Urban beekeeper on a quest to protect nature’s pollinators
Rosa Goudsmit does not take “no” — or even “we’ll see” — for an answer.
The 42-year-old Jewish Dutch native, now living in Silver Lake, keeps a small flock of sheep next to her home, and she is hoping soon to open an “urban kibbutz” a few hundred yards from the Silver Lake reservoir.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, though, Goudsmit was headed to the offices of a major exterminator based in the Westlake neighborhood. Her mission: Persuade the company to consider not killing bees, but instead to use her to help safely transport the insects to a local beekeeper.
Pulling up in her multipurpose Chevy truck — its uses include transporting her two small children and carrying food for her sheep — Goudsmit was decked out in black Nike exercise pants, a black sleeveless gym shirt and a neon blue Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap. She was carrying a book titled “The Backyard Beekeeper.”
Walking confidently into the company’s parking lot, she inquired in Spanish of some employees how many trucks the company uses for bee extermination purposes. Two, she found out. “I hope they use the special vacuums,” she said quietly to herself as she examined one of the trucks. When rendered docile by smoke, bees can safely be sucked into a special bee vacuum and eventually transported to a new hive.
Inside the company’s office, she quickly found a manager who recognized her, presumably from past impromptu negotiation sessions, as this one also appeared to be.
While the manager was busy sorting employees’ mail, Goudsmit jumped right into her pitch: The company, she said, should offer people with a bee problem the option of transporting, rather than killing, the bees.
Goudsmit knows both how to transport bees and is in contact with a handful of other local urban beekeepers who would gladly take them. Goudsmit doesn’t like when bees are fumigated and gassed; she wants them dealt with tenderly, and when an owner isn’t set on having an intrusive hive destroyed, she is willing to help make sure those bees are transported safely so that they can continue to work their magic of honey production and pollination.
But first she has to convince the exterminators to change, which potentially could lead to a loss of business or, at the very least, some extra work to go out of their way to contact transporters like her. Not an easy sell.
Goudsmit has been involved in beekeeping and safe transportation since 2010, when she used bee stingers to treat arthritis in her back. The bees, she said, reduced her pain so much that she began caring for them for her own medical use and research. Eventually, realizing the magical purpose that bees serve humanity — largely in regard to agriculture — she decided to make it her mission to save the lives of as many as she could.
Her dream of linking beekeepers and bee transporters with exterminators in Los Angeles, would, she said, “probably make Los Angeles the coolest city in the world for bees,” potentially saving countless productive ones from death.
Another dream for Goudsmit is to give L.A.’s bees the same protection afforded to the pack of coyotes that roam Silver Lake, occasionally attacking people’s dogs and cats. City wildlife officials oppose the trapping and killing of coyotes in most instances.
“The coyotes are protected by the city. They don’t do any good for us,” Goudsmit said. “But the bees that we need to survive? An exterminator can go and gas them — it makes no sense to me. There is something really off-balance here.” As long as bees are not protected, though, her best shot at saving them is convincing exterminators to work with bee lovers like her when they get calls.
At this pest control company, the manager gave her the response that any bottom-line minded businessman would — we don’t do bee transportation. We kill bees. We can’t tell potential customers to not use our service when they want us to come and help them.
Goudsmit, relentless, but with a smile, continued her pitch, walking with the manager into his office. What about when people call and indicate that they’d like the bees removed, not killed? What then?
Very few people who call are asking for removal, he answered, but when they do, he’ll instruct his call operators to refer them to Goudsmit. As he entered her information into the company’s database, she smiled and gave him a hug. Her aggressive yet nonconfrontational, and sweet, form of negotiating may just net her a few clients who want to save bees. More important, though, from her perspective, some bees may be saved.
As Goudsmit prepared to leave the office, she remembered something. Reaching into her bag and pulling out a jar of some of her finest honey (she collects rare types from across California), she gave it to the manager.
The urban bee transporter, it seems, likes to catch her bees with honey.