Photo via Hayes Valley Farm
I was just at Hayes Valley Farm this past Sunday, volunteering at the urban farm turning a crumbling freeway into crop land for local food production and education. I was working within 15 feet of two bee hives the entire time and barely noticed the insects as they went about their busy day. With bees acting as such neighborly workers, buzzing around to pollinate our city's plants and produce fantastic honey, what would bring someone to come to the farm earlier this week and spray pesticides at the entrances of the hives, wiping out two thriving hives of 60,000-100,000 bees each and killing about 60% of a third hive? It's along the line of those crazy people who go around tossing poison-laced meat into the backyards of dog owners. As urban farming, and with it urban beekeeping, grow in popularity (and necessity), an incident like this calls into question the acceptance of urban bee keeping by citizens.
Hayes Valley Farm reports, "Sometime between the late afternoons of Monday July 19 and Tuesday July 20, an unknown person(s) intentionally sprayed pesticide into the entrances and ventilation holes of the two San Francisco Bee-Cause (SFBC) honey bee colonies at HVF. The same person(s) tried to do the same to a third, smaller colony on site, belonging to Chris Burley.
"...Each colony was healthy and thriving...well on her way to producing 20-30 medium frames of honey that we planned to sell to support the work of SFBC. The honey was to be extracted during a HVF Honey Extraction class to take place on August 1st and another to be scheduled for September/October... The economic loss is in the range of $1,000 per hive. Beyond the economic loss, however, is the emotional loss and the loss of educational opportunity the hives were to provide at HVF."
Urban Beekeeping Faces the Challenge of Educating People to Appreciate, and Co-Exist with Insects
As mentioned by Hayes Valley Farm, the hives, along with three more on their way to the farm, were to be used for beekeeping classes not found anywhere else in the Bay Area. The loss of the hives represents a significant setback in educating people about the role bees can and must play in urban environments, and how we can keep our own hives to help counter the impacts of colony collapse disorder. Keeping bees, by the way, is legal in San Francisco since honey bees are not considered dangerous -- it's wasps that cause the majority of stings.
But the loss (read: murder) of these hives provides another lesson for urban beekeepers: in an environment where people have killed off so many insects first through paving over habitat and then through pesticides -- effectively training ourselves to think that insects are nuisances that should live elsewhere -- it's going to be a long haul for many cities to get residents on board with bee hives.
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