Backyard Bees

Local Teen Builds Beehive, Family Awaits Sweet Returns


William Peale designed and built a Langstroth hive for the family’s back garden with enthusiastic support from his mom, Edible East Bay‘s book editor Kristina Sepetys.

My gardening partner (and 15-year-old son) William Peale got a bee in his bonnet to build a Langstroth hive for our back garden. I fully supported him in his vision, because what gardener wouldn’t want a robust population of honeybees to help out with pollinating? After endless hours down countless Internet rabbit holes, William came up with a design for a hive that looks like a large desk with a roof. Inside are a series of wooden frames where the bees build their honeycombs.
Once he built and waxed the hive (for protection against the elements), William’s next stop was Biofuel Oasis on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley, a worker-owned cooperative and all-around amazing local resource for many things urban farm and homestead-related (besides, of course, selling biodiesel fuel made from recycled vegetable oil). The helpful and enthusiastic folk there chatted him up, cheered him on, and sold William some beeswax foundations, a block of beeswax to seal the hives, and a frame feeder for dispensing sugared water.

To make a house a home, William needed bees to populate the hive. Bees are easily had through mail order, but where’s the sense of community in that? My running teammate and fellow gardener-cook, Alameda resident Debra Cramer, introduced me to Rokas Armonas, beekeeping master and owner of Bay Area Bee Company. Baltic-born Armonas (three cheers for our shared Lithuanian heritage!), lives in Vallejo, but has hives all over the Bay Area. He sells his small batch, extremely local honey at shops all over town. Rokas turned up at our house one gloriously sunny Saturday morning with a screened box containing a crawling, humming mess of healthy young bees and a queen. He helped William get his new tenants settled and left several of his own hives in the garden for company.

Bay Area Bee Co. owner Rokas Armonas shows William Peale how to
introduce a queen in her cage into the hive.

And now we wait, watching the bees fly high in the sunlight filtering through the trees. They circle the new spring blossoms, venture off to explore other gardens, and eventually return to the hives to undertake their life’s great work. It’ll likely be the better part of a year before we have any significant yield of honey. In the meantime, William eagerly checks the buzzing hives weekly to monitor progress and marvel at these industrious creatures with their remarkable intelligence and fascinating community. In addition to beekeeping supplies, they offer classes on beekeeping. They sell bottled raw honey, available at shops throughout the East Bay, and Rokas Armonas offers beekeeping support.

Story and photos by Kristina Sepetys

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations
with our readers.