properties and characteristics associated with chemicals detected in ground water. The use of this chemical in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in ground water contamination.
This compound is toxic to birds and mammals. Treated clothianidin seeds exposed on soil surface may be hazardous to birds and mammals. Cover or collect clothianidin seeds spilled during loading.
This compound is toxic to honey bees. The persistence of residues and potential residual toxicity of Clothianidin in nectar and pollen suggests the possibility of chronic toxic risk to honey bee larvae and the eventual instability of the hive.”
Imidacloprid producer EastChem states that the pesticide “should be banned from using near beekeeping, sericulture areas and water sources.”
Neonicotinoid pesticides should not be used as a pest control measure. Integrated Pest Management practices must be promoted. It should be mandatory for seed companies to make untreated seeds available to farmers.
Neonicotinoids kill beneficial organisms from pollinators to earthworms to predatory insects. Neonicotinoids should be avoided entirely. Spring is a peak water foraging time for honey bees that coincides with seeding time. Spring runoff mixing with neonicotinoid tainted seeds has catastrophic effects on bee populations. The European Commission’s decision to ban Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam and Clothianidin should be followed as a first step to protecting our pollinators and ecosystems from this class of chemicals.
Beekeepers cannot continue to absorb the heavy financial loses of their honey bee colonies because of neonicotinoid poisonings and many will be forced out of business. This will affect not only the products of bees such as honey, pollen, propolis and wax, but also fruit, nut, vegetables, oilseeds, etc that make up the pollinator’s $2 billion annual contribution to Canada’s economy (Canadian Honey Council).
Canadian Honey Council. Overview of the Canadian Apiculture Industry. Web:
EastChem. Insecticide Imidacloprid product page. Web:
Environment Agency Austria (EAA) et. al., (2012): Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees. European Parliament Policy Department: Economic and Scientific Policy. Web:
Health Canada (2013) Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that Coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012. Web:
Hepworth, L. (2013): Croplife Canada via The Record: Letter: Challenges to bee health are complex. July 8, 2013. Web:
Hunt G. J.; Krupke C. H. (2012): Neonicotinoid seed treatment and honey bee health. American Bee Journal 152|(9): 889-891.
Mason, R.; Tennekes, H.; Sánchez-Bayo, F.; Jepsen, P.U. (2012): Immunesuppression by neonicotinoid insecticides at the root of global wildlife declines. Journal of Environmental Immuniology and Toxicity, October 2012.
Yamada, T.; Yamada, K.; Wada, N. (2012): Influence of dinotefuran and cothianidin on a bee colony. Jpn. J. Clin. Ecol. Vol. 21 No. 1 2012: 10-23.
Szabo, T.I. (1993): Selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to Varroa jacobsoni. American Bee Journal 133: 868.
Szabo, T.I. (1994): Rate of infestation of Varroa lacobsoni in honey bee colonies in southern Ontario. American Bee Journal 134: 837-878.
Szabo, T.I. (1995): Selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to Varroa jacobsoni in Ontario. American Bee Journal 135: 831.
Szabo, T. I. (1998): Progress report on selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to parasitic mites. American Bee Journal 138(6): 464-466.
Szabo, T.I. (1999): Selective breeding of honey bee colonies for resistance toVarroa jacobsoni and the effects of management techniques on Varroa infestation levels. American Bee Journal 139(7): 537-540.
Szabo, T. I. and Szabo, D.C. (2000): Attempts to reduce the Varroa jacobsonipopulation in honey bee colonies: Research report for 1999. American Bee Journal 140(8): 654-658.
Szabo, T.I. and Szabo, D.C. (2001): Varroa jacobsoni infestation levels of honey bee colonies in the fourth year of a breeding program: Report for 2000.American Bee Journal 141(6): 437-440.
Szabo, T.I. and Szabo, D.C. (2002): Varroa infestation levels of honey bee colonies in the fifth year of a breeding program: Report for 2001. American Bee Journal 142(6): 423-427.
Szabo, T.I.; Szabo, D.C. (2003): Varroa infestation levels and honey bee colony characteristics in the final year of a breeding program. American Bee Journal 143(10): 798-802.
