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Monday, March 10, 2014

Is Backyard Beekeeping The Next Big Thing In SoCal?

Most people, I think, are somewhat aware of the massive bee die-off over the last decade and how it is affecting crops around the globe. Starting in the Fall of 2006, beekeepers in the United States began reporting losses of 30% to 90% of their hives. While colony losses are not unexpected, especially over the winter, the magnitude of recent losses has been unusually high. Honey bees pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the U.S., including the nearly $4 billion California almond crop now blooming in the Central Valley that depends on 1.4 million of the rented hives to grow the nuts. Honey bees pollinate roughly 1/3 of the food Americans consume, and we also eat over 400 million pounds of honey in America each year.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the name given to the mysterious condition decimating the honey bee population that is being blamed on everything from using a combination of certain pesticides to global warming to trucking hives of stressed out bees all over the place to pollinate. CCD isn't going to be solved by backyard beekeepers, but I thought it was pretty interesting to see that the City of Torrance and the City of Los Angeles might be joining other towns across the country like New York, Santa Monica and our own Redondo Beach in allowing residents to raise honey bees for their own use, as well as to help with commercial growing.

Redondo Beach has actually allowed backyard beekeeping since 2012, but it has been just a few local hobbyists who have applied for permits. This new movement is designed to get an urban crusade moving fast after an especially brutal, unexplained die-off of the bees after Winter of last year. Another goal of increased petitioning for urban backyard beekeeping is just simply to get people educated. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, produce values would plummet by $15 billion in our country alone if we can't find a way pretty quickly to provide the bees with a healthy ecosystem. It's a scary problem...but we are a nation of problem solvers so I would love to hear what some of your thoughts about this are.

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