Bee Advocates of Long Beach working to clear space along the 710 Freeway where they plan to plant flowers to increase pollination space. Photo: Bee Advocates of Long Beach Facebook
When Shanena Brown used to operate out of the now defunct co-working space out of the Packard Building, she spent a lot of time outside when taking breaks from running her organic cosmetic company. What she noticed one day sparked an idea to start a non-profit aimed at creating a buzz for the pollinating insects that keep the world’s food supply circulating.
“I used to always see bees on the ground and they were rolling around and it just got to a point where I was like ‘what is going on with the bees? Why are they doing that?’” Brown said. “I found out that they’re dehydrated. They can only fly so long without water or they’ll just die out.”
Brown had no formal background in bees, nor is she a beekeeper, but her research into the thirsty insects stranded outside the Packard turned her on to the importance of their continued existence. As she put it, “if they die, we die” and that impetus led to the formation of her newest venture, the Bee Advocates of Long Beach.
Not to be confused with the Long Beach Beekeepers or a variety of other backyard beekeeping clubs, the Advocates don’t actually keep or offer humane bee removal services to the community. Instead, Brown said, the group is focused on actions that will provide for a more prosperous bee ecosystem in Long Beach.
“We do things that can make bees live longer,” Brown said. “For instance, we have a program where we’re cleaning up the freeway. We’re going to go in there and pull up all the ice plants and all the weeds and start planting flowers so we can make a bee sanctuary on the freeway. And that gives the bees somewhere to pollinate.”
Her permit with CalTrans, which allocated the land between Pacific Coast Highway and Willow Street on the northbound 710 Freeway to the Advocates is good for five years, though she plans to renew it before it lapses.
Once that freeway garden is up and running the group has plans to start installing hydration stations around the city. A bee hydration station is simply that, an organized location for bees to drink. They can be as simple as a bowl of water with marbles or decorative rocks inside it for safe landing, or as elaborate as a converted bird bath.
Her long-term goal is to buy a plot of land to plant flowers and vegetables on to provide a haven for bees. The garden, she said, would be called “Love-a-Bee” garden and could be Long Beach’s version of the Los Angeles Rose Garden.
To do that, though, Brown is going to have to expand the group—currently about seven members—and its revenue stream. The Bee Advocates are hosting their first ever fundraiser at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in downtown February 25. The Buzzed! Black and Yellow Cocktail Party will help to fund some of Brown’s initiatives going forward.
Bees have faced a tumultuous past decade with several alarms being sounded then silenced as bee populations leveled off. Ten years ago bees began to start disappearing leading to claims of colony collapse disorder threatening their existence.
The Environmental Protection Agency has since then issued statements to calm those fears, explaining that while there was certainly a period of alarm—2008 saw roughly 60 percent of hives lost—the rate at which hives have died off has returned to a more average figure closer to 23 percent.
Still, bees do face existential threats as evidenced by the the United States Fish and Wildlife Service designating the rusty patched bumble bee on the endangered species list last month, a first for any bee species in the continental United States.
While raising funds to meet the needs of her planned projects would be nice, Brown said the fundraiser will hopefully raise awareness of the importance of the insects to the ecosystem and help people to understand the role they play in the larger food-cycle picture.
“I don’t think that people really understand the importance of bees and that’s what I want Long Beach to understand, why they’re important,” Brown said.
The Buzzed Black and Yellow Cocktail Party will begin at 8:00PM. For more information visit www.beeadvocateslb.org or purchase tickets here.