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California Dearth Conditions

via HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Beeks—As you are probably reading everywhere, California is in the middle of a extended drought and this significantly affects the available food—pollen and nectar—for our bees. People can get a false sense of security about this problem since all around are extensive irrigated landscapes— golf courses, industrial parks, shopping malls with fountains and lush landscaping, apartment and condo blocks, and private homes.

However, all this is carried out by the importation of precious water from underground aquifers and water resources channeled from the middle and northern part of the state. Irrigation with re-claimed sewer water—-designated by the required violet colored pipes and valve box covers—is still a anomaly, unfortunately. Our streets are still running with rivers of wasted water, too.

For a simple tabulation of the history of the rainfall pattern, go here: http://www.laalmanac.com/weather/we13.htm

You will see, since 2000, we have been much under normal 8 years and only in excess 5 years—and not that much in excess, when the average for 135 years is only 15 inches. The population of California is projected to be 60 million by 2050, from the 34 million counted in 2007. The water is not going to be there to sustain this many people in the lifestyle currently practiced.

Many beeks are noticing their bees have small stores of honey, or sometimes, nothing. I am seeing cutouts with lots of brood, but almost NO honey/nectar stores. As beekeepers, this is important for us to monitor when doing inspections of our hives and when trying to support small nucs and cutouts after the trauma of the operations when we move them. We may need to feed our bees to help them manage the loss of available food supply—called a “dearth” –if we wish for them to be around for us come Spring. The best food for bees is their natural food—honey. This can be provided by frames of honey taken from strong hives. “junk comb” from cutouts, and honey purchased for the specific feeding purpose. A bee has a natural acidic pH in her gut that is supported by many strains of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes adapted to that pH environment. When we feed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, the more alkaline nature of these sugars alters the gut pH. Some scientists believe this is not beneficial to the gut microbes that serve the bee’s immune system. However, if the situation is one of the choice between starvation or feeding sugar, we may need to feed the sugar syrup to get by until there is a natural nectar flow.


Big thank you to Susan for contributing to our blog as well as moderating the HoneyLove Forum!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

Neonicotinoids a Disaster in the making?

Podcast via kiwimana

This week we are talking to Dr. Henk Tennekes from the Netherlands. This is Episode fifty two of our beekeeping podcast.

You can download the podcast directly HERE, or click on the play button above. Feel free to share it with your friends.

“Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent…” - Rachel Carson

 

INTRO

Dr Henk Tennekes is a esteemed toxicologist and author.

Dr Tennekes has been working in cancer research for most of his career. He has been studying neonicotinoids in relation to decline of insects and bird life.

He discovered that this family of pesticides are not only effecting bees but other insects and birds.

In 2010 he publish his findings the in the book “A Disaster in the Making“. We encourage you to support Henk’s work and buy a copy of his fantastic book.

We encourage you to copy this recording and please give it to any friends or family that may buy pesticides for their home garden. Let’s all vote against these products with our dollars.

Buy Henk’s Book Here

Here’s What You’ll Learn

  • How Henk came up with the idea for his book
  • Clothianidin can remain in the soil for nineteen years.
  • Neonicotinoids are water soluble and threaten fish and water dependent insects
  • Insects are the main food source for many mammals and fish.
  • Neonicotinoids destroy insects immune system and help infections in beehives to spread.
  • Chytrid Fungus is wiping out frogs in California
  • Bats are being wiped out by White Nose Syndrome
  • Everything is connected, you can’t destroy insects without it effecting all species (including humans).
  • Acute toxicity tests are not effective enough to demonstrate the long effect on Honey Bees
  • Neonicotinoids are legal because of the failure of our government regulators
  • There is a break in the food chain happening before our eyes
  • Autism in children has increased since Neonicotinoids were introduced
  • Neonicotinoids are used in Pet Flea products such as “Advantage”
  • Bayer is not releasing its own studies on Neonicotinoids
  • Austrian agriculture is 40% organic :)

Neonicotinoids available now at your Garden Centre

What Was Mentioned

  • Henk’s book Disaster in the making can be purchased here HERE
  • Dutch Parliament votes to ban all Neonicotinoids pesticide use in the Netherlands, you can read more HERE
  • Sue Kedgleys work on bee health
  • Dr Alex Lu Harvard study, read more HERE
  • Syngenta and Bayer go to court against the European Commission, find out more HERE

View original post via kiwimana

Read full story · Posted in Buzz, Yay Bees

BEEHIVE HEROES

Paul Hekimian inspects a honeycomb forming in one of the hives behind his home

Paul Hekimian inspects a honeycomb forming in one of the hives behind his home (via argonautnews.com)

Backyard beekeepers work to save the local honeybee population from collapse

Story by Rebecca Kuzins via argonautnews.com

Most people who discover a beehive in their backyard would be glad to see it gone.

