November/December 2020 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Judy Farah, Photos by Lori Eanes
Beekeeper turns beeswax into holiday ornaments
When Bill Lewis took up beekeeping to earn a merit badge with the Boy Scouts, he never imagined it would become his profession for nearly three decades.
Lewis went on to become an Eagle Scout, graduate college and work in the aerospace industry. But after 10 years, he became restless. He said he didn't like sitting behind a desk and working on projects that never came to fruition.
When a friend offered him the opportunity to do maintenance at his horse-boarding facility on 600 acres in Little Tujunga Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains, Lewis took it. He ditched his high-paying job for one offering less money and physically harder work. He hasn't looked back.
"It was quite scary, because it was (trading) a really good paycheck for one that wasn't anywhere close. I really didn't have a plan for creating my own business at the time," Lewis said.
It was right around then the bees found him again...
Read more: https://billsbees.com/blogs/news-2020/bills-bees-bee-ing-creative
Where to Find Local and Unique Honey
One of LA’s most popular honey suppliers, Bill’s Bees offers up 100 percent raw honey. Bill’s Bees travel around the country pollinating crops and have also served in the entertainment industry on many occasions. Famous or not, these little bees make some good caramelized wildflower honey. Find them at a market near you: Montrose Farmer’s Market, Temple City Farmers Market, Kaiser Farmers Market at Barnsdall Park, South Pasadena Farmers Market, Thousand Oaks Farmers Market, Burbank Farmers Market, Pasadena Farmers Market, and Santa Monica Farmers Market. http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/top-lists/where-to-find-local-and-unique-honey/
At Los Angeles County Farmers Markets
We produce RAW honey from chemical-free wildflowers (NO pesticides and NO fertilizers are applied in the bees' gathering area). The bees are located in the Angeles National Forest in northern Los Angeles County, CA. Black Button Sage and Buckwheat are the two primary wildflower honeys produced by Bill's Bees. We take our bees to almond orchards during the bloom in February to help with almond pollination. In some years there is enough almond blossom honey to harvest, a unique honey with a 'tangy' flavor. We also take bees to orange tree orchards in the CA citrus belt during the bloom in April and produce cut comb honey during the sage bloom. These honeys are all unique and difficult to find in your typical grocery store. We also make handmade beeswax soaps, lip balm, lotion bars, & candles.
Bill's Bees Farmers Markets: http://billsbees.com/pages/farmers-markets
Local Harvest: http://www.localharvest.org/bills-bees-M3411
Los Angeles Magazine - Best Local Honey
Former aerospace engineer Bill Lewis recently turned his beekeeping hobby into a full-time profession. Today, in the foothills of Lake View Terrace, Bill’s Bees churns out a blissfully light and sweet orange blossom honey harvested from flowering citrus. Unlike most commercial honeys, these are unheated and unfiltered to preserve their natural flavor and enzymes (except in the case of the rich, dark, caramelized honey, Bill’s answer to molasses). Bill’s Bees is available at the Santa Monica, South Pasadena, Montrose, and Sierra Madre farmers’ markets.
Good Mythical Morning with Rhett & Link!
Features Bill's Bees
10,000 Bee Beard
June 5, 2015
10,000 Bees Beard With Rhett & Link!
"A guy named Bill put 10,000 bees on my face." Rhett & Link, hosts of Good Mythical Morning, the daily morning comedy talk show, head off to Bill's Bees Bee Yard to see if they'd be good candidates as beekeepers.
"Two crazy guys came to visit one day and wanted me to put bees on their face,” says Bill Lewis of Bill’s Bees. “Okay!!!” Bill's Bees does most anything to help the bees!
Also on board was Rob McFarland, co-founder HoneyLove http://www.HoneyLove.org
For colonies, honey and other bee products check out our website http://www.BillsBees.com
View video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU1eoXYN2Rc
Check out Good Mythical Morning’s YouTube Channel for daily episodes: https://www.youtube.com/user/rhettandlink2
By Tracey Samuelson
Featured on Marketplace
March 2, 2015 - 17:15
(Read more & Listen to Interview)
The Unsung Heroes of the Nut Business
Bill Lewis is waiting for the sun to set, the time of day when his bees crawl back inside the short white boxes that house their colonies. As the sky turns pink behind the San Gabriel mountains, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Lewis climbs into the seat of a forklift and starts moving the hives onto the back of a flatbed truck. These bees are on the move.
“As soon as you get on the freeway and there’s air flowing past the entrances, all the bees run back inside,” says Lewis, of any stragglers.
Lewis, who runs Bill’s Bees, is taking about 700 of his hives on a road trip to the California’s Central Valley, where he’ll unload them across acres of almond orchards, working until 1 or 2 a.m. under the light of full moon.
All across the country, more than a million-and-a-half colonies are making a similar journey – traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to pollinate California’s almonds. Farmers rent hives for few weeks because in order for almond trees to produce nuts, bees need to move pollen from one tree to another.
No bees, no almonds.
“This pollination season there will be [some] 800,000 acres of almonds that need to be pollinated,” says Eric Mussen, a honey bee specialist at the University of California Davis. He says more than 100 different kinds of crops need these rent-a-bees, but almonds are significant for the number of acres that require pollination all at the same time. About 85 percent of the commercial bees in United States – which Mussen calls “bees on wheels” – travel to California for almonds.
The state supplies roughly 80 percent of the world’s almonds, worth $6.4 billion during the 2013-2014 season, according to the Almond Board of California.
“It’s a matter of numbers,” he says. “You’re trying to provide enough bees to be moving the pollen around between the varieties and whatnot. It’s just a huge, huge number of bees. The only way we can get a huge number of bees in one place at one time is to bring them in on trucks.”
In fact, bees are such an important part of the almond business that Paramount Farms, one of the biggest almond growers in the world, has decided they need to be in the bee business, too. The company just bought one of the largest beekeepers in the United States, based in Florida.
“Bees are so essential for the process of growing almonds,” says Joe Joe MacIlvane, Paramount’s president. “If we don’t have a reliable supply of good strong colonies, we simply won’t be a viable almond grower, so that’s our primary motivation for getting into the business.”
Renting bees is about 10 to 15 percent of Paramount’s production costs, but the motivation to keep their own bees isn’t simply economic.
“Many bee keepers are individual or family business and many people are getting on in years and we don’t see a lot of young people coming into the business,” says MacIlvane.
Additionally, bee populations are struggling. A significant number having been dying each year for the past decade or so, thanks to a mix of factors, from pesticides to lost habitat for feeding. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what’s killing them.
“We had a large problem last year with bees dying in the orchard because of something that was going on during bloom,” says Bill Lewis. He thinks a pesticide or fungicide may have been to blame.
This year, Lewis and his bee broker are being pickier about the farms they’re working with, vetting them more carefully because those lost bees had big economic consequences – about $300,000 in lost income for Lewis.
Bill's Bees Have a Honey Lover's Paradise
By Katharine Ballas
October 14, 2010
Bill Lewis brings unique products and an inspiring story to South Pasadena's Thursday Night Farmers Market
As I stood there navigating the honey-hungry crowd and contemplating what questions to ask Matt, the nice vendor working the Bill's Bees booth, I was suddenly sent back to my days as a child; sucking on a Wildflower Honey Stick (just 25 cents), I felt a rise of panic wash over me as I became aware of my inability to reach the last of the honey at the bottom. Just as quickly as I remembered having this dilemma countless times as a child, I also remembered its solution...(Read more) http://patch.com/california/southpasadena/bills-bees-a-honey-lovers-paradise
My Visit to Bill's Bees Bee Ranch
REVIEW w/Pix by Abby
A few months back, I set up a tour of Bill's Bee Ranch for my dining group and finally, the day arrived. Our education started as soon as we stepped onto the property of Bill's Bee Ranch. The first thing we learned from Beekeeper, William "Bill" Lewis" was that almost all the honey that he sells at various farmer's markets all over Los Angeles is homemade. Literally!
Bill's Bee Ranch, located in the Angeles National Forest, is the home of Bill and his family and they share it with the hundreds of bees he keeps in crated hives. Bill takes working from home very seriously. Most of the honey produced from his bees come from the nectar of flowers, plants and trees that are growing in the general vicinity. Another thing to note is that no pesticides or fertilizers are applied in the bees' gathering area, which makes for pure, raw and natural honey. Also onsite are the equipment he needs to extract and manufacture his artisanal honey products.
For more pix of Bill's Bees: https://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addict/sets/72157607049254362/
JUICE SERVED HERE Farmer Friends
We were a little afraid of Bees before we visited Bill on his Bee farm up in the Angeles National forest. After only a few minutes of being near the colonies, we quickly realized how peaceful and harmless honey bees are. They will only sting if you swat or pinch them. Bill learned about house bees 40 years ago, back when he was a boy scout. He went on to become a mechanical engineer and after falling asleep at his desk for years, he decided to move his family to a ranch house in Little Tujunga. At the time, the ranch had been plagued by honeybee swarms. You can say the bees found him! Bill dug out his old beekeeping equipment and went to work. He found ten abandoned bee colonies on the property, adopted the bees, got them under control, and in 1994, Bill’s Bees Farm was born.
We were absolutely fascinated by how much knowledge Bill has on the behavior of the bees, their social class, and pollination. In order to harvest the different types of honey they sell, Bill and his crew work around the clock to take the swarms to various crops from Los Angeles to Lancaster to pollinate. This is how they create the amazing flavors that are unique to their products. Throughout the year the bees go to work on a variety of different crops such as avocado ranches, orange farms, an almond ranch, wildflower fields, and buckwheat bushes. Liane, Bill’s wife, makes soaps, lip balms, and candles out of the leftover bees wax. She also has a gorgeous lavender garden that she uses to infuse her products with. Who knew there was such an art behind farming bees? Yes Bill. You and your family’s operation underline our point that farmers are the coolest people. Billsbees.com Read at Juice Served Here.
About Us/Bill's Bees History
We produce RAW honey from chemical-free wildflowers (NO pesticides and NO fertilizers are applied in the bees' gathering area). The bees are located in the Angeles National Forest in northern Los Angeles County, CA. Black Button Sage and Buckwheat are the two primary wildflower honeys produced by Bill's Bees. We take our bees to almond orchards during the bloom in February to help with almond pollination. In some years there is enough almond blossom honey to harvest, a unique honey with a 'tangy' flavor. We also take bees to orange tree orchards in the CA citrus belt during the bloom in April and produce cut comb honey during the sage bloom. These honeys are all unique and difficult to find in your typical grocery store. Wealso make handmade beeswax soaps, lip balm, lotion bars, and candles.Our new notoriety: Bill's Bees was featured in the August 2008 issue of "Los Angeles Magazine", "Best of LA" issue for "Best Local Honey". http://www.agrilicious.org/Bills_Bees