0 comments 18.04.2016
Every Monday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place. Today’s MCM title belongs to Lee Williams who rescues suffering bees in hopes of providing organic honey to the community.
Lee Williams spent his early years in Seattle and adult years in San Francisco. After a few years, he moved to San Pedro and today, he rescues bee swarms from yards and places them in safer environments. Williams explains that sometimes bees make bad choices of homes, such as BBQ grills, water meters, attics. “I safely remove them from the places they might have bad interactions with people. I then try to find a place where they can still live locally, just in a spot where they are less likely to bother people or become a problem,” he says.
Williams says that often bee hives can be housed in back yards and the neighbors will never know. “I have two hives and my neighbors didn't know until I brought them bottles of honey,” he says.
In addition, people may be surprised to find that there are typically 8 to 10 wild hives per square mile here in southern California. When asked what makes bees so important for our community, Lee simply says, “The fact that every third bite of food we eat is produced with the help of honey bees is one of the reasons why saving bees is so important. Bees not only pollinate the flowers in our yards but they also make it possible for our backyard gardens to produce so much fruit and veggies.”
However, since there are only enough flowers, plants and gardens to support 8 to 10 hives per square mile, beekeepers help make sure the bees that are here are healthy and non-aggressive.
“Both of my hives are tame enough to sit next to them in shorts and a t-shirt to watch the sunrise. This is actually one of my favorite things to do. The bees come back to the hive with their back legs packed with pollen and it is fun to try and figure out what plants they had visited,” he says.
According to statistics, 76% of honey sold in stores is poor quality and illegally imported from China. William says that local honey is good for folks with allergies because it contains local pollens and helps with immune systems. “I harvest about 10 gallons of honey in the spring and again in the fall. This is just enough to provide friends and family with a little local honey. As more and more people ask me to manage hives in their backyards, I may start harvesting enough honey to sell at farmer’s markets,” he says.
Williams was inspired to pursue rescuing bees after finding bees at one of the homes he leases to tenants. “I knew the bees were in danger, so I did some research to see if there was a safe way to keep the bees on our property without putting anyone in danger,” he says. He also has a friend who keeps bees and he encouraged Williams to house a hive at his own house.
“I joined a number of beekeeper groups including HoneyLove.org and the Long Beach Beekeepers Club. It took me 6 months to learn enough to feel safe about keeping bees myself,” he says. In addition, he had mentors who helped guide him through the process and kept things safe.
Three years later, Williams is a beekeeper and although still considered a new beak, his passion has helped him learn quickly and help other beekeepers provide safe, treatment free hive management.
Williams says one fun fact is that honey never goes bad. “They have found honey in Egyptian burial sites that is still edible 3,000 years later,” he says. However, he’d like others to know that bees die when they sting so they only sting to defend themselves or their home.
“Most people get stung when they either step on a bee or when they panic and start swatting at a passing bee. I teach people to let them bee,” he says. By letting them bee, he means to never approach a hive unless you know what you're doing and watch where you step when you're splashing around in a pool. He says that bees will leave you alone, especially when they are buzzing from flower to flower and it is so much fun to just sit and watch them.
Williams is an advocate for bees and one of his greatest movements has been speaking to the city council to help legalize backyard beekeeping in LA. In addition, he speaks to community groups and garden clubs to separate fact from fiction when it comes to bees. For example, one of the biggest concerns for folks is bee allergies.
Williams says, “If you think you may be allergic to bee-stings, it is important to talk to your doctor about the simple test and to get an Epi-pen just in case. However, you are almost twice as likely to die from a lightning strike (90 deaths per year) than from a bee sting (54 per year).”
He says that typically, folks who die from bee stings are disturbing a hive and are stung hundreds of times. So, if you see bees flying in and out of a hole in a wall or a tree, don't try poking them with a stick or spraying them with water. Call an expert to have them safely removed.
It is clear that Williams is passionate and knowledgeable about bees. When he is not saving bees, he enjoys living in the South Bay for its weather. “Being so close to the water gives us so much to do and enjoy. We spend a lot of time outdoors, taking pictures and being grateful we get to live here,” he says.
When he is not working, Williams spends a lot of time working to guide the growth and development of his town. He enjoys having an opportunity to create Green jobs with the introduction of Altasea as well as putting San Pedro on the map as a tourist destination with the development of the San Pedro Public Market. “I want to see San Pedro grow in a responsible way to create local jobs while maintaining the close community. We have a lot cool things happening in San Pedro and it is fun to be a part of it,” he says.
To purchase local honey, Williams says to visit a farmer's market near you. “You will taste the difference and the health benefits for folks who have allergies is pretty amazing. I don't currently sell my honey, but I may start as I add hives,” he says.
Thank you, Lee, for providing our community with insight and knowledge for the safety of our bees!
“Bees are our friends. When you spray gardens and lawns with pesticides, bees sometimes carry it home with them and it kills the entire hive. Pesticides are the leading killer of honey bees of please be mindful about the poisons you spread in our environment.”