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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

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

WATCH: Owl box bee rescue timelapse

HoneyLove.org bee rescue from an owl box in Beverly Hills, CA with beekeepers Rob McFarland & George Langworthy.
Subscribe to HoneyLove on YouTube: http://full.sc/MRAY21

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

READ: How neglecting bees could endanger humans

Bees pollinate much of our food supply, but a pesticide threatens their survival
BY RICHARD SCHIFFMAN

(Credit: StudioSmart via Shutterstock)

(Credit: StudioSmart via Shutterstock)

If you are an almond farmer in the Central Valley of California, where 80 percent of the world’s production is grown, you had a problem earlier this spring. Chances are there weren’t enough bees to pollinate your trees. That’s because untold thousands of colonies — almost half of the 1.6 million commercial hives that almond growers depend on — failed to survive the winter, making this the worst season for beekeepers in anyone’s memory. And that is saying a lot, because bees have been faring increasingly poorly for years now.

Much of this recent spike in bee mortality is attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious condition where all the worker bees in a colony simply fly off as a group and never make it back to the hive. Scientists have been studying this odd phenomenon for years and they still aren’t sure why it is happening.

But a slew of recent studies have pointed an accusing finger at a class of pesticides, the ubiquitous neonicotonoids (neonics for short), which include imidacloprid and clothianidin, manufactured by Germany’s agro-giant Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta. The neonics, the world’s leading insecticides, are applied on a whopping 75 percent of the farmlands in America, according to Charles Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Neonics are a so-called systemic pesticide. That means that they are taken up by the plant’s vascular system and get impregnated into all parts of the plant that an insect encounters, including the leaves, seeds, nectar and pollen. Corn and soybean seeds are typically coated with the pesticide before planting. Fruit trees and many vegetables are sprayed.

Few researchers believe that the neonics alone are to blame for the bees’ troubles, which appear to result from a perfect storm of contributing environmental factors. Pollinators have been called the canaries in the coal mine for ecosystem health. The declining numbers of both wild species and domesticated bee colonies worldwide is regarded as a troubling barometer of the state of the environment, reflecting habitat loss, the spread of agricultural monocultures, infestation by viral pathogens and bee parasites like the Varroa mite, climate change and even electromagnetic radiation, which seems to interfere with bees’ homing ability.

But the neonics, which contains a chemical related to nicotine that attacks an insect’s nervous system, have been demonstrated to kill bees — and especially the queens — when applied in high enough doses. And a growing body of research suggests that at sub-lethal concentrations, these agro-chemicals mess with their navigation, foraging and communication abilities, throw off their reproductive patterns, and weaken bee immune systems, making them susceptible to sudden colony collapse.

One study published by scientists at Purdue University in 2012 showed high levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam in bees found dead near agricultural fields. Other bees at the hives were observed exhibiting uncoordinated movement, tremors and convulsions, all signs of insecticide poisoning.

In yet another study conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, which I reported on in Reuters last April, researchers actually re-created colony collapse disorder in several honeybee hives simply by administering small doses of a popular neonic, imidacloprid.

These and other recent studies led the European Union to call on Monday for a provisional ban on neonics for two years to see what impact this has on Europe’s endangered bees. The use of the pesticides had already been temporarily suspended in Germany, France and Italy.

The vote in Brussels was split (15 of the 27 EU countries voted for the ban). The British Newspaper the Observer said that there was “a fierce behind the scenes” campaign to prevent the ban. The paper reported that agricultural multinational Syngenta, facing what it called “serious damage to the integrity of our product and reputation,” threatened to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing the damning report about the dangers of neonics. The U.K. voted against the ban, alleging that the science is inconclusive and that barring the pesticides would be hugely expensive and potentially cripple food production.

But the ban had lots of public support, including a petition signed by over 2.5 million Europeans. And it was universally applauded by environmentalists, who have been fighting for it for years. Andrew Pendleton of the U.K division of Friends of the Earth said: “This decision is a significant victory for common sense and our beleaguered bee populations. Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators.”

Pressure has been building in the U.S. to restrict the neonics. A coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups filed suit in March against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to ban the pesticides, saying that the agency didn’t consider the impact of the pesticides on vital pollinators. The American Bird Conservancy published in March a review of 200 studies on neonics, including industry research obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which concluded that the neonics are lethal to birds and other wildlife and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.

These threats to wildlife are significant, but the world’s attention is rightly focused on bees, which are responsible for pollinating nearly a third of our food supply. These industrious insects are in serious trouble. And if their decline continues unchecked, we humans may soon be in trouble too.

[click to view original article via salon.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: “Saving the honeybee is a ‘sweet’ effort”

AnneMarieBeekeeper

Hancock Park resident Anne Marie Host and her fiancée,
Sean Austin, have joined the fight to save the honeybee.



A local couple is among a group of urban beekeepers striving for relaxed regulations on their trade, an effort that provides a sanctuary for bees, which pollinate 80 percent of the world’s plants.

