New city ordinance hopes to bring back bees to Boyle Heights backyards

By Esmeralda Ortiz

For some kids, bees are frightening. Not for Amadeo Delgado.

As a child, he learned about the healing power of honey. He was 10 or 11 years old when the sweet product of bees was used to heal his wounds from an accident. Because of this, he has spent most of his life trying to keep bees alive.

Amadeo Delgado says he has a “passion for bees.”

  Amadeo Delgado says he has a “passion for bees.”

Amadeo Delgado says he has a “passion for bees.”

“I have a passion for bees,” says Delgado, now a 47-year-old Boyle Heights resident, who has turned his love for bees into a business.

Delgado began keeping bees years ago.  He came to beekeeping accidentally, just by saving bees that people wanted removed from their homes. He then started to keep hives in the back of his employer’s print shop.

Now, with a new ordinance in Los Angeles that allows residents to keep honeybees in their backyards, Delgado is spreading his passion by educating and helping other beekeepers with their hives.

The City Council revoked the 136-year old ban on beekeeping last fall. Beekeeping had been banned in Los Angeles in 1879 because bees were regarded as obnoxious and a public nuisance. They were erroneously considered a threat to fruit crops. But as of last October, residents of Los Angeles are able to keep beehives in the backyards of single-family homes. The ordinance was enacted because of a shortage of bees.

Bees and agriculture are closely interconnected. Honeybees pollinate approximately 100 vegetable, fruit and nut crops in the United States, which contributes about $15 billion annually to the agriculture industry, according to research done by the Pennsylvania State University Extension. Some areas even provide incentives to cultivate bees.

While bees play a major role in agriculture and many people attest to the health benefits of honey and other bee products, the shortage of bees is having a dire effect. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, several factors contribute to the high rate of bee colony loss, including bee diseases, parasites, insecticides, stress from being transported to different pollinating locations and changing habitat.

  Delgado likes to promote the health benefits of honey.

Delgado likes to promote the health benefits of honey.

There are many health benefits linked to using honey, which is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, according to the National Institutes of Health. Older civilizations used honey to treat diseases and other medical problems, such as eye and skin irritations, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

When Delgado learned about the benefits of bees, he started to cultivate them, and now he sells pollen, honey and other bee products at his store and at local open-air markets.

“Using these products for 12 years, [I] never got sick,” he said. “[The] products of the bees, which are honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, propolis and wax, keep you so healthy. You don’t visit the doctor.”

Cultivating bees can keep your garden healthy, Delgado said.

“If you have a garden in your house, or you have a fruit tree, they’re to going pollinate them. Bees are the greatest pollinators that you can imagine. They go flower to flower. Thanks to them, we have so much fruits, flowers and everything, which is [a] very good advantage.”

Some people perceive bees as harmful. However, bees will not attack unless they are aggravated. Bees need a quiet environment in which they are not disturbed.

Young Boyle Heights residents are getting involved, too. Anthony Felix, 15, is trying to cultivate his own bees.

He noted that there aren’t many bees in Boyle Heights and that bees were threatened with extinction. “Pretty soon, we’re not going to have honey, and I love honey myself, so I would really want to keep the bees going,” Felix said.

Photo above: Amadeo Delgado demonstrates beekeeping techniques at a Boyle Heights community garden. All photos by Ernesto Orozco.

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Chris Alexakispolicy, water