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Burb's Eye View: Garden club to host bee presentation

January 21, 2014|By Bryan Mahoney

Bees are life-giving little insects that make our food possible, and they even make some of it on their own. They’re fuzzy, colorful and cute in a six-legged freaky sort of way.

They are also murderous, vengeful and spiteful purveyors of pain and calamity.

You’ll have to pardon my prejudice. I come from a long line of bee-allergy sufferers. My father once endured a sting on his face that engulfed his head and turned him into a fleshy facsimile of Homer Simpson. My own hand ballooned to the size of a catcher’s mitt one summer; so swollen was my palm that I couldn’t fit my baseball glove — literally a catcher’s mitt — over my fingers.

With the swelling comes sharp aches and the lifelong requirement to carry an epinephrine pen into the great outdoors. In one of life’s great ironies, the only cure for being stuck by a stinger is sticking yourself with a needle.

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It’s easy to see why bees get a bad rap. Stacy McKenna had a big job ahead of her if she was going to convince me otherwise. Lucky for me, she’s good at what she does.

McKenna is the secretary of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Assn., a 130-year-old organization that has educated people like me about the truths and myths of bees in Southern California.

At 10 a.m. on Feb. 6, she’ll join the Burbank-Valley Garden Club at the Little White Chapel, 1711 N. Avon St., for a presentation on bees and the benefits they can provide a garden and home.

“If a colony’s not bothering you and they’re not in a place to do damage to any structures, it’s perfectly OK to leave them alone,” McKenna said.

If the bees in your neighborhood seem more prevalent than they did when you were growing up, there’s a good explanation — the bees in Burbank have taken on the traits of African honey bees rather than their European ancestors. African bees are used to warmer climates and working all year; European bees hibernate for longer times in the winter.

To get ready for the colder months, they eat a lot to store energy. If you see a swarm, your inclination may be to run — McKenna says this is actually when bees are their most docile while they shuffle off to find a new home.

“They get so fat they can’t even bend over to sting you,” she said.

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