Paul Hekimian is not like most people.

After discovering a hive in an avocado tree behind his Santa Monica home in 2012, Hekimian — with help from Del Rey beekeeper Rob McFarland — moved the bees into brooding boxes, which provide ideal conditions for a hive. Since then, he has been raising honeybees, extracting and bottling honey, and even adopting more bees by rescuing swarms that have gathered at places such as Tongva Park and the Santa Monica Pier.

Hekimian is part of a new breed of urban beekeepers who’ve developed organic, pesticide- and chemical-free techniques to raise smaller hives with more disease-resistant honeybees. But the way Hekimian tells it, he just sets up his brooding boxes and then leaves the bees alone so they can produce honeycombs — and more bees.

“At the end of the day, the bees do all the work,” said Hekimian, a father of two young boys who also has his hands full running both a wholesale bakery and a technology consulting business. “You’ve heard the phrase ‘busy as a bee.’ These bees are very busy.”

Hekimian’s work and that of other backyard beekeepers is more than just a hobby. It’s also an environmentally minded response to the colony collapse disorder that has plagued honeybees for almost a decade and threatens the very future of agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Save the bees, save ourselves

In 2006, beekeepers began noticing that many worker bees had abandoned their hives, resulting in a loss of one-third of the nation’s honeybees. Since then, bees have continued to disappear, with scientists and researchers citing several possible reasons for the loss. Some argue that a fungus or virus is responsible, or that the bees have died from poor nutrition or parasites. More recently, numerous articles in scientific journals maintain a specific group of pesticides is the cause of the problem.

The sudden and rapid decline of the bee population has gotten the attention of President Barack Obama, who had two hives installed at the White House garden this summer — making him the nation’s most high-profile urban beekeeper.

In June, Obama created a Pollinator Task Force to establish a federal strategy aimed at promoting the health of honeybees and other pollinators.

“Honeybee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States,” reads a statement announcing the task force. “Severe yearly declines create concern that bee colony losses could reach a point from which the commercial pollination industry would not be able to adequately recover.”

Or, as Hekimian says it: “If the bees go, they’re taking us with them. One in three pieces of food is touched by bees.”

Already struggling with drought, California’s almond industry also relies on bees for pollination. Bees also play a significant role in pollinating strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, squash and myriad other agricultural and other plants.

Some cities have responded to colony collapse disorder by legalizing beekeeping on private property, and the Santa Monica City Council adopted such an ordinance in 2011.

“The city council recognized bees are a very important link in the food chain,” said Dean Kubani, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “Bees play so many important roles in the production of fruit and vegetables and most of what we eat. … I think in the past, there was a fear that bees in urban and suburban areas would harm people. That has shown not to be the case.”

The fight to legalize bees in L.A.

The Los Angeles City Council has been studying how the city could adopt its own backyard beekeeping ordinance since February. Some Los Angeles residents, like Rob and Chelsea McFarland, are already keeping bees. Founders of the nonprofit organization Honey Love, the couple has conducted an extensive neighborhood outreach and lobbying campaign in favor of a bee-positive city ordinance.

Chelsea McFarland said she and her husband made the decision to become beekeepers after a swarm showed up in the backyard of their Del Rey home.

“We have an organic garden and we knew about [colony collapse disorder]. We knew the bees were in trouble,” she said.

When the McFarlands contacted the city for advice about handling the swarm, they were told “the only thing to do was exterminate [them],” she recalled. “That’s still the case. Part of the [city’s] policy should be not only to legalize [beekeeping] … but to try and rescue rather than exterminate.”

Sylvia Henry is also a Los Angeles beekeeper and Honey Love member. She started keeping honeybees in March after Hekimian brought a swarm to her Mar Vista home, where her hive shares space in the backyard with eight chickens. “I’m an old farm girl,” Henry said. “I grew up on a farm in Chino.”

Henry said she is “thrilled” with her hive, which has already produced 30 pounds of honey. She’s “read all of the books in the library on bees” and is fascinated by the “whole entire cycle” of beekeeping and the “social set-up” of honeybees.

Not far from Henry’s backyard, another group of bees live on the roof of Louie’s of Mar Vista, a popular neighborhood restaurant and bar on Grand Avenue south of Venice Boulevard.

