On his Del Rey rooftop, McFarland pried open a hive on a recent Tuesday to show a reporter rows of wooden frames coated with bees, moseying over honeycomb. He estimates as many as 30,000 bees call it home, but neighbors and passersby would scarcely know it was there if he hadn’t told them about it. In Santa Monica, police and city officials says backyard beekeeping hadn’t caused any serious problems.
The idea still stirs up fears. City Council member Bernard Parks asked city staffers to make sure the report explains how hazards and potential health issues such as bee allergies would be addressed. Before the meeting, McFarland argued that beekeeping would actually diminish those threats, because people were less likely to be stung by a “managed colony” than by untended bees. Koretz and other backers also says that worries about aggressive Africanized bees, a concern raised by some biologists and critics, were overblown because such bees had long since interbred.
Experienced beekeepers know how to handle a hive that turns aggressive, but “the worry is if someone just doesn’t pay attention,” UCLA ecology professor Peter Nonacs says.
Besides exploring backyard beekeeping, the City Council also voted to instruct the Bureau of Street Services, which handles calls about unwanted hives, to promote alternatives to extermination such as relocating “nuisance” hives. It also threw its support behind a federal bill calling for certain pesticides to be suspended until they were proved not to harm bees and other pollinators.
“If we don’t vote for it,” Councilman Mitchell Englander joked before the unanimous vote, “it’ll be a buzz kill.”
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