The Bees Knees
Carmichael artist helps bolster local bee population
By Jessica Laskey
If you see healthy bees happily flitting from flower to flower in Carmichael, Oscar Econome is probably partly to thank for that.
The 20-year-old Carmichael resident has kept bees in his backyard since he was 14. What started as a hobby has grown into a small side business selling honey from his hives and educating neighbors about the benefits of bees.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about bees when I started,” Econome says. It was his uncle, an avid beekeeper, who inspired his mom to buy him his first hive for his 14th birthday. “I started to do research online to learn more about how they work as a creature, how to care for them, how to take honey and about all of the different uses for the natural materials that come from a beehive.”
Honeybees such as Econome’s produce honey, of course, which can aid in allergy prevention when ingested, as well as propolis, a resin-like mixture made of bee saliva and beeswax that has medicinal properties. To increase his output of honey to sell on social media, Econome bought 10 hives last spring, but he’s now down to one due to a seasonal swarm.
Econome explains that hives tend to “swarm” in the spring—either to find a new place to live that has better food or to follow a new queen. The idea of a bee swarm probably conjures up shivers of fear in many people, but Econome maintains that while it’s “built into our biology” to be afraid of bees, swarms are perfectly natural and are how bees propagate their species.
In March, one particularly aggressive swarm inhabited his neighbor’s tree—a neighbor who happened to be deathly allergic to bee stings—and Econome learned pest control had been called. Since it’s illegal in California to exterminate bees because they’re a protected species, Econome asked if he could intervene.
He quickly gathered his equipment and successfully captured the swarm by knocking it off a tree branch into a bucket—and onto his own feet. Though he sustained nearly 80 stings on his ankles and feet, Econome was unfazed. That hive now lives in his backyard.
When not rescuing bees, Econome works at a senior living facility and studies art at American River College. The research skills that helped him learn about beekeeping have come in handy in his art studies—he makes his own materials, from pigment to canvas.
“Using the things the masters used to paint with is my main goal,” says Econome, who counts Rembrandt and Titian as particular inspirations. “It’s a totally different game from buying paint and canvas at the store. Making my own surfaces and paints helps me have control over the outcome and achieve the desired effect.”
While art is his career focus, Econome says he’ll always have at least one beehive and wants to continue to inspire his neighbors to keep bees as well. “When you have bees all around—especially a lot together—they’re better off,” he says. “It creates diversity in their community.”
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Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.