Last summer a colony of bees decided to move into my garage. I did not give it a second thought until the beehive in the wall got too big to ignore. As an architect with a practice focussed on sustainability, I knew that bees are precious creatures responsible for helping us survive by pollinating our crops and providing honey, and also that lately there have been enough reports in the press about the fact that they were dying in record numbers. All I wanted was to find somebody to safely removed them. Not kill them, for sure, but remove them and find a new home for them.
After a couple of failed attempts at contacting bee removal companies, luck had it that I found Kirk Anderson of Kirk's Urban Bees. When he showed up that afternoon with his assistant Sebastian, he immediately took care of the situation explaining that it would be a process that would require patience, know how, $150, and mostly love and respect for the bees. Kirk came back 3 or 4 times to check on the progress of the enterprise, which included setting up a temporary box for the bees to move into, until the permanent home would be found.
By then I had fallen under the spell of Kirk's charm, knowledge, and love for bees and people alike. Kirk, a house painter by trade, is a true guru... his boundless energy and know how about bees and life does not cease to amaze me. He has now decided to make a living as a full time bee person.
(213-300-7512 to order his delicious honey).
Next for me was deciding to keep the bees in my garden. I started reading about them, joined the Backwards Beekeeping Club, followed the news on the bulletin board, and...become a big bee enthusiast. I even gave a talk on bees at the Urban Livestock seminar organized by Homegrown Evolution.
It turns out that the feral urban bee is the best kept secret in the apiary world. Since most of us do not use pesticides in our gardens and mostly leave the bees alone to do what bees do, they make healthy and vibrant colonies. Backwards beekeeping follows the teachings of Charles Martin Simon, which simply put states that the commercial way is all wrong, that "backwards is the new forward"!
Commercial beekeeping breeds a larger worker bee, which on one hand can carry larger amounts of pollen and produce more honey, but also has a lower metabolism and is highly susceptible to mites, their biggest enemy. Also, commercial bees are put to work pollinating large fields treated with heavy doses of pesticides, and transported long distances under harsh conditions in order to do this work. No wander!
In our communities of Silver Lake and Echo Park, in Los Angeles, lots of us keep bees, and our club has grown to over 90 members in the last month alone (when I joined we were about 10).
It seems that lately, wherever I turn is all about bees. KPCC has done a segment on us and the LATimes has published an article, Isabella Rossellini has done short films, the Obamas have beehives at the White House, and now I get my haircut at The Hive, a new salon/art gallery down the street... BEES, BEES, BEES!
Growing one's own food is to me the height of luxury, and the economic slowdown created the time to pursue it. The garden seems more complete with the little fellows buzzing around; trees, vegetables and flowers seem to be thriving, and by summer we'll be able to taste our own honey!
So this is how the bees found me, and through them I found a new passion. Keeping an open mind and trusting the serendipitous universe seems to have worked one more time.