The air is just air, cool and moist as the promising sun pushes a wave of pale oranges and pinks from the east. Out of the quiet, emerging dawn, a hum begins, low and ethereal, from overhead. Building from an almost imperceptible drone to a more insistent hum, pulsing and vibrating, a steady pattern emerges. As the sky brightens, air becomes more than air, becomes charged with electricity. Alive. Bundles of wild energy tumble, launch and zoom out of a small entrance on the rooftop overhead. Small, winged shapes collide with the dawn’s light and explode into golden color, glistening with the new sun. Bees. Apis mellifera. The western honeybee.
I’ve been a beekeeper for three years and am continually amazed by the way bees adapt to our urban environment here in San Diego. The bees I describe above live in one of my handmade wooden hive boxes on a friend’s garage roof. I visited them the other day early in the morning and was mesmerized. Bees are awesome! I rescued these particular bees last summer from a water meter box at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park where they had decided to live.
Every spring and summer, bees will expand their numbers and many hives will split. A swarm of bees will leave its original hive and fan out to look for another home. Any large cavity, dry and dark, will suffice. Left alone, the water meter bees may have eventually outgrown their small space underground, but more likely, they would have been deemed a nuisance and exterminated. Thankfully, the grounds keeping staff at the garden recognized the value of protecting bees, called me, and I was able to safely move them into a hive box. They now have a safe home on a green roof covered with drought tolerant succulents.
Keeping bees in your backyard is now legal in San Diego thanks to recent changes in city ordinances governing urban agriculture. And keeping bees on the roof of your house or garage can be a great way to add bees to your daily life without sacrificing any of your outdoor living space. Watching safely from below, you can see bees coming and going all day long. They head out in the morning to find pollen and nectar from flowers anywhere within a few miles’ radius: native sages in our many canyons, well tended front yard flower beds, pepper and eucalyptus trees. Once they locate a good source, they come humming back to share the news with their colony. More bees migrate to the same flowers, tracing arcs of energy across the sky. At the end of the day, the worker bees find their way home.
If you have ever thought of making a home for honeybees in your garden or backyard, I’d be happy to help you get started. With a little mentoring and regular maintenance, you can be the proud owner of a backyard or rooftop hive. Oh, and don’t forget the honey. Bees are amazing!
Give us a call today at 619-786-5976 if you are interested in hosting a bee hive at your home!