The laws in Los Angels are changing and shortly will be reflecting what other major cities have already been practicing: Urban Beekeeping. The Valley Hive, located in Chatsworth, CA is an excellent place to learn about beekeeping, purchase supplies, or utilize many of their other beekeeping services.
I noticed a sign for The Valley Hive driving home one day – urban beekeeping, just a mile or so from my home! We just moved to a larger property to have more room for chickens and a garden. Before we moved, I gave my husband a disclaimer that I also wanted to keep a hive at some point. It seems like a natural continuation of the cycle of our food system and a way to help support collapsing colonies. (30% of what we eat depends on bees!) And of course, there’s the honey. I couldn’t wait to learn more and recently joined The Valley Hive for one of their workshops.
After checking in with Robin, about 20 of us gathered under a majestic oak as Keith, part owner with Danny, starting telling us about his
obsession journey into beekeeping in 2009. He joked that little kids never say they want to be beekeepers when they grow up – it just finds you.
Egyptians were our first beekeepers. They realized, as they traveled with their bees down the Nile, that their crops flourished when the bees harvested the pollen. And the way we keep bees really hasn’t changed much since then. The moveable-frame hive that modern beekeepers use now was designed by Lorenzo Langstroth in 1851.
One of the great things about the Valley Hive workshop is the learning hive with glass walls. It’s a great teachable moment and I couldn’t help but think school field trips here would be fantastic. (They do offer them!)
We soon suited up and went to the hives, breaking into groups so we all had the opportunity to participate. I got in Cheryl’s group and off we went.
The workshop was a fantastic way to get us comfortable and knowledgeable with smoking the bees, removing the frames, checking for the health of the hive, etc… This was my first time around an open hive and holding a frame and it really gave me the confidence that this was something doable.
We reconvened under the oak where Danny took more questions. One question was how do bees keep cool, especially in this part of the valley where summer temperatures often break the 100’s. Keeping water available at all times is key. The bees transport water droplets back to the hives and thermoregulate their homes by using their wings to fan the water out. Hives are a fantastic model of democracy, all working as one for the end result.
Danny brought some frames from his own home hives and Keith brought us inside as the final part of our workshop to watch as he released the honey from the wax combs. Using a hand cranked extractor (that you can also rent from them), he proceeded to spin the honey off the frame and we each got a sample of Danny’s wildflower honey. The best Woodland Hills honey I’ve ever tasted!
I’m a sucker for gift shops and The Valley Hive has the cutest collection of bee-themed items. But best and most important of all, they sell their own raw honey (as well as their beekeeping supplies and books in the main office and online). I picked up a bottle of the avocado honey and an adorable dishtowel. The avocado honey was silky smooth. It’s really amazing how different the varieties are – in color as well as flavor. (No, it doesn’t taste like avocados!)
I couldn’t have been happier with my experience at Valley Hive, but I do plan on reading up a bit more on everything before jumping in. Although you only need to check on them once every 10-14 days, keeping a healthy, happy hive – being a beekeeper, not just a bee wanter – is an important distinction to make. Knowing that I have a knowledgable group to turn to with questions and guidance is a plus!
My all time favorite recipe using honey: Honey Cake