This weekend marked the official start of spring, an excellent time to start keeping bees, according to local bee expert Phoebe Piper, whom we met at a recent event at The Ebell of Los Angeles. Piper operates The Hive Tribe a beekeeping service, helping people keep bees on their residential property and assisting commercial growers with pollination. She said her love of animals drew her to beekeeping. She started as an apprentice learning about bee behavior and how to service and maintain the hives. Over the past five years, she said, she’s developed her business and now travels around the region helping to set up and maintain hives.
If you’re fascinated with bees and would like to try your hand at keeping, the good news is that standard LA backyards can accommodate a hive, said Piper, but she advised checking with local city rules, as they can vary. There are also a lot of factors that can affect the production of a hive, like rain and temperature, explained Piper, but generally spring is the time to get started because bees, like many insects, like warmer weather and longer days.
Piper recommends starting with Italian honeybees which can be acquired through The Valley Hive, a beekeeping supply store in Chatsworth. The next step is to find space in your yard without a lot of human contact. For example, avoid a place where you might cook or entertain. Ideally, it should be a flat, clear space without weeds. A dirt space without landscaping is best, so ants won’t crawl into the hive. The area should also get about six hours of sunlight every day, she said. And there should be a water source nearby with rocks or water plants, like a hyacinth, where bees can land and get a drink. You can make or purchase all the equipment you need, such as bee boxes and frames to stack them. Piper estimates your initial investment could be around $500.
Piper has some clients who get quite a lot of honey, which can range from 10 to 100 pounds per hive. That’s quite a range, though, so you might want to wait a bit before you give up your day job to be full time beekeeper. Piper said most of her clients keep their honey or give to family and friends. There’s a lot to learn, so she recommends connecting with the local bee keeping community, like the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association.
If you’re not into harvesting honey, but still want to support bees, consider making your yard bee friendly. In truth, honey bees are highly cultivated and don’t really need much help from us, but our native bees do. Our native bees are solitary, living in small spaces in the ground around plants. And they are a lot more friendly because they don’t have to defend their hive and honey stores from invaders. The best thing you can to help them is to stop using any pesticides, plant native plants, and leave some empty spaces that are just dirt for bees to make homes. You will get just as much enjoyment from watching these wonderful creatures pollinate the trees and plants in your yard and around your neighborhood.
“The best reason to learn more about bees it to learn more about the world around us,” said Piper. Not surprisingly, many of her clients are also gardeners already know the benefit of spending time outdoors.
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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