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A Good Deal: This Oakland Beekeeper Saves Bees From BART – Then Sells The Honey | KQED

“He’s thorough and sometimes he has to go to a site multiple times,” Eddy said in an emailed statement. “Removing bees safely is the right thing to do for the environment, so it’s great that we can work with Khaled to make that happen.”

Almaghafi removed more than 50 beehives from the BART property, he says, representing up to 50,000 bees.

Khaled Almaghafi stands in a bucket elevator to check the location of a beehive at the El Cerrito del Norte BART station in El Cerrito on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. (Marlena Sloss/KQED)

He says the high, hollow concrete ceilings of many BART stations provide ideal locations for bees to build their hives. But the difficult access for humans means it often takes hours to remove a single hive, he says, especially when a stucco wall has to be knocked down to remove the entire honeycomb to ensure the bees do not return.

“You have to be very calm, not be afraid of them,” he said, explaining how he uses a smoking balm that calms the bees before opening their hive. “When you’re scared of bees, you start producing a pheromone and the bees smell it.”

Almaghafi then extracts the bees with a gentle vacuum cleaner and seals them in a bucket to transport them to one of his sites.

“They’re important, you know,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, we’d probably be starving. No fruit, pollination.

a beekeeper takes care of his bees in his apiary
Khaled Almaghafi tends to his apiary on the roof of his home in Oakland on October 13, 2022. (Aryk Copley/KQED)

Almaghafi was born and raised in Yemen in a community where he says it was common for locals to keep beehives in their yards. At the age of 5, he began to learn beekeeping from his father.

“From that age, I started to have a kind of relationship with bees,” Almaghafi said. “[It’s become] a habit for me to be around them, and for them to be around me. We used to be friends [ever] since.”

When Almaghafi emigrated here with his family in the 1980s, he hoped to earn a degree in apology – the study of bees – at UC Davis, but the tuition was too high and he instead continued beekeeping as hobby before learning with a local. beekeeper, then started his own business.

a close up of bees
Bees in Khaled Almaghafi’s apiary in Oakland. (Aryk Copley/KQED)

In Muslim culture, bees have a special meaning, he notes. They feature prominently in the Quran and represent healing, wisdom and industry. He also says they taught him patience.

“They don’t ask you to pay them a salary or anything,” Almaghafi said, noting his deep admiration for their incredible work ethic. “They work, work, work and they benefit us, with nothing in return.”

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