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Backyard beekeeping offers honey, revenue

October 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are swarms of bees throughout Southern California, in backyards, on porches and rooftops, but don't be afraid. Pollination from honeybees gives us food and flowers, and for some, they make great pets.Los Angeles resident Max Wong is a proud member of Backwards Beekeepers, a group dedicated to organic urban bee keeping. Members assist one another in hive building, honey removal, and other aspects of keeping bees at home.

Wong said she got her first bee hive over a year ago, and the bees had come from Santa Monica.

"They were living in someone's hot tub," she said.

Wong insists all honeybees be treated as individuals.

"The hives really do have distinct personalities," she said. "Some of them are mellower, some of them are fast-moving. I have nice bees."

Wong and her boyfriend are currently caring for six brightly painted and very productive hives, which amounts to about 35,000 ideal pets who find their own food and water and don't need a litter box.

Bees make some people very nervous, but Wong said her neighbors think it's awesome.

"They're all gardeners, so for them, having bees increases your yield by 30 to 60 percent," Wong said.

Honeybees don't want to sting people - that's a suicide mission. Wong said bees will pull your hair, and if they head-butt you, it's their way of telling you to back off.

"Most people get a bee sting when they step on them," Wong said.

Wong smokes the hives with a smoker tool filled with natural ingredients like twigs and newspapers to calm the bees before showing the inside of one of her homemade hives.

Row after row, the active hives look a lot like file cabinets filled with various rich colors of honeycomb

When it comes to attire, beekeepers aim for comfort, but common sense rules apply. Don't wear dark colors, and make sure you're not stinky because the bees could mistake you for a bear.

The start-up cost for beekeeping gear is about $200.

A home beekeeper not only improves their own garden and the surrounding community's natural habitat, they can start their own green business - anything from selling beeswax to removals of unwanted bee hives.

The most obvious perk to beekeeping is the honey.

"A lot of people start beekeeping for the honey, but over time, it always becomes about the bees, just because they are so interesting," Wong said.


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