As an Irvine backyard gardener, I enjoy the springtime planting of a variety of vegetables and herbs, and watching my established fruit trees blossom.  For me, there is deep satisfaction in going into the backyard and picking what is ready for my dinner — fresh, organically-grown vegetables.  Sadly, over the years my zucchinis would poop out right after blossoming; my blackberries were few in number and small; and the kumquats and tangerines so tart I could use them only to throw at the crows eating my figs.  I thought I had depleted the soil’s nutrients, but after many bags of fertilizer and soil amendments I was not getting back my green thumb.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, until CBS’s 60 Minutes did a report on “colony collapse disorder.” Hmmm…was that the problem?  No bees?  Walking around my University Park neighborhood the next day, I indeed observed no more bees.  Where did they go?  There used to be bees everywhere.  I realized then what the frequent sightings of exterminator trucks racing through Irvine were doing — they were killing the bees, our bees.  These were the very bees that were pollinating our gardens, our flowers and our trees.  Help!  What can I do?  I called the City of Irvine and spoke to someone about why we need the bees.  “Are you advocating for the bees?  Good luck.  We get called to remove them, not put them back.” 

I took that as a challenge to do something about it — I was determined to bring the bees back!  Turning to the Internet, I discovered dozens of websites and articles on colony collapse disorder, on the biology of bees and on the importance of bees.  I also found a local bee club, the Orange County Beekeepers Association (OCBA), which meets in Costa Mesa, in the Silo Building at the OC Fairgrounds, the 1st Tuesday of each month.  At my first meeting of the OCBA I found 85 people in attendance; my eyes were opened to a new world.  I never really thought about the critical role bees play in the survival of humankind — I took that aspect of nature for granted.

The next day I went online and ordered a “beekeeper starter kit” from MannLake.  Within a few days I received my new bee suite, smoker, tools, hive parts and a book on beekeeping.  A few days after that I heard about a colony of bees living in a valve control box near the community swimming pool.  I went to check it out.  Sure enough, an exterminator arrived with instructions to remove the bees — a euphemism for “kill them.”  I protested.  I wanted to rescue these bees.  He said, “Wonderful, I used to be a beekeeper in Hawaii and don’t like killing bees anyway.”  With a rescued colony of bees placed in my new hive, I was on my way to becoming a beekeeper, learning by doing.

Within a few months, my kumquats and tangerines blossomed and matured into the most delicious citrus I’ve had in a decade.  Oh, and when I did my first honey extraction, I understood why they call honey “pure gold.”  Thank you, honeybees!

Avram Grossman

Avram Grossman is an active participant in the University Park and Irvine communities. He is an IT consultant specializing in application software development, QuickBook, and business technology integration. He is a member of Orange County Beekeepers Association and an avid bee advocate.
Avram Grossman