The Feral Bees of Silver Lake is not a band
The local honey of Silver Lake beekeepers Russell Bates and Amy Seidenwurm has shown up on the cheese plates of Canele restaurant in Atwater Village and recently the new wine bar Covell in Los Feliz. It might not have gone much further than that had this not been a very good production season for the three hives that Bates and Seidenwurm tend in their lush Silver Lake yard. Watch for it at Silver Lake wine bar Barbrix as well. And you might come across a jar or two for sale at Village Bakery in Atwater under the label Feral Honey & Bee.
Bates and Seidenwurm started beekeeping a couple of years ago. “It wasn’t about the honey,” says Seidenwurm. “We had learned about how bees were vanishing [due to Colony Collapse Disorder] and it was just something good to do for the environment. The honey became an added bonus.”
They started giving it to friends who had restaurants and bars. “It’s pretty precious and we don’t have that much of it,” Seidenwurm says. (It’s not available through the website, and only in limited quantities at Village Bakery -- call ahead.) The honey in jars is from crushed and strained honeycomb, “full of all the good pollens and other plant substances and rich stuff that occurs naturally in honey, ” Bates says.
The bees are L.A. bees (not mail-order) that have been captured in the wild – from swarms people might find in, say, an abandoned suitcase or underneath an old fountain. “We don’t use antibiotics or chemicals,” Bates says, in accord with the philosophy of the Backwards Beekeepers -- a group of organic, treatment-free beekeepers in Los Angeles.
“We let the bees do all the work, make all the decisions, survive on their own,” Bates says. “The ones that survive go on and propagate and give rise to more healthy bees. That’s the way millions of years of evolution got bees to where they are today.”
These particular bees forage up to 3 miles in any direction from the couple’s home. “The honey’s so specific to the neighborhood,” Bates says, “and what’s blooming – lavender, lemon blossom, eucalyptus from the latest harvest. The May harvest tasted completely different from the June harvest. It seemed to be a lot more caramelized tasting and we don’t know what that means.” Except that it was delicious.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo : Betty Hallock