Bee Fever in Los Angeles

honey love photo

Photo: Honey Love.

This week’s LA Weekly has an article, “Could LA Become a Honeybee Mecca” detailing efforts by two groups, Honey Love and the Backwards Beekeepers, to legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles. The process, while slow, looks promising thanks to the hard work of Honey Love and sympathetic city councilman Bill Rosendahl.

The article also neatly sums up the radical “backwards” approach to beekeeping advocated by LA’s maverick urban beekeeper Kirk Anderson,

Anderson learned from apiarist Charles Martin Simon, who invented the concept of “beekeeping backwards.” Simon’s approach was stupidly simple: Give the bees a clean box, put them in it and leave them alone. If they get sick? Don’t medicate them. Let them die. Then get some more bees.

Amen. Selecting for strong bees is an approach that, in my opinion, holds the answers to colony collapse disorder.

I also like Anderson’s thoughts on mainstream beekeeper’s all consuming obsession with counting varoa mites. Anderson says, “To me it’d be like joining the Kennel Club and talking about my dog’s fleas.”

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  1. This really interests me. I’m very concerned about hive collapse. I’d like to encourage bees in my garden for pollination and I also just want to aid in the effort to keep bees abundant.

    But here are my issues: 1) I don’t like honey and I don’t want to have to collect it, 2) I have a 3yo grandson living with us and I don’t want him to get stung, 3) I don’t want to spend a lot of money.

    Are there any options for me?

  2. I love honeybees and what they do for us, but I also value native pollinators just as much, if not more so. In that regards I highly recommend putting out mason bee houses and planting lots of native plants, or just letting your vege go to seed. Ever since I started gardening in my front yard I’ve been absolutely floored by the diversity of pollinators I’ve seen in my yard, the majority of which I’d never seen before. I feel like the emphasis on saving honeybees is a large concern of monoculture, which is typically planted in such a fashion that native pollinators find it inhabitable or undesirable, hence the need for the honeybees to fill that niche. Honeybees did originate from Europe after all. Thoughts?

    • Hey Mary–absolutely. We have a native bee house that I put out two years ago and it was immediately occupied. You can see it here: We also have lots of native plants. I’ve found both native bees and honeybees on the native plants. And we have many fruit trees and other plants from the old world that appreciate honeybee pollination. For me the answer is all of the above–more habitat for all pollinators both native and honeybees.

    • How funny, I was the first to post in your old posting.. lol. To answer my own question in that post, I got a mason bee house recently in Portland. It’s made with slats of wood that has squares cut into it, and then there’s a sheet of plastic or something of the sort to separate the layers and complete the hole (the squares are kind of comb-like, so they’re open on top). The people that sold it to me gave me a pair of disposable wooden chopsticks. The end that’s joined together, once broken off, is the perfect angle for cleaning out old holes. Since the squares are open at the top like a U shape, it’s easy to scrape out. This is sorta similar, I thought they were quite genious: Where the two trays are adjacent to each other is how the hole is formed, so they come apart for very easy cleaning. I have to say though that the house I put up has been up for a few weeks at my community garden plot, and no takers yet ! It is obstructed by a giant sunflower leaf though..

    • Well, we’re Backward Beekeepers after all, so that sort of intense management of the bees is really not up our alley. I mean, bleaching the coccoons? Srsly???

      But I guess this info really is for orchardists who depend on those bees for pollination services, so I understand their anxiety. But if you step back, you might ask why these insects need so much assistance. Is it perhaps because the orchardists are trying to maintain a monoculture? Is it because they’ve provided no natural habitat for wild pollinators? Would it not be simpler, in the end, to do these these things instead of micromanaging bugs?

      Our native bee house is just a hunk of wood with holes drilled in it. It gets new occupants every year without any help from us, but it ever became unoccupied (because maybe it had become dirty/infested) we’d just make a new one, which would take all of 5 minutes. Since yours is fancier and can be disassembled, you could give it a scrub out every now and then, but I’m not sure how a home gardener would benefit from an intense maintenance cycle such as described at that link– except the educational benefit. It would be cool to see exactly what they do in there!

  3. at our city house (Indiana) – been here for approx 15 years – i have a ton of carpenter bees…i never experienced them before. they are rather silly with their dive bombing but I do worry after them because the dog jumps at them.

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