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READ: Should LA legalize urban beekeeping?

by Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich

LA is the only major city in the United States with illegal beekeeping.

City planners must remain forward-thinking. California is a huge agricultural state. To make any pollinators illegal is to limit agriculture. That decreases job availability, limits food production, and prevents access to education. These are social justice issues, and policy makers must take action to allow access to these resource for all residents. In 100 years, is it possible that we could have modern, urban farms on rooftops or underutilized properties? It is, if policy allows it so. Our population is growing, but our available land is not. We must be smart about how we plan for the future of urban living. We must legalize pollination, and honey bees are the best generalist pollinator available to humans… Furthermore, corporate real estate companies are rolling out regional and national beekeeping programs to increase their sustainability image. Beehives can even help make skyscrapers more sustainable and earn an additional LEED certification point by the Council for Green Buildings.

Will legalizing beekeeping increase the number of swarms in the city?

Beekeepers play a vitally important role in preventing disease and preventing swarming. My 2014 TEDxBoston talk (above) showed how beekeepers work with municipalities to develop programs to collect any swarms rapidly, and perhaps more importantly, open access to education about how to prevent them. When New York legalized beekeeping in 2010, there was no influx of honey bees as pests to anyone. A person walking through Times Square today would have no idea that there are multiple hives overhead at the InterContinental Hotel. Managed beehives swarm far less frequently than feral hives because beekeepers add space to the hives as they grow. Space is a trigger of swarming, as the queen bee continues to lay eggs, the population of a beehive runs out of space, and some of that population must leave to go find a new home. Beekeepers prevent swarming by using standard, safe beekeeping practices to keep bees in their hives and not in people’s chimneys, sheds, or walls. This is a non-issue in Boston, New York, Paris, and anywhere else urban beekeeping has been successfully happening for a long time.

Will supporting urban beekeeping damage our native bee population?

Many native bees pollinate in different ways than honey bees do. For example, bumble bees use sonication, or buzz pollination, whereas honey bees do not. Carpenter bees drill holes in the sides of flowers and take resources through a different mechanism. Honey bees can collect pollen left by those other mechanisms and make use of it, but honey bees do not compete with those bees because of different pollination mechanisms. There is plenty of pollen and nectar to go around and be shared by all bees. See my book (The Bee: A Natural History, published in 2014 by Princeton University Press) for more information about urban beekeeping, including about how the diversity of bee species is relatively the same between ground level and rooftop habitats. Bees live in harmony – these are non-aggressive, vegan, garden pollinators. I, too, fully support native bee conservation, as well as pollinator conservation as the larger issue. My book addresses all 20,000 or so species of bees, to prove this.

Are bees still in trouble?

The 2014 Farm Bill provides reimbursement for Beekeepers who experience greater than 17.5% loss of beehives. The national average remains between 30-40% loss of beehives each year, and this is in the post-CCD world (see my Sept. 2014 piece in the New York Times). Bees are dying from myriad diseases for which there is no cure, and data published in the most recent Science magazine and highlighted in BBC show that there are host jumps to other bee species, specifically to bumble bees as Mark Brown and colleagues showed. Bees do best in urban environments, and so we must allow bees to live in habitats where they are thriving. This is of vital importance for our future in urban living, where we will have more and more people to feed from less and less land.

Policy makers need to vote in favor of urban beekeeping and not prevent access to jobs, affordable food, healthy food (fruits and vegetables), and education.

 


The Best Bees Company is now offering our beekeeping services in and around Los Angeles. Our proceeds fund our research to improve bee health. One of our current research studies is investigating urban beekeeping, comparing honey production and hive health in cities compared to the countryside. We are currently seeking special permissions to set up observational research hives in Los Angeles to provide local data, but our multiple emails to LA policy makers have remain unanswered. For more information about getting beehives, scheduling a complementary site consultation, bee research, speaking events, or hiring local beekeepers, please contact us at INFO@BESTBEES.COM or (617) 407-8979.

Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich is the Founder & Chief Scientific Officer of The Best Bees Company, a beekeeping service and research organization based in Boston’s South End. His research is based at the Urban Beekeeping Lab & Bee Sanctuary, where he and his team develops experimental treatments for improving the health of honey bees. In 2012, Dr. Wilson-Rich gave a Ted talk about urban beekeeping. His first book. “The Bee: A Natural History” will be published in 2014 by Princeton University Press (US) and Ivy Press Ltd. (UK).

One Response to READ: Should LA legalize urban beekeeping?

  1. Coco in the Kitchen March 10, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    We would love to help the movement to save bees. I don’t think most people understand the how important these li’l creatures are to our existence.

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