12/8/10

Backwards Beekeepers in The New York Times


Kristina Shevory has this piece in the New York Times today about the continuing rise of urban beekeeping and the struggle to gain legalization in many cities. Our own Daniel Salisbury and Max Wong are prominently featured. As Kirk would point out, we're changing the world:

In Los Angeles, the Backwards Beekeepers club has 400 members — up from six members two years ago...

Santa Monica models itself as an environmentally conscious city, but it has long banned beekeeping. So when city inspectors found three hives in Daniel Salisbury’s backyard two years ago, they insisted he move them. He took the hives north to his mother’s house in San Luis Obispo County, where beekeeping is legal, but he also began a drive to legalize hives in Santa Monica.

He has become so well known that people at his city-owned trailer park call to alert him when exterminators, retained by the Santa Monica housing agency, are headed toward bee swarms.

“I would chase down the swarms and literally run with my clippers to get the branch before Orkin showed up,” said Mr. Salisbury, 47, an antiques dealer, referring to a large pest-control company.

Over the last two years, Mr. Salisbury has attended Santa Monica City Council meetings, recruited a Los Angeles beekeeping club to help, and launched an e-mail legalization campaign joined by hundreds worldwide. On Tuesday, the Santa Monica City Council is scheduled to reconsider the beekeeping ban, and supporters of legalization are optimistic.

Max Wong, a Los Angeles beekeeper who has been helping Mr. Salisbury with his drive, hopes to wield some of the same political techniques in a legalization push in her city. Beekeeping rules there are a patchwork, with the hobby legal on one side of a street and illegal on the other.

“We’re in trouble and the bees are in trouble,” said Ms. Wong, 42, a member of the Backwards Beekeepers club. “We need to do something.”

Ms. Wong, a film producer who started keeping bees a year ago, wants to legalize bees not just to help hobbyists like herself, but to help feed and employ others. She sees bees as the best way to increase vegetable pollination in local community gardens and thinks that some people, like a few members of her club, could even become professional beekeepers.

Like Mr. Barrett from Queens and other new beekeepers, Ms. Wong is developing a close relationship with her bees, and she wants to ensure that others can enjoy the hobby as much as she does.

“It’s like having 35,000 pets,” she said. “I’m hyperactive, so anything that shuts down my brain is a good thing. When I’m working at a hive, I’m quiet and meditative.”

The Beekeeper Next Door (The New York Times)

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