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Our Interview with HoneyLove Director Paul Hekimian

Our Interview with HoneyLove Director Paul Hekimian

Over the past few years, we’ve had the pleasure to meet some amazing bee people. Conservationists, scientists, beekeepers — their passion and knowledge have made every day a joy. 

A few weeks ago, Perpetual Pollen’s own Carissa and Joe sat down for an amazing conversation with “bee foster parent” Paul Hekimian, one of the directors of urban beekeeping collective, HoneyLove.

HoneyLove is a Los Angeles–based nonprofit dedicated to educating their community about bees and promoting urban beekeeping — the natural way. Started after co-founders Rob and Chelsea McFarland found bees in their own backyard and decided to rescue them, HoneyLove engages in advocacy efforts in addition to education. Their efforts resulted in the official legalization of beekeeping in Los Angeles.

According to Paul, the rules for urban beekeeping are few, and simple. “They’re called worker bees for a reason,” he says. Honey bees have been doing their thing for hundreds of years, and although they now enjoy the care and protection of humans, Hekimian encourages us to think of bees not as a project, but as a partner in pollination. HoneyLove suggests that prospective urban beekeepers work primarily with feral bees, which are already better adapted to deal with local pests, and promotes a treatment-free method to limit introducing disruptive chemicals into the hive.

Many beekeepers end up using pesticides in their hives in an attempt to address threats like varroa mite infestations. The varroa mite is a parasite that targets the honey bee, hitching a ride to the hive. It infests the entire hive rapidly, feeding on both adult bees and bee larvae, severely weakening the bees. Varroa mites are also carriers for dozens of viruses and pathogens, and are widely considered one of the biggest contributors to the declining honey bee population. 

Hekimian says that he and the other beekeepers at HoneyLove don’t have much of a problem with the varroa mite, however, and attributes that in part to focuses on feral bees, which have a greater natural resistance to the parasite.

Just like their beekeeping philosophy, HoneyLove’s mission is simple: Teach people that bees are safe and friendly. Cultivate that “aha” moment when someone realizes that humanity and beekind are inextricably linked. 

Give people the tools to help.

We’re doing our best, Paul. 

Take a look at the interview video for more on the varroa mite, the differences between cultivated and feral bees, and a few simple things anyone can do to help save the bees.