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“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.

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ARTICLE: A Sculptor Creates a Stop on the Bee Train
By ELAINE LOUIE – The New York Times 

“Christopher Russell, 52, a Manhattan sculptor, is one of 10 artists commissioned by the M.T.A. Arts for Transit and Urban Design program in its latest project to enhance New York subway stations. Almost all of the new works (seven are scheduled for unveiling today along the D line in Brooklyn) are laminated glass windscreens that edge subway platforms above ground…

Mr. Russell was entrusted with designing bronze gates, 7 feet high and 6 feet wide, at the Ninth Avenue Station in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The gates depict honeybees crawling on hives, and the posts of adjacent fences will have honeybees resting on 17 finials shaped like flower heads…

I’ve worked in ceramics for 20 years, and primarily with birds, sea life and bees for the last five years. I became interested in the incredible complexity of hives, the detail of the work bees do and the exactness. I took it upon myself to recreate these hives in ceramic, and that became a three- or four-year project…

I think people understand that bees are a valuable presence in this world, that they symbolize a kind of bucolic peacefulness and simplicity. Bees go about their business. They’re actually very docile when they’re swarming.”

[click here to view the full articles on nytimes.com]

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Hipster Animals: Urban Apiarist

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UrbanFig “Farmer of the week” - 
Rob McFarland (Co-Founder of HoneyLove.org)

Urbanfig is excited to introduce you to Rob McFarland, co-Founder of HoneyLove.org a 501(c)3 non-profit conservation organization with a mission to protect the honeybees and inspire and educate new urban beekeepers.
 

NUMBER OF YEARS URBAN GARDENING: 8

FAVORITE THINGS TO GROW:
Blueberries, artichokes, and lettuce

URBAN FARMING LOCATION:
Del Rey Neighborhood of Los Angeles

GARDENING ADVICE:
Soil is alive and compost is your friend.

YOUR OWN GARDENING TIPS AND TRICKS:
In order to grow something, you must first plant a seed.

WHY DID YOU FIRST START GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD?
I started growing food because I wanted a tangible way of living more sustainably.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO GROW?
Any food crop. Nothing more satisfying than getting to eat (or drink) something you’ve grown.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO COOK OUT OF THE GARDEN?
Broccoli, my favorite vegetable. I love the simplicity of steaming some broccoli that is fresh from the garden.

WHO TAUGHT YOU HOW TO GARDEN (OR HOW DID YOU LEARN)?
I learn something new almost every day, mostly from reading and talking with fellow gardeners. My Mom taught me the gardening fundamentals, and also taught me the love of gardening (and learning).

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BEGINNER GARDENERS?
I don’t have advice so much as I have encouragement: JUST GO FOR IT. Even if you don’t think you have room, you can always start with one container and one tomato plant.

HOW MANY HOURS PER WEEK DO YOU SPEND IN THE GARDEN?
Totally depends on the week, but I try to spend time in the garden every day.

DO YOU RAISED BEDS, CONTAINERS, THE GROUND OR A COMBINATION OF WHAT?
I have stuff growing in a combination of containers, raised beds, and in the ground.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE GARDEN?
Not having enough space or direct sunlight. Also, birds LOVE to steal my berries.

WHAT ARE YOU GROWING RIGHT NOW?
Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi berries, strawberries, goji berries, passion fruit, pomegranate, figs, lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, guava, grapes, avocado, lettuce, summer squash, borage, sunflowers, artichoke, carrots, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, chocolate mint, and spearmint.

HOW HAS GROWING YOUR OWN ORGANIC FOOD AFFECTED OR CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Growing food has given me a new understanding of what it means to be successful.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT´S IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE GROW THEIR OWN FOOD?
Growing food is one of those activities that helps us see behind the curtain, and gives us an appreciation of the natural world. It brings you to the core of what it means to be human. Agriculture after all is one of the forces behind our evolution as a species.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE THING ABOUT GARDENING?
It sounds cliche, but at a fundamental level, my favorite part of gardening is feeling connected the natural world. That and getting to eat delicious garden-fresh food.

OTHER THOUGHTS OR COMMENTS?
Connect with us online!
HoneyLove.org

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Thank you so much to everyone who came out last week for our 5% day at Whole Foods!! 

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PDF: Your Urban Garden is Better with Bees

[via feedthebees.org]

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Photo by Nadav Bagim (a.k.a AimishBoy)

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Wishing you good times, good cheer, and a sweet new year!
? Rob & Chelsea ~ honeylove.org

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ompomphooey:

Billboard poster design for the plight of the honey beeeee

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WHO: Blind Melon
WHAT: No Rain
WHERE: http://youtu.be/3qVPNONdF58

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