John Atkinson and his wife Laura opened the restaurant last year at the site where his grandfather, Bill Atkinson, and Bill’s buddy Louie operated a butcher shop from 1954 to 1969.

While renovating the property, John Atkinson noticed a swarm of bees had gathered inside a large sign above the building.

“Rather than poison them, we got them out of the sign and cut off access for them to get back into the sign,” he recalled.

The bees were placed in hive boxes on the restaurant’s roof, and Atkinson hired a beekeeper to take care of them. Over the past year, the population of what the restaurant’s website calls “Mar Vista’s bees” has increased threefold.

Louie’s of Mar Vista uses honey from these hives in some of its dishes and to create its signature Bee Sting cocktail — a combination of applejack brandy, ginger beer, lemon and honey, served with a slice of lime and a mix of sugar and ginger around the rim of the glass.

“It’s not like having a goldfish”

As part of its education and support mission, HoneyLove conducts monthly seminars, including some at its bee sanctuary in Moorpark, to train backyard beekeepers.

“It’s not like having a goldfish,” Chelsea McFarland said. “You definitely want to know what you’re doing.”

Hekimian, on the HoneyLove board of directors, agrees that wanna-be beekeepers need training before they can graduate to get a beehive.

Beekeeping, Hekimian adds, is the art of observation: “You watch the behavior of the bees as they go in and out the front door. Are they going out? Are they bringing in pollen?”

Beekeeping comes fairly naturally to Hekimian. His father, Kevork G. Hekimian, kept bees when Paul was growing up in Houston.

“My dad started out with a couple of hives and then had 60 hives,” he said. “I got him back into beekeeping,”  Hekimian said of his father. “It’s come full circle.”

 

[read the full article via argonautnews.com]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews

Keeping honeybees! Sounds like fun?

LA Weekly frame
by Susan Rudnicki

So much is in the news about pollinator declines,  peril to the food supply, pesticide poisoning of honeybees—could we not help this situation by keeping our own bees?  HoneyLove exists to foster this very practice, and all of us in the group were mentored and brought along our path to becoming beekeepers by others in the craft.  In fact, this model is the very essence of our  club—”each one teach one” or “pay it forward” to help others learn.

But, there are important things to consider when contemplating the serious commitment of beginning a life of bees and beekeeping.

Probably the most important part is to become educated by reading and speaking to knowledgeable beeks about the management techniques and time commitments involved in keeping bees in a urban environment.   Getting the bees and buying equipment  comes later, but a person should honestly assess whether there is the time in life to –

1) do hive inspections every two weeks in the Spring season when bee colonies are rapidly growing in population.   Bee colonies that become crowded from lack of space management can swarm and this attracts very unwelcome attention from non-beekeeping neighbors.

2)  keep up during the whole year to assess honey production, brood space (where the bees raise the young larva), queen vigor and other issues.   Later in the Summer, inspections can be spread further apart—about a month.

3)  be realistic about getting a honey crop.   The colony, when young, must be given time to grow in strength and resilience.   The first year of a young colony, there is NO honey crop.   The second year, you may get a bit.   By the third year, they hit their stride and you can have a fine honey crop!   (This is my experience, anyway)

4)  spend the time necessary to consistently learn the techniques and understanding of how “bee society” works.   We must always keep in mind that honeybees are stinging insects and the wider public often has a well developed fear of them.   How we manage our bees and speak to others about bees goes a long way towards changing perceptions and biases—or, if lax in management and monitoring, how we may reinforce prejudices.   It is up to us to present our best “face” of the beekeeping world.

5)  develop a mentor relationship with at least one other knowledgable beek.   This takes digging, because there are not enough of us, geographically speaking!   HoneyLove conducts meetings every month, has apiary visits to the bee sanctuary in Moorpark, and has lots of material on the website to guide newbees in gaining wisdom.

6)  coming to HoneyLove gatherings and workshops gives the new beek a chance to interact with folks all along the spectrum of knowledge and to ask questions and network for further connections.

If these considerations seem a little burdensome for right now, it may not be the right time to actually get your own colony of bees.   It is a time commitment and must be managed regularly.   Perhaps just fostering the local bees with planting of inviting flowers and shrubs is a better plan.

Joining the HoneyLove forum to explore these options with others is a great way to figure out if you are indeed ready to keep bees!

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

Those Insecticides We’re Told Aren’t Killing Bees Are Also Hurting Birds

by Steve Williams

Despite many politicians being in complete denial about the mounting evidence of a connection between certain insecticides and the collapse of bee populations, new research shows that those same insecticides are probably indirectly leading to bird die-offs, too.

