Bill Lewis Featured on the Hallmark Channel: Home and Family Show

Hallmark Channel: Home & Family Show    July 15, 2014

Bill Lewis of Bill's Bees will be 'talking about bees' on the Hallmark Channel's Home & Family Show Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 10am9c. The show will be replayed Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at noon. 

President of the California Beekeepers Association Bill Lewis is buzzing about town today with information on how to save honey bees and why we as humans are so dependent on them for our food supply. The bees not only pollinate the plant-based foods we eat, but also pollinate the foods animals eat, which in turn provides us with meat, dairy, and more. It's all about preserving the food chain. Learn more about how parasites, drought, and pesticides impact the bee population and how we can help by planting flowers. Plus, find out how to raise a honey bee colony in your very own backyard.

Beekeepers Partner with Land Managers to Access Forage

Ag Alert    By Christine Souza    June 18, 2014

Finding access to forage or natural sources of pollen and nectar for honeybees is already difficult in rainy years, and this year's extremely dry conditions make it even more challenging for California beekeepers to maintain bee health. As beekeepers and others mark National Pollinator Week this week, beekeepers say it's important to continue conversations with land managers about the need for increased access to forage.


[Note: Our very own Bill Lewis (past-President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association and current President of the California State Beekeepers Association) is quoted in the article.]

CBSA The President's Word April, 2014


There has been a whirlwind of activity since my last report in February.

CSBA contributed funds to send the "Bee Girl" Sarah Red-Laird (an awesome ambassador for bees) and myself to participate with a display and 5 bee activity tables at Pheasant Fest in Milwaukee, WI. It was an excellent opportunity to collaborate with the Pheasants Forever group and Pete Berthelson on promoting forage for bees and other wildlife. All of the postcards colored by youth and mailed to US Secretary of Ag, Tom Vilsack, must have influenced the decision to spend $3M to encourage Midwest farmers' conservation efforts and plantings for bee forage. ABF American Honey Queen Executive Director Anna Kettlewell was instrumental in recruiting the WI Honey Producers Association including President Derald Kettlewellpast President Tim Fulton, the current WI Honey Queen and past Honey Princess and a plethora of other volunteers to staff the activity tables.

I had the opportunity to meet with legislators at the Farm Bureau-hosted legislative reception and work with Platinum Advisors representative Holly Fraumeni on Assembly Bill 2185 introduced by Assembly member Susan Eggman that will hopefully encourage public land owners to consider honey bees in future land use plans.

Ag Day at the Capital was another opportunity to connect with legislators and a photo op with CA Secretary of Ag, Karen Ross, an active supporter of bees. Much appreciation goes to Carlen Jupe for coordinating and in the staffing of our booth by Eric Mussen, Kathy Keatley Garvey, Bill Cervenka and the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association's Marti Ikehara, and of course, Haagen-Dazs for donating the ice cream. Read Kathy's entire blog here. 

Almond pollination has come and gone. There were strange dynamics in almonds. The shortage of water resulted in some growers making the decision to pull out older trees reducing the need for bees. There were enough colonies to go around and there was perfect pollination weather again during bloom. I think almond growers can expect another close to record harvest. Unfortunately, some beekeepers, including myself, got sucker punched and lost large numbers of bees to what we are still uncertain. 50% of our colonies were affected. They all went into almonds at about equal strength with low mite loads. Towards the end of bloom, we experienced massive amounts of dead bees around the hives and it continued for several weeks after the bees were moved on to avocado orchards. I have always felt pretty safe in almonds but when an 8-10 framer that we expect to double in strength goes backwards to a 6, something is wrong. There were reports that a few growers may have been tank-mixing fungicide with insect growth regulators (IGRs) for a "free ride" to save labor cost. There were also reports that pesticides were being sprayed on alfalfa fields to control weevils within flying distance. Could the impact on bees have been avoided by releasing bees 7-10 days sooner without much impact on almond production? Some beekeepers may opt to stay home next season without some kind of guarantees that this will not happen again. Whatever is going on is making the costs to beekeepers skyrocket and this cost has to somehow be recouped.