In recent years, honeybees have been impacted by a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a problem that results in adult honeybees disappearing from their hives. The cause remains unknown, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There’s so much adding to the problem that it can’t be any one thing,” Hancock Park resident Sean Austin said.

Austin, along with his fiancée Anne Marie Host, tends to bees at the HoneyLove Sanctuary in Simi Valley, where Austin’s sister, Chelsea McFarland, runs the nonprofit conservation organization with her husband, Rob…

In May, Councilman Bill Rosendahl drafted a motion to have the city formally support beekeeping initiatives in the city and decrease the inhumane removal of the insects. Chelsea said the motion is now in the city’s Planning and Land Use Committee.

Although some people may be concerned about living near a beehive, there are likely 9 to 11 colonies of bees living in every mile of Los Angeles right now, she said…

Austin said he and his fiancée would keep bees at their home near Larchmont Boulevard if they could.

“It’s actually a really cool pet,” he said.

While people continue to sign HoneyLove’s petition on change.org and vie for legalized beekeeping, HoneyLove goes to schools and educates children about the necessity of honeybees.

“A lot of fear around bees comes from early childhood experiences,” Chelsea said, adding that her nephew was recently stung by a wasp, and he now has an aversion to bees. “We need kids to grow to like bees.”

Next, HoneyLove and its supporters will undergo a pesticide-free movement. Chelsea said that once a person thinks about the smallest common denominator — the honeybee — their concern for the environment increases substantially.

“Bees are the gateway drug to a sustainable lifestyle,” she added.

[click here to read the full article via parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

READ: Non-profit HoneyLove.org is buzzing as lush’s charity pot partner

LUSH Blog 041613

 

Today we’re excited to share HoneyLove, one of our Charity Pot partners with you. We knew there was no better way to get you buzzing than to have Chelsea and Rob write about the amazing work that they do, and all the ways that you can help!

In the Spring of 2011, HoneyLove co-founders Chelsea and Rob McFarland would have never guessed that a swarm of honey bees showing up in their backyard would provide the inspiration for what has quickly become their life’s passion—a non-profit organization committed to conserving honey bees. Fast-forward to 2013 and HoneyLove has created an impressive local organization with a global footprint.

Bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants including 90 different food crops, which means that 1 out of every 3 bites of food is thanks to a bee. However, since 2006, more than one third of honeybee colonies collapsed nationwide, a global phenomenon now called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. And while there is no one smoking gun causing CCD, scientists now widely agree that it is a result of a combination of factors, made manifest by industrial beekeeping and the use of agricultural pesticides such as neonicotinoids.

While the situation is dire, honey bees permanently living in urban environments seem to be relatively unaffected by CCD. Why? Urban bees find more than enough varied forage in home gardens, landscaping and weedy areas to feed themselves throughout the seasons. And since the vast majority of the forage in the city is pesticide-free—because most homeowners aren’t dumping industrial-strength chemicals on their yards—bees have one less mortal enemy to contend with. While the city represents the bees’ best shot at surviving and thriving, HoneyLove still has a lot of work to do to ensure we will have a healthy ecosystem in the future. HoneyLove.org inspires and educates urban beekeepers at free educational workshops and beekeeping mentoring sessions. Attendees learn all about how to become urban beekeepers along with fun and interesting facts about bees; for example:

• Bees collect 4 things, water, nectar, pollen, and propolis.

• The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

• 1 lb of honey is the product of bees visiting two million flowers and flying 55,000 miles.

• Honey is the only food that does not spoil (bacteria can’t grow in it, and because of its low moisture content and low pH – honey can last indefinitely).

You can learn more fascinating bee facts here

“By working with LUSH’s Charity Pot, we were able to really step up our education efforts in a short time. We host monthly workshops ranging from real practical beekeeping topics to things like mead-making, beeswax symposiums, honey tastings, and how to plant a pollinator-friendly garden. We try to find something for everyone. We want to give people easy ways to contribute to the future of honey bees, knowing full well that not everyone wants to put on the suit and do the whole beekeeper thing” explains Rob.

“On HoneyLove’s website everyone can find something to do to help the bees, ranging ‘easy’ to ‘hard-core’, depending on how sticky you want to get your hands” jokes Chelsea.

Easy ways you can help today:

PLANT bee-friendly plants in your yard and put out a water source. Bee-friendly plants include native and old-fashioned “heirloom” varieties, borage, sage, mint, thyme, lavender and most other herbs too.

BEE INSPIRED on the HoneyLove BLOG by all the buzz, photos, recipes, DIY projects and more!

SIGN THE PETITION to help legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles! You don’t even have to be a resident to sign. Dozens of other cities have legalized urban beekeeping including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and New York—help HoneyLove add LA to that list!

