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What's That Buzz in Mar Vista?

The Mar Vista Community Council is studying a proposal to legalize beekeeping in the neighborhood.

Mar Vista may soon become home to the city of Los Angeles’ first urban beekeeping farms. The Mar Vista Community Council unanimously approved a feasibility study Tuesday on legalizing beekeeping within the coastal enclave.

The move comes as scientists seek to explain the mysterious death of billions of bees nationwide, a problem many experts think urban beekeeping could help ameliorate.

“We will have no more bees by 2033 if nothing is done,” warned Rob McFarland of the urban beekeeping advocacy group Backwards Beekeepers. “The future of beekeeping is not one man with 60,000 hives, but rather 60,000 men with one hive.”

Honeybees pollinate more than a third of America’s crops. Many farmers in the Central Valley import the insects every year to pollinate almond trees and other important regional crops.

Millions of hives have collapsed without warning in recent years. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says beekeepers began reporting the inexplicable loss of 30-90 percent of their hives during the winter of 2006-07. EPA officials attribute the phenomenon to Colony Collapse Disorder, the cause of which continues to elude scientists. Theories include an invasive mite and harsh pesticides used to protect crops.

The Backwards Beekeepers—named for celebrated writer-beekeeper Charles Martin Simon's philosophy that people should conform to nature instead of forcing nature to conform to them—formed in 2008 to promote urban beekeeping in Los Angeles. Urban beekeeping, the group leaders say, allows bees to thrive in highly controlled environments.

One of the Backwards Beekeepers’ major accomplishments is the legalization of beekeeping in Santa Monica last year. Before the city ordinance passed in 2010, Santa Monica had a blanket policy of euthanizing bees in so-called “feral” hives.

The Backwards Beekepers had a strong presence at the Mar Vista Community Council meeting Tuesday to support a proposed resolution legalizing beekeeping. “This gives bees another get-out-of-jail-free card,” McFarland told the council. "We believe this is a necessary measure requiring immediate action,” he said.

Mar Vista resident Mark Lebovitz has battled numerous bouts of cancer and ascribes his current good health to a well-balanced diet high in organic fruits and vegetables.“Food is my medicine,” he said. “Suddenly, we’re looking into the possibility that we’re not going to have any more good foods to eat.”

Council members enthusiastically embraced the idea of urban beekeeping, with Kate Anderson even volunteering up her backyard for the venture.

Maurice Vickers of Backwards Beekeepers voiced his approval of the council’s vote outside the after the meeting. Legalizing beekeeping, Vickers said, just makes sense. “After all, bees are keeping themselves all over Mar Vista. Are they here legally or do they have to have someone’s approval? I think it's better to have a controlled beekeeping situation. … Let’s put bees in their rightful place,” he said.

Once the study is complete, the council will decide whether to legalize beekeeping in Mar Vista.

Sherri Akers June 19, 2011 at 01:30 PM
The feasibility study will go on for about two months. During that time, education and outreach will be vital as we develop support in the community. We will have a community screening of Vanishing of the Bees at Venice High on Saturday, July 16 · 1:30pm - 4:30pm. With community support, we will go back to the board in September with a motion to ask the City of LA to let us do a Mar Vista pilot project on urban beekeeping. MVCC Boardmember Maritza Przekop will be working with LA City Planning. Our hope is that we launch a successful pilot in Mar Vista that leads to urban beekeeping becoming legal throughout LA.
Christy Wilhelmi June 20, 2011 at 08:20 PM
I was in a yard just yesterday with a beehive and didn't even notice it was there until someone pointed it out. The bees were coming and going, doing their good work without disturbing the party of 12 or so that had gathered. There's definitely room in MV for bees and beekeepers.
Sherri Akers June 27, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Join us this Sunday July 3rd at the MVCC Green Tent at the Mar Vista Farmers Market to learn more and meet the people from Backwards Beekeepers!

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