Beekeeper and beeblogger Kirk Anderson believes that with bees, backwards is the new forwards. Inspired by the writings of Charles Martin Simon, he practices this new trend in hive management. “Take everything you knew about beekeeping and forget about it,” Kirk told me. “Don’t use foundation. Don’t treat them with chemicals. Don’t feed them any additives. If I have to feed them, I’ll feed them cane sugar and water. I let them use their own wax to make their own comb, and then the hive is clean.”
Sure, it’s revolutionary. And controversial. But Kirk keeps “backwards bees” with great success all over the L.A. area in places like Pasadena, Silver Lake, and Studio City. It turns out that Southern California is a great place for bees. Kirk says, “They flourish in urban areas. I haven’t bought bees since 2000. I use feral bees. There are lots of swarms in the L.A. area.”
Kirk’s Beehuman blog centers on how he captures those swarms, and his joy in promoting the fine art of beekeeping. "The number of bees and beekeepers has gone down in the last 20 years. But it’s like planting seeds. People are getting interested in beekeeping."
Perhaps the trend of keeping backyard bees isn't as popular as the not-so-bogus backyard chicken trend. But less than a year after Kirk started the Backwards Beekeepers bee club in September 2008, 132 people have joined. That's a pretty good number of newbees.
Kirk’s strongest advice on keeping bees to those new to it? Leave the girls alone. “Most people get bees, they think they’ve got an aquarium and want to inspect them once a week or more. When you first get them, give them a week and inspect to make sure she’s laying. Then go through the hive a month later to make sure there’s a good pattern of eggs and brood.
“And be a responsible beekeeper. Because you usually don’t have trouble with bees. You usually have trouble with people.”