Subsequent meetings with EPA representatives gave no indication that labeling language on fungicides and IGR labels or other chemicals including adjuvants would be changed to make them more protective of bees any time soon or even before the 2015 almond bloom.

CDFA was concerned enough to devote a whole day of their board's time to listen to beekeeper concerns in early April. Beekeepers gave some excellent presentations that focused on the need for more clean forage, the need for more help to defeat our # 1 pest  - Varroa, and help to improve pesticide labeling to be more protective of bees. The Almond Board of CA is equally concerned and hopefully can convince more growers to give bees a break and delay the spraying of anything in the future until after the bees are gone. A meeting has been scheduled with CDPR later this month to address this situation as well. Hopefully, something positive comes out of all of this.

I really hope everybody gets a decent honey crop out of the oranges!

Bill Lewis, CSBA President


The Buzz on California Agriculture Day

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    3/19/14

The bees weren't all that buzzed at the 2014 California Agriculture Day, celebrated today (March 19) on the west lawn of the California State Capitol. 

The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and theSacramento Area Beekeepers' Association (SABA) staffed a beekeeping booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and filled it with honey straws,Häagen-Dazs premier ice cream and bee-related pamphlets from Project Apis m.  A bee observation hive, brought by Bill Cervenka Apiaries of Half Moon Bay, fronted the booth.

The bees buzzed all right, but the people--the general public lining for the ice cream donated by Häagen-Dazs--seemed to create the biggest buzz. They made a literal beeline for the strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Häagen-Dazs supports the University of California, Davis, through its bee garden and bee research (some 50 percent of its flavors require the pollination of bees).

By 11:35, the honey was all gone. "It vanished, just like our bees," quipped Bill Lewis, CSBA president.

Staffing the booth with him were Carlen Jupe, CSBA treasurer; Marti Ikehara of SABA, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Among those stopping to chat with the beekeepers were California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The California Department of Food and Agriculture sponsors the annual event, this year focusing on "Celebration, Innovation and Education."

Bill Lewis, who makes his home at Lake View Terrace in the San Fernando Valley, maintains 650 colonies of bees with his wife, Liane, and business partner Clyde Steese. Their company, "Bill's Bees," offers pollination services, honey, pollen, beeswax, candles and handmade soap.

Their bees pollinate almonds, oranges, avocados and alfalfa. 

For Lewis, his interest in bees began at age 14 when he took up beekeeping in the Boy Scout program and earned his beekeeping badge.  That was in Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee, where he maintained several bee hives in his backyard. "I 'abandoned' them when I went off to college," he said.

After earning his master's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University, he settled in California to work in the aerospace industry. Ten years later he began a 10-year period of working at a horse-boarding stable.  "Horses don't much like bees," he commented. "It bothers the horses when they have to share the same water bowl."

How did he get back into beekeeping? "The bees found me," Lewis said. He began keeping bees in 1991, first as a hobby, and then as a business. "I'm a first-generation beekeeper."

"Our food supply is so dependent on bees," Lewis said. As visitors flowed by, some asked him what they could do to help the bees.  Plant bee friendly flowers, buy local honey, try not to use pesticides in your garden, and generally, provide a friendly place for bees.

His favorite variety of honey is black sage "but we're not getting to get much of it this year due to the lack of rain." His second favorite: orange blossom.

He also has almond honey, which he and Mussen describe as "bitter."  And, Lewis said, it gets more bitter with time."

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

Bill and Rob Go To The Almonds!!!

Rob McFarland from HoneyLove went up with Bill Lewis, President of the California State Beekeepers Association, past president of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, and owner of Bill's Bees to the Almond Orchards in Bakersfield.  What an amazing adventure! There is so much to learn about bees, beekeeping, and the Joy of it All! 



  View more images at:

LA Council Considering Urban Beekeeping

ABC Eyewitness News    

The LA Council is considering legalizing backyard beekeeping in the city due to the decline of the honey bee.

[Note:  From William Lewis, President of the California State Beekeepers Association and past President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association: "I am certainly in support of bees in the city, but only if Best Management Practices, which was provided to the city planners, are adhered to which means "known gentle genetics".  I don't think this can be achieved by keeping local feral colonies.  I have not seen proof that they are well behaved and in my experience, the ferals I catch have turned out to be very aggressive."]