BECOME A HONEYLOVE MEMBER to join in the action and attend workshops

MAKE A DONATION it is 100% tax-deductible

LEARN MORE ways to get involved

 

[click here to read on the Lush Blog]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

HoneyLove.org featured on KPFK 90.7FM

KPFK RADIO ARCHIVE: 4/8/13
http://archive.kpfk.org/mp3/kpfk_130408_143040deadlinela.MP3

What’s up w/ URBAN HOMESTEADING in LA? Join Laurie Kaufman & Barbara Osborne to learn about urban bees, backyard chickens and more with Erik Knutzen (rootsimple.com) & Rob McFarland (HoneyLove.org).

kpfk

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

VOTE TODAY for a PESTICIDE FREE LA!

Please take 30 seconds to help out our urban pollinators:
VOTE & COMMENT NOW for a PESTICIDE FREE LOS ANGELES!!
http://myla2050.maker.good.is/projects/HoneyLove

vote2050cartoon

 

[art via seppo.net]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

WATCH: Swarm + Abri van Straten


Abri van Straten (Lead singer, song writer and guitarist of The Lemmings)

True Blood Beekeepers

Last year, after an episode on HBO’s series True Blood where Bill (Stephen Moyer) said to Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) “Oh good! The world needs more beekeepers!” the actors generously donated a few sweet items to our silent auction for our annual HoneyLove Yellow Tie Event!
Click here to read more about it on “The Vault”

True Blood Silent Auction

CLICK HERE to get tickets to this year’s YELLOW TIE EVENT (June 8th, 2013)!!
yellowtie

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin, Yay Bees

“Bay Area’s ‘urban’ bees like native, diverse plantings”

By Lou Fancher via mercurynews.com

Bay Area's 'urban' bees

Dr. Gordon Frankie said native bees have preferences, and knowing what they like can improve the health of your garden.

“If they have a choice, they’ll go after native plants,” said Frankie, a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley. He and Steve Gentry, a founding member of the Mount Diablo Beekeepers Association, teamed up for a recent Lafayette Library Foundation Science Cafe presentation.

Frankie’s point — that local gardeners hoping to attract Agapostemon texanus or Xylocopa varipuncta, two local native bee species, should include native plants in their gardening plans. And mulching should be done lightly because 70 percent of all native bees nest in the ground and can’t burrow through materials heavier than soil.

A project at Frog Hollow Farm and other Brentwood farms is demonstrating the impact of placing native plants between crop rows.

Urban areas are ideal for bees, Frankie claimed, because of the diverse food supply they offer. The Oxford Tract Bee Garden he and his team of researchers planted allows them to monitor and categorize bees’ attraction to native and nonnative plants. A 10-city survey across California is providing a detailed picture of the bee population. San Diego, he said, is the worst city for attracting bees.

“It’s their gardening culture: No one is using diverse, floral plants,” Frankie said.

On the other end of the spectrum, a 30-by-30-foot garden in Ukiah had 68 bee species, and Santa Cruz is a hotbed beehive community. (The Bay Area is fifth on that list.)

Gentry, known by local residents as “Bee Man” — although he is considering an upgrade to “Emperor of Bees” — began the popular event’s 60-minute talk with a bucket.

“All of these products from bees are helpful to humans,” he declared, pulling hunks of beeswax and jars of honey, pollen and actual bees from the container. “Their history goes back thousands of years.”

Within five minutes, Gentry had advocated (beeswax is used for lubricants in cosmetics, candles, wax-resist dyeing and food preserving), acknowledged (“We have some hindrance about eating insects, but watch a bear break into a bee’s nest. He’ll eat the whole thing,” he said), and advertised (pollen is the new superfood, with protein, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, according to Gentry).

He also shared a 30-year-old epiphany he had while watching a black bear and her two cubs demolish a rotted tree while feasting on termites.

“I wasn’t the first person to see natural things. Forty thousand years ago, hunter-gatherers watched bears, bees and insects, too. The timeline is long,” he said.

Skipping through honeybee history, from Middle Eastern origins to monks in monasteries needing dependable light sources to small farmers before World War I who kept just enough hives to feed their families and pollinate their crops, Gentry landed on the contemporary world’s bee dilemmas.

“Industrialization changed farms. They became bigger, and now, large pollination contracts and commercial beekeeping are driving the business. (More than a million) hives are brought into the central Southern California valley for pollinating almonds each year.”

Frankie, whose business is less about keeping bees and more about watching them, asked the Science Cafe audience of gardeners, beekeepers and general science fans a series of questions.

Delighting at stumping his listeners, he said 1,600 bee species were attracted to California’s 5,000 flowering plants, drawing a hefty percentage of the United States’ 4,000 total bee species.

“Notice, you are not on their list,” he said. “Bees are vegetarians. They’re not after you or your burgers. Wasps are the ‘meat bees’ after your burgers.”

Generating a local buzz
The University of California Press will publish Gordon Frankie’s findings in a forthcoming book, “Native Bees and Their Flowers in Urban California Gardens.” Bee appreciators who don’t want to wait can find information at http://nature.berkeley.edu/urbanbeegardens/index.html and diablobees.org.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees