Los Angeles is One Step Closer to Legalizing Bees

Los Angeles bee legalization

Hats off to the folks at HoneyLove for the hard work they are doing to legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles. This Wednesday they got a unanimous vote out of the city council to ask city staff to come up with a way to legalize beekeeping in residential areas as well as ways to encourage humane bee removal. While much hard work is ahead, HoneyLove’s strategy should serve as a model to people everywhere who are taking a look at our overly restrictive municipal codes as they relate to urban agriculture.

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Legalize Beekeeping in LA!

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Action alert: LA City Council will vote on legalizing bees this Wednesday. I got the following note from Francesca De La Rosa–If you’re in LA please consider writing your councilcritter or attending the council meeting.

As you’ve heard, LA City Council is voting on 3 pending bee measures on Wednesday, February 12th (press conference at 9:15 am). These are the three items that will be voted on:

#1: LEGALIZE URBAN BEEKEEPING IN LOS ANGELES
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=12-0785

#2: SAVING AMERICA’S POLLINATORS ACT
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=13-0002-S134

#3 HUMANE POLICY FOR LIVE BEE REMOVAL
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=13-1660

We hope to see you at City Hall on Feb. 12. But before that, we still need to build support and secure commitments from the Councilmembers. We urge you to reach out to the City Councilmembers by email, asking them to vote yes on all three motions. 

Please send out a simple email to each of the Councilmembers with the following:

Greetings Councilmember __________,

My name is ____________, and I urge you to support Council Files 12-0785 (Legalize Urban Beekeeping in Los Angeles), 13-0002-S134 (Saving America’s Pollinators Act), and 13-1660 (Humane Policy for Live Bee Removal).

Bees are essential to urban food production, providing local environmental and economic benefits through pollination and honey production. Over the past several years, honeybee colonies throughout the United States have experienced high rates of loss and many are in danger of collapse. Los Angeles, with its diverse pollen sources, is an urban oasis for bees, which are also threatened by heavy pesticide application in rural areas. Legalizing beekeeping in our neighborhoods gives our communities a resource to humanely and non-lethally care for healthy bee colonies.

Emails and phone numbers:

Councilmember Gil Cedillo (CD-1): councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (CD-2): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield (CD-3): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Tom LaBonge (CD-4): councilmember.Labonge@lacity.org

Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD-5): [email protected]

Councilmember Nury Martinez (CD-6): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Felipe Fuentes (CD-7): councilmember.fuentes@lacity.org

Councilmember Bernard Parks (CD-8): councilmember.parks@lacity.org

Councilmember Curren Price (CD-9): councilmember.price@lacity.org

Council President Herb Wesson (CD-10): councilmember.wesson@lacity.org

Councilmember Mike Bonin (CD-11): councilmember.bonin@lacity.org

Councilmember Mitchel Englander (CD-12): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (CD-13): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Jose Huizar (CD-14): councilmember.huizar@lacity.org

Councilmember Joe Buscaino (CD-15): councildistrict15@lacity.org

Feel free to use your personal email address if you cannot send one from your work address.

Ask Lowes and Home Depot to Stop Killing Bees

Vintage Valentines -"Won't-cha BEE my lovin' honey?"

If you haven’t heard, Friends of the Earth is swarming (ahem) Home Depot and Lowes with cards around Valentines Day, asking these retailers to “show the bees some love” and stop selling bee-killing pesticides (neonicotinoids) and garden plants which have been pre-poisoned with such pesticides.

In our opinion, systemic pesticides, like Imidacloprid (which is a neonictinoid) should preferably not be used at all, and certainly should not be sold casually to uninformed consumers in big box stores.  If you want to read more about the relationship between these poisons and bees, check out this Wikipedia article: Imidacloprid Effects on Bees

The Valentine’s Day stunt is just that, a stunt, but a cute one, and a worthwhile one, too. We’re going to send our Valentines off this year, and we hope you’ll join us.

If you give Friends of the Earth your email address, they’ll send you a reminder, a printable valentine, and further instructions about where to mail your cards.  Go here for that.