Can Urban Beekeeping Stop the Beepocalypse?

[Note:  Quote from Stacy McKenna, Secretary of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association: "I fundamentally agree with the post - urban bees will help with urban gardening but not commercial agriculture.  Of course, he totally leaves out the issue of Best Management Practices to deal with the Africanization in our area."

Quote from William Lewis, President of the California State Beekeepers Association and past President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association: "I am certainly in support of bees in the city, but only if Best Management Practices, which was provided to the city planners, are adhered to which means "known gentle genetics".  I don't think this can be achieved by keeping local feral colonies.  I have not seen proof that they are well behaved and in my experience, the ferals I catch have turned out to be very aggressive."]     By Bryan Walsh   2/13/14

Los Angeles is ready to make urban beekeeping legal, just as colony collapse disorder is ravaging commercial bee populations

I’m just going to say it: Los Angeles is abuzz over urban beekeeping. For years the city has had a thriving underground beekeeping culture, with hives kept in backyards by Los Angelenos who want their honey extra local. It’s part of a national trend that has even luxury hotels like the Waldorf-Astoria in New York keeping bees on city roofs or in tiny urban backyards. But while Los Angeles is ideal for amateur apiaries—bees, like people, are drawn to southern California’s warm climate and plentiful forage—keeping bees in residential areas of the city has been illegal, as it still is in much of the U.S. Beekeepers like Rob McFarland, who keeps 25,000 bees on the roof of his house in West L.A., were essentially breaking the law.

That’s going to change. On Feb. 12 the Los Angeles City Council ordered a review of the city’s zoning laws to allow urban beekeeping in residential areas. And the council did so in part because they believed that promoting urban beekeeping could help fight the perplexing problem of severe bee morality, including the still mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD). As L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz put it:

This puts our long-term food security at risk because pollinators are vital to our food supply. One-third of what we eat is due to pollinators, and they are a key to our agricultural industry.

(MORE: The Plight of the Honeybee)

There’s little reason that city dwellers shouldn’t be allowed to keep bees if they have the space, the money and the patience. Besides producing honey, urban bees can pollinate local gardens, helping green their city. But will the uptick in urban beekeeping really be enough to offset the mounting losses for commercial beekeepers, who this past winter lost nearly a third of their colonies?

Not exactly. While hobbyists beekeepers in cities and elsewhere certainly help keep bee populations going, there simply aren’t anywhere near enough of them to meet the enormous pollination needs of agriculture, should commercial bees keep dying. It takes billions of honeybees from around the U.S. to pollinate the spring’s almond crop in California, for example. Even if there were enough urban bees to do that job, location matters. Honeybees generally stay close to home when foraging for nutrition, so they’re unlikely to offer much help to the large farms that need them. And since bees need plants and flowers for forage, there may also be a limit to how many urban hives could ever be packed into a city like L.A. Already there are concerns in cities like New York and London that urban bees are running out of forage. The hard truth is that there simply aren’t enough urban bees out there to compensate for high mortality rates in commercial hives—and there probably never will be.

(PHOTO: The Bee, Magnified)

But that doesn’t mean that city bees can’t help. Urban bees can be a boon for urban agriculture, which is on the rise as well. And there’s some evidence that urban bees are healthier than their country counterparts. In a TEDx talk from 2012, Noah Wilson-Rich, a biologist at Tufts University and the founder of the Best Bees Company, reported research that found significantly higher survival rates in urban bees versus traditional rural bees, as well as higher honey yields. It’s not clear why that’s the case—it could be that urban bees are exposed to fewer toxic pesticides, or that they simply face less competition for resources. Plant diversity in city parks and gardens, surprisingly, is often better than in rural areas, which are increasingly dominated by crop monocultures that offer little nutrition for hungry honeybees. Commercial bees are also frequently shipped around the country to pollination sites, something that can stress populations—and something that homebody urban bees don’t have to worry about.

So Los Angelenos, embrace your city bees. They may not stave off the beepocalypse alone, but you can’t beat the buzz.

Read more: Los Angeles Moves to Legalize Urban Beekeeping in the City |

L.A. City Council Votes to Explore Allowing Backyard Beekeeping

Los Angeles Times    By Emily Alpert Reyes   2/12/14

The Los Angeles City Council took its first step Wednesday to explore whether beekeeping should be allowed in residential zones, asking city staff to report back on the idea.

Backyard beekeepers want Los Angeles to join New York, Santa Monica and other cities that allow residents to keep hives at home. Existing Los Angeles city codes do not allow beekeeping in residential zones, according to city planning officials.

Beekeeping has nonetheless blossomed among Angelenos worried about the health of honeybees and devoted to urban farming. In a news conference Wednesday, beekeepers urged the council to pursue the report on the topic, possibly the first step toward enshrining the practice in city code.

At the news conference, City Councilman Paul Koretz argued urban beekeeping was especially needed in the face of colony collapse disorder, which has devastated agricultural hives that pollinate avocados, almonds and other crucial crops. Councilman Mike Bonin chimed in.

“If you care about blueberries,” Bonin said, “you care about this.”

Not everyone was convinced that new rules were needed: Southern California beekeeper Dael Wilcox argued that the practice wasn’t actually illegal, just not spelled out in law, and that the city should keep it that way. Both beekeepers and city officials say complaints about managed hives are rare.

Other beekeepers countered that regulations would get rid of any “gray area” around beekeeping. “There is so much confusion and fear,” Keith Roberts, vice president of the Los Angeles County Beekeeping Assn., told The Times on Tuesday. “It’s better that the city takes an official stand.”

City Councilman Bernard C. Parks said the upcoming report should address whether permits would be needed and how any “potential health issues,” such as bee-related allergies, would be addressed. Before the meeting, beekeepers had argued managed hives would actually diminish that threat.

People are less likely to be stung by a “managed colony” than untended bees, said Rob McFarland, cofounder of the nonprofit HoneyLove. “The bees are already here," he said.

The council also voted to instruct the Bureau of Street Services, which handles calls about unwanted hives, to promote alternatives to extermination such as relocating “nuisance” hives, and threw its support behind a federal bill calling for the suspension of certain pesticides.

“If we don’t vote for it, it’ll be a buzzkill,” City Councilman Mitchell Englander joked just before the unanimous vote.,0,984264.story#ixzz2tEiuivpU

[NOTE from William Lewis, President of the California State Beekeepers Association and past President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association: "I am certainly in support of bees in the city, but only if Best Management Practices, which was provided to the city planners, are adhered to which means "known gentle genetics".  I don't think this can be achieved by keeping local feral colonies.  I have not seen proof that they are well behaved and in my experience, the ferals I catch have turned out to be very aggressive."] 

[QUOTE: "To just haul them (feral bees) out of the fences and stick them in the backyard, that's not a good idea," said Eric Mussen, a bee expert at the University of California, Davis.]

See this link for guidelines for Best Management Practices.

See this link for more information on Africanized Honey Bees

California Drought Hurts Honey Bees

KMJNOW News Talk Radio         1/22/14


Bill Lewis, the President of the California Beekeepers Association is worried about the lack of forage for honey bees this year.  

He says there will be lots of almond pollen for bees to feed on in the coming weeks.  But after mid March he fears there will not be a lot other blooming plants for the bees to feed upon.  

Lewis says the reason is simple, the ongoing drought in our state. Lewis believes the lack of forage is more of a concern than even a new virus that the USDA just recently information about.  

Without a good food source, Lewis says, bee colonies will have a tougher time with fighting virus outbreaks.  Millions of bees are used each year to pollinate the almond and other crops.

Bill Lewis named President of the California State Beekeepers Association

We are proud to announce that Bill Lewis, our own local beekeeper, and longtime member and past President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, has been named President of the California State Beekeepers Association. For the past year, Bill has been the Vice-President of the CSBA, and has now stepped up to the role of President.

He will be bringing the CSBA Annual Convention to Valencia, CA in November 2014.

Congratulations, Bill!