A new study published this month in Nature looks at data from the Netherlands which the researchers say shows a sharp decline in certain bird populations in areas where insecticides known as neonicotinoids were used the most.

Neonicotinoids are among the new wave of insecticides that have been developed in the past 50 years. They were supposed to be revolutionary for the farming industry and were billed as less damaging for the environment and wildlife. However, study after study has linked them to a decline in pollinators and even to bee Colony Collapse Disorder, while a 2013 examination of peer reviewed literature called for tighter restrictions on neonicotinoid use as, used in the concentrations and amounts that we see on farms today, the scientists concluded there is enough evidence to suggest that these insecticides are harming bees and other insects who aren’t supposed to be targeted.

Concerns have also been raised about the wider impact on wildlife beyond our pollinators. While neonicotinoids are billed as not being as toxic to mammals, and in particular birds of prey, scientific literature has suggested an unintended impact: by killing insects that the mammals eat, they may be driving down certain sensitive populations, and that’s precisely what the study from the Netherlands found.

Interestingly the researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands started their research not by exploring the impact of neonicotinoids, but by looking at two different data sets, one of bird counts, and the other of surface water measurements of the most common neonicotinoid, and through this the scientists were able to track the decline in bird numbers during the period of 2003 to 2010 while leaving the door open for other possible causes of bird population decline.

They found that there may be several factors contributing to the fall in numbers, such as an intensification of farming which often means uprooting bird habitats, like digging up hedges or dismantling barns.

Still, the researchers found that the presence of imidacloprid, one of the leading neonicotinoids, is incontrovertibly impacting birds and may be the main cause of bird decline in the region. They found that if ground water had just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per liter, there was a 30 percent fall in bird numbers during the study period–and what’s more, some areas had pollution levels that was 50 times higher than that figure.

In total, the researchers found that 14 out of 15 common insect-eating bird species, like barn swallows, tree sparrows and starlings, had suffered sometimes dramatic population declines.

Research similar but not identical to this has been dismissed in the past because it didn’t control for other factors, but this research did, yet the pattern still emerged. That is why lead researcher Hans de Kroon believes its time to take this problem seriously because, if neonicotinoids are indirectly harming birds, they’re probably harming other wildlife that prey on insects, too.

David Gouslon of the University of Sussex, who wasn’t involved in this study but did write a separate commentary, says this research is convincing. He tells the Guardian: “The simplest, most obvious, explanation is that highly toxic substances that kill insects lead to declines in things that eat insects. … This work flags up the point that this isn’t just about bees, it is about everything. When hundreds or thousands of species or insect are being wiped out, it’s going to have impacts on bats, shrews, hedgehogs, you name it. It is pretty good evidence of wholesale damage to the environment.”

Goulson also highlights that unlike the Netherlands, the UK (and much of Europe) isn’t monitoring neonicotinoid pollution. The UK agency responsible for overseeing matters dealing with the environment and wildlife, called Defra, remains stalwart that the research isn’t overwhelming and that, at the moment, there isn’t compelling evidence to show a definite link between neonicotinoids and harm to wildlife.

Defra says that these kinds of pesticides are safe when used as recommended and points to the admittedly (usually) rigorous short-term trials carried out by neonicotinoid producers. The problem though is precisely that they are only short-term trials. Manufacturers haven’t used longer-term systematic trials but if they did, scientists say the data would show the harms neonicotinoids can create over longer periods of time.

It was hoped that this message was, at last, getting through, when in 2013 the EU imposed a two-year suspension of thre neonicotinoids, but it emerged the suspension is largely toothless because the EU is failing to track data during this time, and a two year suspension is unlikely to give any meaningful data anyway.

We have to be clear that this latest study implies a link and not causation, but because this adds to a wider body of data that all suggests a link, the evidence for probable causation is growing ever more formidable. All this leads us to ask: how much scientific data do we need, and how many impartial experts need to speak out, before our politicians will act?

Or perhaps the better question is, how many animal populations have to collapse before our governments see fit to do something and actually tackle the issue of neonicotinoids?

 

Read full story · Posted in News

Beekeeping is booming in Vienna

People living in Vienna have got a new hobby – beekeeping.

The idea really took off a few years ago after the city council started investing in beehives and placing them in prominent locations. The State Opera House, the Burgtheater and the Museum of Natural History all have bee populations on their roofs, and there are even hives on the terraces of the Vienna General Hospital (AKH).

