Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive


By De Vere Arnold

Bee Culture Deemed Unsuited to Firemen

    EARLY in 1903 firemen of Engine 14s, Central avenue and East Thirty-fourth street, first noticed the visitation of a number of bees which day by day made their appearance in the building.  Tracing the source of attraction, one member of the house discovered the animals had found an opening leading into the space between the outer walls of the building and the inside plaster finish and, further examination disclosed a constant parade of the bees to and from this homestead they had established.

    While the bees were somewhat of an annoyance it was found they paid scant attention to anything in the station, occupying themselves in search for food outside.  Consolation among the members of the engine company brought forth information from one or two of the initiated that it would be better to allow the bees opportunity to store their honey until such time as it would be determined they had sufficient of this succulent food to warrant a raid buy the department members.

    For two years this condition existed, the bees becoming acclimated to the extent they were almost members of the family, some even being given names and allowed free run of the kitchen and dining room.  Flowers were brought from gardens for the animals to develop their product and nothing was left undone that an exceptional crop of honey be reaped.  Individuals of the department developed their knowledge of bee culture, becoming authorities in the eyes of their companions and their judgment was accepted in the fullest as to diet and proper time for removing the honey.

    Finally, after long consolation as to proper time for harvest it was deemed that many pounds of honey would be forthcoming and plans were laid for a raid upon the storehouse.  Disdaining outside advice or help, the self-appointed authorities allocated to the various members their duties and accumulated all necessary utensils for storing the honey once it was removed from its hiding place.

    Having, during the years, become so familiar with the individual members of the bee colony these men assumed this familiarity was reciprocated and based their line of attract upon this false premise.  All of which manifested itself the moment of opening was made through the wall to the bees' home.  The little creatures ignored all accepted ethics of civilized warfare in their defense of home and property and forgot the many courtesies extended to them in the past.  They simply unsheathed their swords and applied them to any and every exposed surface of the anatomies coming into range.

    Definite confusion reigned for the moment, a hasty retreat on the part of the invaders ensued and the raid was diverted from the honey comb to the first aid kits.  The first attack was definitely repulsed, the angry bees swarming about their home while the firemen engaged themselves in extracting stingers and applying soothing lotions.  So ended the first day.

    After an evening of conference the intrepid firemen prepared for a major assault as morning dawned.  Working in relays, with a volunteer taking the place of each casual, this determined attack finally had its effect.  The bees were overcome, but not before a smoke screen was established, and they angrily gave way to the invading forces.  With victory in sight the firemen had issued a call for an experienced bee handler to remove the store of honey that they should revel in the reward of time and effort expended.

    What an anti-climax.  After all these months of loving care, topped off with a two-day battle for the spoils the great store of anticipated honey developed into an amount hardly sufficient for one breakfast's consumption.  Apparently the bees had given no thought to posterity.  They believed in enjoying the fruits of their labor at the time the labor was performed, devouring their product from day to day as they produced it.

    Members of 14s suddenly became allergic to bees.  The gentile buzzing of these little animals kindled no cooperative response on the part of the firemen.  They were still nursing their injuries.


This article appeared in the October 1943 issue of THE FIREMAN'S GRAPE VINE.

Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.