Oh, and here’s a petition on the subject to the two stores’ CEO’s as well.

Help us With a Fodder System for our Hens

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A big commercial fodder system. We need something much smaller!

I feel somewhat guilty about having our five hens in a confined coop/run. Ideally they’d be grazing on green pasture all day. But our abundant urban predators, lack of space and dry climate make the vision of hens clucking on verdant fields a challenge.

I’m thinking of building a DIY fodder system but I’m a bit confused by the instructions I’ve seen floating about the interwebs. Which is where you come in. Have you built a fodder system? Do you know any good instructions? How big should it be for five hens? Or do you know of a reasonable off-the-shelf option? In our climate I think I can keep it outside.

Leave some ideas, notions and links in the comments:

We’re Thankful for . . .

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Sorry for the bad pic–Phoebe is impossible to photograph.

All of you, our dear readers–for your love and support. And for providing a lively dialog in our comment section.

We’re also thankful that our cat Phoebe has been granted another cat life. We really thought we’d have to put her down last week but she has recovered. While her defective heart means she won’t live a long life, we’re grateful for every day she graces our presence.  Perhaps I should say my presence, since she’s imperious towards everyone else, Kelly and her veterinarian.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season.

New Phoebe Update/Question

Phoebe

UPDATE:  We called the vet and it seems her lethargy and odd behavior might be due to nausea, as well as just being freaked out. We’re treating the nausea and hopefully she’ll start eating and drinking and come back to herself. So we’re a little more relaxed around here. Thanks to all the people who commented!

Phoebe responded well to treatment at the vet–oxygen levels at normal, breathing eased–so she was released last night. This is the good news. The not-so-good news is that she’s been acting strangely since she got home. The moment we let her out of her crate we saw that she was not at 100%, which was disappointing, but not surprising after an overnight stay in a scary, brightly lit, vet office with a barking Yorkie as a roommate.

We’ve been keeping her in our room, so that the other two cats can’t harass her. I figure she feels threatened when her strength is down. I thought that maybe a long sleep would put her to rights, but she’s acting just the same this morning.   She’s moving slow, staring into space, doing odd things like hunkering down with her head over her water dish and just staying in that position, not drinking, not doing anything.  She doesn’t want to interact with us at all. Still, as far as I can tell, she’s not struggling to get enough air, like she was before.

My question is this: Do cats behave oddly after hospital stays? I’ve never had a cat do an overnight before, or undergo so much treatment. Do any of you have experience with this? I’m not sure if she’s ill, tired, just freaked out, (all three?) or maybe even angry with us. She’s given me a few baleful looks with those yellow eyes.

This behavior is worrisome to us because while we’re willing to do whatever we can to give her time,  we want her time to be good. And so far, it’s been really good time. But we don’t want to be instrumental in keeping her alive in a frail, zombie-like state. That’s no life for a cat.

An update on Phoebe

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A whole lot of animal lovers read Root Simple, and so we get a lot of inquires about how our special cat, Phoebe, is doing. Because we know so many people care–and at risk of making this a maudlin sick pet blog–we wanted to let you know she’s in the hospital tonight (Monday night) and will probably be there most of tomorrow. She started having trouble breathing today, and needs to spend some time in a box full of oxygen, while her genius veterinarian, Dr. Zimmerman, does some tests and re-jiggers her treatment program.

Phoebe is in heart failure–and has been for almost two years now. That’s a really good run for a cat born with a ridiculous handbag for a heart. We can’t hope for too much more. It is possible that her heart simply can’t function well enough any more to sustain her, but we’re hoping that an adjustment of her meds will buy her a few more good months, and we’ll be able to bring her home tomorrow night. We won’t know until tomorrow.

It’s hard to leave a pet behind in a vet’s office, even such a good vet. Poor Phoebe will be sleeping in big plexiglass box with oxygen inputs and hand-holes, like The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. But she was looking mightily pissed off instead of sickly by the time we left, which means she felt much more herself. And at least we know she won’t be suffering tonight, fighting for air.