From there however, with all the publicity, people living in Vienna also started buying rooftop beehives, and now the local beekeeping association estimates there are hundreds of tonnes of honey being harvested in Vienna. The meadows, trees, parks, gardens, roadside verges, balconies and green rooftops provide a constant, yet ever-changing palette of blossoming flowers for the insects to feed on. Temperatures also remain higher for longer in the city than in rural areas.

Over 600 Viennese have even started investing in so many hives that they have registered officially as beekeepers with a special association, the Stadt-Imker (urban beekeepers), which is dedicated to monitoring and managing the various hives in the capital.

Josef Beier who is head of the Vienna beekeeping association said: “I never would have thought it possible but it really is getting to the situation now where the only problem is space for the beehives and to store the equipment needed for the honey gathering.

“With the fact that many colonies have been dying out en masse, the subject has been very present in the media and as a result a lot of people had become interested in it – and some of those have decided to do their bit to help the bees. With many having positive experiences, others have become involved and so it has spread.

“To keep healthy bees you need a wide variety of plants and with all the exotic varieties available in window boxes and gardens, it’s a paradise for these. There is always something in bloom and at the same time the bees of course are great for Vienna’s plants.

“It only takes about 250 GBP to start off as an amateur beekeeper, which includes the beehive and the basic equipment and tools as well as protective clothing.”

[view original article via viennatimes.at]

Read full story · Posted in News

LAist.com: Los Angeles Considers Legalizing Urban Beekeeping

photo by Krista Simmons / LAist.com

(Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)

 

Los Angeles Considers Legalizing Urban Beekeeping

By Krista Simmons in Food on Feb 12, 2014 12:45 PM

Urban beekeeping, along with other more typically rural pursuits like raising chickens and planting edible gardens, has become more popular as a part of the homesteading movement. Not only do urban beekeepers actually have several advantages over their rural counterparts—rural areas are doused with pesticides, they don’t offer the same variety of plants as cities and the bees don’t have to be trucked in to Los Angeles—but the bees are already here. They also have a more diverse, year-round source for pollen. Unfortunately, up until this point, beekeeping in city limits has been against the law.

Many have been campaigning to change that. And today the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to conduct a study on legalizing urban beekeeping in Los Angeles, according to City News Service.

The study would look into overturning the law banning beekeeping in areas where there are single-family homes. The council also passed a motion that calls on the city to explore more humane ways of removing bees other than extermination. A third motion passed supports federal protections for bees against pesticides.

Councilman Paul Koretz said the state has been losing a third of its bees a year since 2006, threatening California’s avocado and almond growing industry.

“Almonds alone are $4 billion of our state’s economy,” he said. “Bees, it turns out, are thriving in Los Angeles, he said, possibly because there is no large-scale agriculture and fewer pesticides in use. “It’s important to protect these bees that thrive here locally.”

Beekeeping proponents showed up to the City Council meeting to show their support. The LA Times’ Emily Alpert Reyes said there was at least one beekeeping outfit and a fair number of bee costumes, including a doggie bee costume in attendance this morning.

“Bees are in real trouble, and urban beekeeping is part of the solution,” Rob McFarland of HoneyLove, an organizing supporting bee farming in Los Angeles, told the City Council.

Hopefully the buzz will turn into a sweet resolution for city dwellers and aspiring hive owners alike.

[More from LAist]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, HoneyLove Interviews

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

PHOTOS: School Outreach in Manhattan Beach

SchoolOutreach1013_2
Thank you to Susan for doing another awesome school outreach in Manhattan Beach! YAY BEES!

SchoolOutreach1013_3 SchoolOutreach1013_4 SchoolOutreach1013_5SchoolOutreach1013_1

Join the HoneyLove School Outreach Team!
Interested in helping to spread a buzz for bees at local Los Angeles schools? We are starting a new task force to visit 50 schools in 2014 and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
HoneyLove will provide outreach materials to all volunteers who complete the training!

Contact us and let us know you are interested in learning how to volunteer! outreach@honeylove.org

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin, School Outreach

READ: “Portlanders add bee crisis to areas honey-do list”

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Beekeeper Damian Magista transfers a new hive of bees to the rooftop of the New Seasons Market in Happy Valley. The Portland grocery chain is educating customers about the vital role that bees play in the food chain.

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT – Beekeeper Damian Magista transfers a new hive of bees to the rooftop of the New Seasons Market in Happy Valley. The Portland grocery chain is educating customers about the vital role that bees play in the food chain.

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.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT – Katie Passero dresses as a bee to work the counter at New Seasons Market, as part of the companys Bee Part of the Solution campaign.

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]

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