Bee-loving in Ojai — for good reason

To report now and again for a small town newspaper means documenting something that happened or is happening in a small town, but sometimes what at first seems purely local turns out to be much bigger — even international in scope.

From the Ojai Valley News:

A move is under way in Ojai to loosen restrictions on keeping a backyard bee hive.

Kit Stolz, Ojai Valley News correspondent

An international organization of scientists, meeting in Malaysia last week, released a two-year study estimating that up to 40 percent of pollinators around the world — such as bees — face extinction. The report attributed this, in large part, due to the perils of living in a world of rapid change and industrial agriculture.

In Ojai, the young, but active, Ojai Valley Bee Club is taking action to save bees by encouraging city officials to consider a measure loosening regulations that prohibit backyard beekeeping. The club, which meets monthly, has approximately 60 members.

Glenn Perry, an award-winning researcher into bee products such as propulis and the use of bee sting therapy to ease arthritis, moved to Ojai in recent years. He said he was surprised to learn from Ventura County’s Department of Agriculture that Ojai and Ventura County discouraged beekeeping at home.

“Unless you have a large ranch of hundreds of acres, or live out in the boonies, it’s basically illegal,” Perry said. “Ojai has a specific law that regulates beekeeping, and in urbanized areas nearby, such as Meiners Oaks, or Oak View, or Casitas Springs, the county regulations prohibit backyard beekeeping.”

(I must confess, looking at that first ‘graph, it feels kind of stuffy, Probably could have done better than its second sentence, which is simultaneously vague and foreboding. Oh well.)

Nonetheless, as I indicated in the story, Mr. Glenn Perry is literally a world-famous expert in bees. It didn’t take more than a few minutes in his presence to realize how much he knew, and how carefully he answered questions, and how focused his efforts were, and why they had such importance.

Perry, who helped start the Bee Club, argues that local bee hives support the health of important pollinators such as bees, are not dangerous, and should be supported by growers and gardeners alike.

Curtis Skene, who helps lead the larger and older Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association, agrees.

“Absolutely backyard beekeeping helps,” he said. “Bees are under pressure and in danger from all kinds of problems and predators and pesticides. Backyard bee-keeping is very important because it helps keep stocks strong,” he said.

Perry and others from the club reached out to Ojai City Councilman William Weirick, who has expressed a willingness to look at revising regulations to encourage backyard beekeeping.

“We know that that there are pressures on the bee population that are poorly understood and we know that these important pollinating species are being put at risk,” Weirick said. “We also know that bee hives have a much higher over-wintering survival rate in urban areas than in rural areas, and, we know that honey-producing activity is much higher in urban areas than rural, and so it appears that urban beekeeping is something of a refuge for the bees, and a help in their continuing survival.”

In fact bee-keeping is on the upswing across the nation, but especially amongst the trend-setters, in places like Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and New York.

(Bee-keeping is perfectly legal in New York City in fact, as long as bee-keepers follow a few basic rules and register their hives with the city.)

It’s inspiring stuff — local folks making a difference, helping to keep the natural world alive. beekeepersbba

[bee-keeper photo from sbba]

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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