SF Bee Cause director and beekeeper extraordinaire Karen Peteros talked to the media last afternoon, as a group of reporters clustered around the sad sight of thousands of dead bees in and around two of three hives that were attacked by an unknown person who sprayed insecticide into their entrances, probably on Tuesday night.
A few of the bees were still wiggling a little, but Peteros said none of them can be saved.
“They’ve been poisoned,” she said, as a carnivorous wasp pulled at a dead bee carcass next to her feet.
“We’ll be able to salvage the bee hive boxes,” Peteros added, explaining how she’ll have to scorch and set the boxes aside for a year to make sure they are clear of poisons.
Peteros acknowledged that some folks are deadly afraid of bees, and noted that the Hayes Valley Farm had a number of interactions with a neighbor who complained about bees.
“But when fear takes over any rational consideration of science, that’s too bad,” she said.
Peteros told reporters how bees are crucial pollinators to the world’s food supply, and produce honey, which has anti-microbial properties, and propolis (the resin bees collect from trees to help glue their hive together), which is used in the cosmetics industry.
“And then there’s apitherapy, in which people get bees to sting them at the site of arthritis or other degenerative disorders, to shock their immune systems in a beneficial way.
Peteros said she is not aware of any other violence against honey bees being committed in San Francisco, other than folks perhaps kicking over hives and/or trying to steal honey.
“I’ve never heard of anyone spraying pesticide into a hive,” she said. “I get it that for some folks, a bee sting can be deadly. But bees aren’t interested in people, they are interested in flowers, and only certain flowers that produce nectar and pollen that they want. So, just because some folks are afraid of bees, mostly because they are confusing them with yellow jacket wasps which are aggressive and sting repeatedly, is no reason to exclude hives from a city, especially a city that encourages urban agriculture and therefore needs pollinators.”
Hayes Valley Farm is planning a wake for all their poor dead bees this Sunday afternoon.
“But we can’t compost them because they are contaminated with pesticide,” Peteros said.
“Bees are wildlife, wonderful creatures right in our midst,” she added. “We are trying to create transitional job opportunities based on apiculture, so folks can assist community gardens who want to attract and cultivate bees.
“We have other hives at Alemany Farm, so we can sell honey to get revenue,” she said. “If people want to contribute to help us replace the lost hives and bees, they can got to the Hayes Valley Farm website and mark their donation for bees. No amount is too small.”
Looking into the future, Peteros said the farm has a vision of getting an acre of land at McLaren Park, which has a lot of wild areas.
“The dream is to do a pollinator demonstration garden that attracts a multitude of pollinators, including bees and butterflies,” Peteros said. “And we are talking to the Friends of the Urban Forest about the ‘wildlife factor’ when they do plantings.”
Last but not least, Peteros explained why San Francisco is a particularly great city to raise and attract bees.
“It’s because of all our eucalyptus trees,” Peteros said, acknowledging that her answer likely won’t please native plant enthusiasts. “But because the blue gums bloom in December and the red gum bloom until October, there are only two months when something isn’t blooming that’s a good source of pollen and nectar.”