Bee Massacre at Hayes Valley Farm

Hundreds of thousands of dead bees. Source: Hayes Valley Farm

Wow. Someone in San Francisco clearly doesn’t like bees. Or, perhaps, doesn’t like urban farming. Maybe it’s both. Whatever the underlaying motivation, the result is the destruction of two healthy colonies of bees, and a major blow to a third, that were being cultivated at the Hayes Valley Farm. A 2-acre sliver of land under what used to be the Central Freeway, the farm has been springing to life this year, under the care of a large group of urban farming advocates and volunteers.

At some point between July 20 and 21, a pesticide was intentionally sprayed into into the entrances and ventilation holes of the hives, according to the Hayes Valley Farm blog. In each of the two destroyed hives, up to 100,000 individuals bees perished. The third hive lost more than half of its population.

The emotional toll this will have on SF’s strong bee-keeping community is obvious. But more important is the blow that this bit of eco-terrorism will have on the farm’s mission and that of SF Bee Cause, a group that is working to promote apiculture in San Francisco. I’d hazard a guess that the perps did this mainly for its economic impact.

“Each was well on her way to producing 20-30 medium frames of honey that we planned to sell to support the work of SFBC,” writes Karen Peteros of the hives, in a blog post. “When considering the replacement cost of the equipment and hive contents which must be discarded, the market value of the thriving colonies, as well as the market value of the honey in the hives and to be produced by the colonies into October, the economic loss is in the range of $1,000 per hive.”

To grassroots efforts like these, that’s real money.

Samples of the pesticide and dead bees are going to be analyzed to determine the exact substance used. Who knows the underlaying motivations for the attack–Peteros imagines it could have been an anti-bee message, but counters that the European honey bees being raised rarely sting and never attack the way other species do, which is why raising bees is legal in San Francisco. Whatever the reasons, the farm, which is supported by the San Francisco Parks Trust and offers a range of classes and workshops in urban gardening basics, beekeeping and sustainable landscape design, has been dealt a real blow.

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to www.mcoconnor.com.