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LA WEEKLY: “Could L.A. Become a Honeybee Mecca?”

By Gendy Alimurung

LA Weekly Article

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.

LA Weekly frame

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]

LA Weekly Paper

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

READ: Urban Beekeepers Aim To Change Household Pesticide Use

by Ecotrope
UrbanBeePortlandArticle

“It’s not so much about making honey. It’s the education,” Tjiersland said. “Bees are an indicator species. They can tell you if there’s something impacting the world they’re trying to pollinate. If you educate the community that the pesticides you use in your yard impact the bees and colonies, you can send the message that it’s OK to have a few weeds in your yard or to allow the dandelions to grow.”

Magista said his work keeping around 25 hives is geared toward addressing the problem of bee colony collapse disorder, a relatively new phenomenon wherein a colony’s worker bee population suddenly disappears, and the hive eventually dies. Researchers have found a number of possible causes, including a parasite, a virus, pesticide poisoning, stress from bee management, and poor nutrition from inadequate forage plants.

“The honey is lovely, and that’s really great, but the secret core of what I do is education,” Magista said. “By bringing bees into the community, you’re starting the conversation about bees, and it starts filtering down into colony collapse disorder.”

…Magista said he blames the problem of colony collapse disorder on industrial agriculture, which relies on commercial beekeeping to pollinate plants but limits bees to foraging on monoculture crops that have been treated with pesticides and herbicides. He’s hoping people will not only change their use of pesticides and herbicides at home but also change the way they choose the foods they eat.

“What we start talking about is we have this very large agricultural system, and to support it we have to use commercial beekeeping,” he said. “We need to find a different way to produce our food and take care of our environment. We can grow our own food. We can keep our own hives and they can be healthier than they would be if they were in the commercial food system.”

[read the full article via opb.org]

Read full story · Posted in News

ARTICLE via The Onion: Beard of Bees

Bee Beard

BURLINGTON, VT—Complaining of patchiness and uneven color, area man Matthew Cruickshank, 34, told reporters Monday that he has always had trouble growing a full beard of bees. “For some reason, when the bees come in they just won’t connect my mustache to my goatee, and they seem to thin out halfway up my cheek,” said Cruickshank, examining a beeless patch of skin on his neck and noting how one random gray bee always appears in the middle of his chin. “It’s strange because my dad always had a full, thick beard of bees his whole life. I guess some guys are just lucky that way.” Cruickshank added that although he grooms his beard of bees frequently, it often becomes itchy and uncomfortable, especially at night when he’s trying to sleep.

[via theonion.com]

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

HoneyLove featured on Valley View News

Valley View News
*HoneyLove story begins @ 25:58

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

NEW! HoneyLove Newsletter – November 2012
Click link to view the full newsletter —> http://eepurl.com/qTEi5


This months issue includes:

- HoneyLove @ Public Interest Pictures Film Festival
- Beekeeper’s Tool Box Workshop
- HoneyLover of the Month: Ashley
- NEW Michael Bush Videos
- Legalization Update
- Upcoming events

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized

NEW! HoneyLove Newsletter – November 2012
Click link to view the full newsletter —> http://eepurl.com/qTEi5


This months issue includes:

- HoneyLove @ Public Interest Pictures Film Festival
- Beekeeper’s Tool Box Workshop
- HoneyLover of the Month: Ashley
- NEW Michael Bush Videos
- Legalization Update
- Upcoming events

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized

Check out the October 2012 HoneyLove Newsletter <3!!!

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized

WILL THE CITY OF LA ‘BEE’ NICE?
WATCH: HoneyLove.org on Fox 11 News!!

http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/375612_496058500407909_1730903189_n.jpg

Click here to sign our petition to legalize urban beekeeping in Los Angeles:
http://www.change.org/petitions/legalize-urban-beekeeping-in-los-angeles-2
**You do not need to live in LA to sign!

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized

WATCH: Calif. Man Finds 50,000 Bees Inside Home
via ABC News: Top Stories!!

Thanks MikeBee for the awesome buzz about HoneyLove.org!!


Audree Steinberg reports:

On July 7 a photojournalist discovered an estimated 50,000 bees living in the walls of his Los Angeles home, and he wasn’t even scared.

Spending little time at home because of work, Larry Chen, 27, initially didn’t notice the bees. According to the beekeeper he hired, the hive was an estimated six to eight months old.

A month ago, Chen began noticing bees buzzing in and out of his window, and he decided to investigate. According to Chen, the bees only came out during a 30-minute window in the day.

“I’m not really terrified of the bees… I just remained calm, and I figured they wouldn’t bother me too much… I got stung once, but I was more curious about how big the hive actually was. I figured it was just a small clump of 1,000 or so,” Chen said.

After his investigation, he spent a month on the road, traveling for work. When he returned, Chen found time to call a professional to assess the situation. He explained that he recently saw a documentary about the endangerment of bees, so he wanted to save – not exterminate – them.

He found a man on Craigslist, who goes by the name Mike Bee, who said he would safely remove the bees. He is a member of the rescue organization Backwards Beekeepers, a group that works with HoneyLove.org in order to educate the public about bees.

“My policy is to relocate, not exterminate,” the beekeeper explained.

It took Mike Bee and his wife five hours to remove the bees from the wall. Mike Bee was stung four times.

The bees entered through a ventilation pipe that airs out the attic and an area near a window, according to Mike Bee. Although the pipes were lined with a wire mesh, the squares were big enough for bees to fit through. Since the area was a dark, protective shelter and featured a convenient entry point, the space was very accommodating to a beehive.

First, the beekeeper located the bees and cut the drywall. Then he burned pine needles, creating a smoke that would calm the bees. Afterwards, he began vacuuming the bees in a custom-made device, so that the comb could be visible. He removed the queen and cut out the comb, placing it in a box with the bees.

After removing the bees, he scraped off any remnants of wax from the honeycombs and cleaned the area of the hive. He then stapled screening mesh over the ventilated pipes in order to deter a new swarm from finding the same spot.

The bees filled two boxes that fit 20,000 bees each, but there were still many strays. The beekeeper explained that the bees would be returned to the city after he completes a process called an orientation flight.

“It’s good we caught it at this time because it could have been a lot bigger,” Chen said.

[click here to view the original story by ABC News]

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized

Click here to view HoneyLove’s July Newsletter!

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized