By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Ceebs Bailey, who is a stalwart member of the Backwards Beekeepers and a HoneyLove staffer, was stung 30 times on the face the first time she inspected a hive. She was new to beekeeping and cavalier about it. Without even smoking it, wearing only a straw hat, she popped open the box.
"Bees have facial recognition," she says wryly. "So they know to go for your eyes." She ran to the garage, shut the door, shucked off her clothes. The bees were waiting outside.
"But it was good!" she insists. "It was a good lesson. I went out the next day and bought a full suit."
A week after that, she fought the fear and was back out doing rescues. For a while, she experienced phantom pains. "Every time my phone vibrated, I was up on the ceiling."
The experience didn't make her hate bees. "God love 'em," she says, laughing heartily. "You can't blame 'em. If I came into your house, tore the roof off, stole your children, raided your fridge, rearranged your furniture and killed a couple cousins while I was at it? You'd be mad at me, too. That's what we do to them every single time."
Bees die when they sting you. Bailey once watched a bee sting her glove. The stinger remained embedded in the leather. But as the creature flew away, a thin, silvery thread unfurled behind it like a kite string: It was the bee's intestines.
"It's a sacrifice," she says. "They're not just doing it to be shitty."
Anderson hasn't gotten rich off of bees. He paints houses for a living.
But in his time as a Backwards Beekeeper, he has taken bees out of attics, walls, barbecue grills and worm bins. He's taken them out of roofs, vacuum cleaners, speaker boxes, cat litter boxes, squirrel boxes, owl boxes and mailboxes. He's taken them out of beer coolers, and file cabinets, and chests of drawers and empty paint cans. He recently took a hive out of the old aviary at the L.A. Zoo. It had been there for four years by itself. "Totally unmanipulated by man. It was 4 feet across, 6 feet long. I bet there was 50,000 bees in there."
Conversely, he has put bees into the homes of doctors, lawyers, producers and Hollywood directors. For a while, Anderson put bees into the Chinatown community garden. When the board of directors wanted the bees out, retired California State Supreme Court justice Carlos Moreno, who happened to be on the board and whose house Anderson had happened to paint, said, "Put them in my backyard, Kirk."
Anderson drums his fingers on the steering wheel of his truck as he talks. The truck is battered, crammed with crap and, at the moment, parked illegally in front of a fire hydrant near the Los Feliz house of an ACLU lawyer. Anderson put bees in the attorney's house not long ago. He feels no urgent need to see them; knowing they are around is enough.
He starts the engine. In a minute, he will head out to the corner of Highland and Melrose avenues, where he has bees on the roof of the Italian restaurant Mozza2Go.
"You know Batali?" he asks. Celebrity chef Mario Batali co-owns the restaurant. "They sell comb honey with a little cheese and a glass of wine. Probably costs a million dollars." He laughs at the irony: The Mozza bees came from a water meter in La Crescenta.
Despite its humble provenance (or maybe because of it), foodies swear by Anderson's local honey. Last year, he sold most of it — some 500 bottles — to gourmet butchers Lindy and Grundy.
Anderson, who counts himself among the working poor, has never eaten at Mozza or anywhere like it, though they have offered to buy him pizza.
"A lot of times when those type of people call you, there's something in it for them." What's in it for him? "It's just another place to have bees. And I can tell people they're on the restaurant and they can go, 'Oh wow.' "
City beekeeping is not without its challenges — neighbors foremost among them. Most urban beekeepers quickly learn to butter up their neighbors with honey.
"Neighbors are key to everything we do," Rosendahl says. "Educating them is critical. Letting them know the bees will leave you alone. The bee isn't running after you unless you're running after it."
Anderson is slightly less politic. A lady who was keeping bees received a letter of complaint from the city. What should I do about it, she asked him?
"Put it in your smoker," Anderson said.
He explains, "It was against the law when Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus. Someone had to do it. Backwards Beekeepers, we're kind of like in the front of the bus."
No one had really tried to legalize bees in Los Angeles before Rob and Chelsea McFarland. Probably no one wanted to slog through the minutiae of it. Besides, people were doing what they wanted to anyway on the premise that it is easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. It's not like there was a whole lot of punishment going on. Jan Selder, director of operations at the city's Department of Animal Services, can't remember enforcing a single beekeeping violation in her 18 years of fieldwork. Neither can anyone at code enforcement. "No one really goes out on bee calls," Selder says.
Very well written. Domestic vs wild bees reminds us of helpless domestic pigs compared to tough healthy wild pigs.
Cool more people need to do this and cut out the scumbag middlemen. Scumbag Guerrilla beekeepers "rescue" in OC wanted to put their hives on MY yard to harvest MY nectar from MY flowers and only give me 3% of the honey and sell the rest at farmer's market to dimbulbs for $10 a pound. I'm learning all i can on my own and will harvest my own honey soon enough. IRS needs to investigate them if they have non-profit status.
@bigpapapump nothing wrong with it per se. I mean, people want to be self sustainable...why not bee keeping?
@-paulc- @bigpapapump Absolutely nothing wrong with bee keeping. How else would I get the sweet delicious nectar I put on my bran flakes every morning? However, those two in the picture, are not bee keepers. They're A & F automatons sent by the marketing dept to boost sales of "farmer chic" clothing to young adults with lots of discretionary income to blow on authentic vintage bee keep gear.Bleep bloop, I am bee keeper, bloop bloop, Kombucha bleeep, backyard chicken coop, bloop, bleep, grow tomatoes and rhubarb, bleeeeeeep, bee tattoo on my neck, bleep.
@-paulc- @bigpapapump Absolutely nothing wrong with bee keeping. How else would I get the sweet delicious nectar I put on my bran flakes every morning? However, those two in the picture, are not bee keepers. They're A & F automatons sent by the marketing dept to boost sales of "farmer chic" clothing to young adults with lots of discretionary income to blow on authentic vintage bee keep gear.
Bleep bloop, I am bee keeper, bloop bloop, Kombucha bleeep, backyard chicken coop, bloop, bleep, grow tomatoes and rhubarb, bleeeeeeep, bee tattoo on my neck, bleep.
Great article! As a future beekeeper and current member of the Beekeepers' Association of Southern California (BASC), I appreciate any article that helps to promote the welfare of bees. While I don't have a hive yet, I'm learning all I can about them.
One of the simple ways the average person can help the bees is to plant bee-friendly plants. They LOVE oregano and borage, lavender, and agapanthus; in the fall--zinnia, asters. If you don't have flowering plants of various types, you can set up a bee trough -- a shallow dish with water and rocks or sticks for the bees to land on. Bees need a lot of water, and if you keep the dish filled with fresh water, they'll learn to use it.
Don't be afraid -- bees communicate via pheremones, and when you get anxious or scared around bees, you exude the same pheremone that is the alarm for them -- then they sting, because it's how they react to that scent. Stay calm, move slowly, and think good thoughts about how the bee is only out foraging and not at war with you--in the field, they've got no queen or hive to protect, and they react only if they think they themselves are in danger. You'll find that the bees stay calm, as well.