Now we are home with our other two cats, Trout and Buck, collectively known as the boys. Compared to them, Phoebe is a silent shadow, the most invisible of cats. Yet tonight, the house seems quiet and empty, even though the boys are galloping around in circles like idiots, yowling, like they always do this time of night. Without us realizing it, Phoebe quietly filled up a big space in our house. It’s the same in our hearts.

The Africanized Bee Myth

Beekeeping is on the way to being legalized in Los Angeles. But there’s one issue that keeps coming up: Africanized bees.

African honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata) were introduced to the Americas in Brazil in 1957. Over the years, on their journey north, they have hybridized with European honeybees (Apis mellifera). African and hybrid “Africanized” honeybees can’t tolerate cold temperatures so there is a northern boundary to their territory.

Visually, Africanized honeybees are indistinguishable from purebred European varieties. The only way you can tell the difference is through DNA testing. They are just a hybridized subspecies of honeybee.

The hysteria over African honeybees is just that, hysteria. I have helped move many hives here from walls, trees and kitchen vents to people who have wanted to have bees. Most likely, all of the hives I have moved have been Africanized. I have yet to encounter a feral hive that I would consider aggressive. Africanized bees should not be used as an excuse to ban beekeeping in Los Angeles or anywhere else that has Africanized bee populations.

The people fanning the Africanized bee hysteria all have agendas (and, I’ll point out, they have never actually worked with Africanized bees–only killed them). Exterminators want your money. Government bureaucrats need an enemy to justify their jobs and pensions (government vector control “experts” the TSA, NSA and DEA have a lot in common including a bumbling incompetence). Conventional beekeepers are so blinded by honey production and pollination service income that they fail to see the long term evolutionary advantages of African bee genetics, specifically disease resistance. And I can’t help but think there’s a subconscious racism here of the sort that you find at the extreme end of the anti-invasive species movement (see Gert Gröning and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn for more on that subject).

Africanized colonies have been living for years in walls, trees and utility boxes of the warmer parts of North America without any human intervention. They have, through the process of natural selection, survived all the problems that have decimated the hives of commercial beekeepers: varroa mite, American Foul Brood, nosema, etc. and I have no doubt they will figure out how to deal with the small hive beetle. Instead of demonizing Africanized colonies, we should see a possible answer to colony collapse disorder. As permaculturalists like to say, in the problem is a solution.

Are We Keeping Too Many Bees?

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Image: Jonalthunder

Someday I’ll get around to writing a fill in the blanks form for journalists doing the inevitable urban homesteading backlash story. You know, “Folks are tired of all the chores and are dumping their [chickens/vegetables/bees] and returning to a life of [shopping/golfing/riding jet skis].” This month’s backlash story concerns urban beekeeping in London.

Reader Cassandra Silver (who has a really beautiful blog) alerted us to a bee story in the Independent, “How do-gooders threaten humble bee.” The gist of the article is that urban beekeepers in London have more hives than the nectar and pollen sources can support:

The London Beekeepers Association (LBKA) is warning that there could be “too many bees” in the Greater London area for the environment to sustain. One beehive needs 120kg of nectar and 20kg to 30kg of pollen a year to sustain its bees; honey production will decrease if there are not enough pollinator-friendly plants to meet demand.

I’m confused about the article and the quotes from the BLKA. Is the concern about the bees or about having less honey? Focusing on honey can indeed lead to bee overpopulation. Bee populations self-regulate. If there are not enough food sources colonies will die off.

That is, unless people are feeding bee colonies sugar to prop them up (and I assume they are because feeding bees is one of the many misguided bits of advice that mainstream beekeeping organizations promulgate). Natural beekeeper Michael Bush has many good reasons for not feeding bees except under certain limited circumstances. One of the unintended consequence of feeding bees is that you could easily contribute to an overpopulation problem. It would be better to let populations decline and stabilize, in my opinion.

One good thing that might come out of London’s alleged bee overpopulation problem, that the article points out, is that the situation might prompt people to plant more flowering plants. Public and private urban spaces all over the world would benefit from landscaping that takes pollinators into account. Such landscapes tend to be beautiful, nourishing both to the bees and the human soul.

On Monday, the African bee myth.