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010) Environmental Fate and Ecological Risk Assessment for the Registration of CLOTHIANIDIN for Use as a Treatment on Mustard Seed (Oilseed and Condiment) and Cotton. Page 5. Web:
[view original post via honeybees.ca]
Bees and other insects can breathe a little easier in Oregon — for now. The state has responded to the recent bumbleocalypse in a Target parking lot by temporarily banning use of the type of pesticide responsible for the high-profile pollinator die-off.
Oregon’s ban comes after more than 50,000 bumblebees and other pollinators were killed when Safari was sprayed over blooming linden trees to control aphids in a Wilsonville, Ore., parking lot. A similar incident in Hillsboro, Ore., was also cited by the state’s agriculture department as a reason for the ban.
Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said in a statement [PDF] that she has directed her agency to impose the ban to help prevent further such “bee deaths connected to pesticide products with this active ingredient until such time as our investigation is completed. Conclusions from the investigation will help us and our partners evaluate whether additional steps need to be considered.”
Somewhat confusingly, retailers will still be allowed to sell the products. It will just be illegal for landscapers and gardeners to actually use them. From The Oregonian:
“We’re not trying to get it off the shelves, or trying to tell people to dispose of it, we’re just telling people not to use it,” said Bruce Pokarney, a spokesperson for the department of agriculture.
While Pokarney acknowledged it would be difficult to cite individual homeowners, he said licensed pesticide applicators would be violating Oregon regulations if they use dinotefuran-based insecticides on plants in the next 180 days.
The temporary ban only affects pesticide use that might harm pollinators, like bumblebees. Safari is one of the insecticides restricted by the Agriculture Department. Most of the restricted insecticides are used primarily for ornamental, not agricultural, pest control.
Dinotefuran use in flea collars, and ant and roach control will still be allowed.
The Xerces Society, a nonprofit insect conservation group that’s helping to investigate the pollinator die-offs, thinks the temporary ban is a good idea. But Executive Director Scott Black said it would be an even better idea if sales of the pesticides were suspended, lest consumers unwittingly use them in violation of the law. “At a minimum, all products on the shelf should have clear signage about the restriction on their use,” he told Grist.
Guess who thinks the ban is not such a good idea?
“We do not believe the scope of these measures is necessary with the information available,” Safari manufacturer Valent said in a statement, “and we will work to get the restrictions lifted as soon as possible.”
[read original article on grist.org]
The researchers aren’t suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is itself toxic to bees, instead, they say their findings indicate that by eating the replacement food instead of honey, the bees are not being exposed to other chemicals that help the bees fight off toxins, such as those found in pesticides.
Cutting the crappy sweeteners from honeybees’ diets and allowing them to eat a bit more of their own honey won’t necessarily save them in a world doused in pesticides. But it might give bees back some of their natural defenses against the poisons they encounter every day.
It’s time to share more honey with the honeybees that make it.
[read original article on grist.org]
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.
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 laweekly.com]
Written by Jennifer Anderson via portlandtribune.com
You’ve heard of eco-roofs and rooftop gardens, but the latest twist to hit Portland comes with a sweeter payout: rooftop honeybee hives.
New Seasons Market recently installed a honeybee hive atop its store in Happy Valley, a picturesque suburb 15 minutes east of Clackamas that’s a mix of newer homes and farmland.
“They’ll go to all these neighborhoods, start pollinating everyone’s gardens and yards, the fruit trees and farms,” says Portland beekeeper Damian Magista, surveying the skyline from the grocery store’s roof. “It’s a great environment here. There’s plenty of food.”
In other words: Happy bees make lots of honey.
By late August, Magista expects the bees to produce enough honey to start selling it at the Happy Valley store.
But that’s not the primary motivation for New Seasons’ “Bee Part of the Solution” campaign.
The company aims to educate people about the honeybee’s critical link in the ecosystem, and the fact that they are dying out worldwide, due to what’s known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
The number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A May 2 report by the U.S.D.A. and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points to a variety of stressors, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
Scientists at the Oregon State University Honey Bee Lab have been focusing on two factors in particular.
They’re studying the impact of a honeybee pest called the invasive varroa mite, as well as poisoning by pesticides applied to crops or to hives to control insects, mites and other pests.
New Seasons sees it as part of its mission to educate people about the phenomenon, because of the direct link to the food chain.
“There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long-term agricultural productivity,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, upon the release of the latest federal report.
