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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

L.A. Beekeepers are Raising "Backwards" Bees

Two studies found that pesticides might be contributing to the mass die off of bees known as colony collapse disorder. One Los Angeles beekeeper has been teaching people all around the city how to raise bees without using pesticides all along. 


Kirk Anderson teaches a group of beekeepers in Los Angeles how they can raise bees without pesticides. The group is called the “Backwards Beekeepers.”

“We’re backwards because we don’t do what most conventional beekeepers do we let the bees manage the hive,” said Anderson.

Anderson said, by avoiding pesticides, his bees haven’t suffered the same fate as commercial beekeepers have.

In 2006, commercial beekeepers hives started disappearing. The phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder wiped out up to 90 percent of their hives.

Two studies published in the Science journal in March 2012 showed that pesticides were contributing to the mass die off of bees. Bees that were treated with pesticides had trouble finding their way back when they flew away to gather food.

Commercial beekeepers started using pesticides to fight off a mite they say was making some of the bees sick, but Anderson said their solution to the mites made the problem worse.

 “I observed commercial beekeepers and the bees were dying and I noted down what they were doing and then I noticed the wild bees were flourishing and I noted what they were doing so I figured I’ll do what works and I just do what mother nature does,” said Anderson.

Saving the bees also has a big impact on the farming industry. Bees are used to pollinate fruits and vegetables at many farms around the U.S.. Philip McGrath is a co-owner of McGrath Family Farms in Ventura, Calif.. He said bees are a crucial part of organic farming.

“I don’t think this type of farming would exist without bees,” said McGrath.

Hoop huts are used as greenhouses for crops and require McGrath farms to import bees to help their fruits and vegetables reproduce.

“I think there’s 90 acres of hoop huts on our property that is all organic raspberries, and they bring in bees from Bakersfield to add to the pollination that those hoop huts need,” said McGrath.

When bees started dying in large numbers the cost of importing them meant many farmers had to raise the price of their produce.

Now Anderson’s teaching the “Backwards Beekeepers” to raise bees so that they continue to pollinate crops naturally, but his bees are not for import.

One of Anderson’s student beekeepers, Don Gabard, said the bees have helped him grow his own garden.

“It seems like every blossom produces fruit. There is certainly no shortage of pollinators around,” said Gabard.

And Gabard said you don’t have to know everything there is to know about bees to be a “Backwards Beekeeper.”

Kirk has kind of mentored me into the basics of beekeeping. I have my smoker, and I have my suit, and I check on the bees and I know enough to know when I need Kirk,” said Gabard.

And Anderson said it’s even easier than that.

Just get some bees and be a beekeeper.”  


I am in Ga and starting a beekeeping class on Thursday. I plan to have all my bees and boxes etc by spring. I know that chemicals will be coming up but do no intend to ever use them. I would like more information on the Backward Beekeepers.

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