The Buzz on Bees

Hello!  I’m Katie, a backyard beekeeper in West Adams.  My bees live in boxes behind a garage about 25 feet from my house.  Beekeeping has recently become legal in Los Angeles and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a person interested in gardening, food production, or the natural world.  I started becoming fascinated by bees a few years ago and began reading, researching, and attending local beekeeper meetings with the organization, HoneyLove.  

Apr17bee2 Swarms 

Have you ever seen a large group of bees flying together or gathered in a clump on a tree branch?  That’s a swarm, and swarms can happen (and are happening) a lot at this time of year in Southern California.  

A swarm of bees is half of a hive that has decided to leave their original home and find a new place.  The swarm takes the old queen and the hive left at the original spot will raise a new one.  Bees swarm as a way to reproduce.  If you think of a hive as a superorganism, with individuals making up a larger whole, the hive turns into two organisms when it splits.  The bees that swarm make more room for the hive leftover to expand and the swarmers must find a new home to begin making wax and storing food.

Swarms are some of the most easy going bees to encounter.  They are not defending a hive so they’re very unlikely to sting.  They also eat a lot of honey before they leave since they won’t have any food stored where they’re starting a new home, so they’re full and sleepy.  As they hang out in a clump around the queen, single scout bees will leave and look for a new, dry, spacious place to live.  When they find one (sometimes in your compost bin or wall) they will move there in a group.

While they’re hanging out and scouts are coming and going it’s very easy for an experienced beekeeper to put them in a box and relocate them.  

What can you do?

Bees need safe places to live in cities, like your backyard! But if you’re not ready to manage a hive yourself there are several other things you can do to be a bee ally.

-Call a beekeeper, not an exterminator.  If you see a swarm or an established beehive on your property or in our neighborhood, call the Bee Allies hotline (424-353-BEES)  which will connect you to beekeepers in your area (including me!) who may be able to come take your bees to a more ideal location. 

-Plant things that bees can eat all year round.  The hard times for bees in our Southern California climate are actually the super hot times of August-October, when forage may be harder to come by.  If you have flowering plants in the heat the bees will love it.

Don’t use petro-chemical pesticides.  Luckily in the city there is less use of bee-killing pesticides than more large scale agricultural areas, but bees still die from poison on a regular basis. When a bee finds a nice flowering tree or other plant treated with bad stuff they won’t know until it’s too late; they tell their sisters where the flowers are and entire hives can be poisoned and die, lying in a pile outside their front door.  Beware: normal home care stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot sell bee killing products made by Ortho, Bayer, and others! 

Donate to HoneyLove!  HoneyLove ( is a non-profit, treatment-free beekeeping group which teaches urban beekeepers and all kinds of people about the importance of bees in our ecosystem and how to be a responsible bee owner.


Buy local honey. (Can be found at the Wellington Sq. Farmers Market)  Besides being really good for you, local honey is usually made by bees that are not being fed sugar, abused, and generally made sick by the commercial beekeeping industry, which is where most bees are dying.  If your honey is coming from a bear in the grocery store, it’s probably not locally sourced. 

Be educated, not scared.  No doubt being stung is not fun, and there are genuine reasons to be very cautious if you are allergic, but lot of the general population seems to only know bees as stings.  They are so much more!  They pollinate 1 in 3 bites of food we eat; they are quite literally vital to humans survival on earth.  In general they are not aggressive or scary creatures and don’t need to be viewed as such.  In LA county there are approximately 8-10 beehives per square mile, so we live with bees whether we know it or not.  I’d encourage us to learn to love our neighbors, all of them, especially the fuzzy, flying ones.     

If you’re interested in having bees, start talking to people, reading, and attending meetings!  It’s important to maintain healthy, safe hives in the city and to be supported by other experienced beekeepers.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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