New Seasons could install a second rooftop hive at its Sellwood store in Southeast Portland in June after a process required by Multnomah County to notify neighbors.
The initial hope was to install honeybee hives on all 12 of the local grocery chain’s rooftops (a 13th location opens late August in Northeast Portland’s Eliot neighborhood). But Washington County won’t allow it, so the Progress Ridge store in Beaverton may miss out.
The rooftop hive idea was sparked by an incident last summer, when a swarm of bees made its home above the New Seasons sign at its Raleigh Hills store in Southwest Portland. Local TV cameras came and documented the removal of the swarm, which was safely relocated.
A few other grocery store chains have begun rooftop hive projects, including Bi-Rite in San Francisco, which New Seasons used as a model, says Mark Feuerborn, the Happy Valley store manager.
Feuerborn, a home beekeeper who’ll manage his store’s hives, is excited for what’s to come. A “bee cam” will let people peek in on the hives and the honey harvesting. Shoppers can draw a direct link to the products in the store through new displays of honey-based products — everything from lip balm and candles to jars of pure, unprocessed honey made in Portland.
“Two miles away is Saelee Farms,” Feuerborn says. “We can see our bees pollinating their products, ending up on our shelves. This is a way for people to remember that.”
Lots of local buzz
Interest in urban beekeeping has soared in recent years.
“Portlandia” could even write an episode called “Put a bee on it.”
There’s a Portland Metro Beekeepers’ Association, whose members keep bees for hobby and business.
The Portland-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit invertebrate conservation group, launched a “Bring back the pollinators” campaign. That’s attracted more than 1,000 people who signed a pledge to do four things: grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through fall; protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants; avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides; and talk to neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.
There’s also a Portland Urban Beekeepers group, which aims to promote the public’s awareness of “apiculture” and the overall health and diversity of bees in the Pacific Northwest. Club president Tim Wessels says his group started with a dozen or so people meeting informally in 2010. Last spring they’d grown so large that they created officer positions and began meeting monthly. Today there are 115 members who pay the $15 annual dues, plus another 240 members on Facebook.
As president, he’s asked people why they’re drawn to bees, and he more or less gets the same answer: “Well, the bees are hurting, aren’t they? We just want to help out and see if we can bring the population back.”
Others just like honey, and he’s cool with that, too.
Wessels and fellow beekeeper/business partner Glen Andresen are working with a grad student at OSU’s Honey Bee Lab and retired entomologist Dewey Caron on an effort to breed a local queen bee. Most of the purchased queens here come from Southern California or Kona, Hawaii, Wessels says. Unsurprisingly, they’re not able to survive Oregon’s winters.
Wessels believes it’s possible to breed a Portland honeybee with “hygienic behavior,” which is their behavioral mechanism of disease resistance. After the queen lays an egg in a cell, if a worker bee somehow determines mites are in the cell, it would remove the mite. The result is that the mites aren’t able to reproduce.
It might sound like a far-fetched idea, but Wessels and his team have about 100 hives around Portland, and they’re collecting swarms that did survive this past winter.
“If we are successful in developing a more locally adapted honey bee, perhaps others can use this model in other cities,” he says.
Sweet new products
Magista, the beekeeper working with New Seasons, owns a startup company called Bee Local, which harvests and sells micro-batches of artisan honey varieties — with flavors made distinct by the flora and fauna of each neighborhood. He works with backyard beekeepers in the Mt. Tabor, Laurelhurst, Powellhurst and Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the buzz is spreading.
Beekeepers estimate there are about 500 hives being kept by people in Portland, many on rooftops, since bees are attracted to trees at about the 15-to-20-foot height.
One of those rooftops is at Noble Rot restaurant in Portland, and more could soon follow. That’s good news for honey connoisseurs.
“What dictates the taste is the flowers and forage in that particular area,” says Magista, who won a 2013 “Local Food Hero” award in March, presented by Ecotrust.
“It’s more than just the honey, it’s really about getting people to be more in touch with their immediate environment. What can I do at my home, in my yard to make a difference?”
[read original article via portlandtribune.com]
Bee shortage threatens farmland: Mites, diseases, and pesticides are all suspected of contributing to bee colony collapse disorder. The bees are dying at such a fast rate that farmers who rely on bees for pollination are now reserving them five years in advance. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.
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