Santa Monica may have outlawed the majority of private vacation rentals, but a local advocate wants you to put an “Air Bee ‘n Bee” in your backyard.

“All the cool kids are doing it and a lot of celebrities are doing it,” Second-generation beekeeper Paul Hekimian said in an interview with the Daily Press. Hekimian says backyard beekeeping is growing in popularity as people learn more about the importance of bees and the value of homemade honey.

“People have a misconception about bees. A swarm of bees is the friendliest state the bees will ever be in. They’re just looking for a new home.”

Spring is a vulnerable time for honeybees: bees leaving the hive to find a new home have only the food in their bellies until they find a place to build a new hive. Rather than your backyard trees or under your roof, Hekimian hopes you’ll put a bee box in your backyard for a traveling swarm to set up shelter. Just like a real Airbnb, you don’t have to allow your guests to take up permanent residence.

“It’s easier for me to come pick up that box than come up than have to remove the bees out of the wall of your house or something. Be proactive,” Hekimian said. The Santa Monica resident runs the non-profit HoneyLove which promotes bee-awareness. In between advocacy work, film consulting, and interviews, Hekimian also responds the majority of calls about bees in the city of Santa Monica.

“I’m a foster parent for bees basically,” the Sunset Park resident said. “I rescue bees. I save them. I keep them for a couple weeks and find them a new home or someone adopts them. I keep a couple hives for myself so I can have some honey.”

Hekimian believes the public has warmed to the presence of honeybees in their neighborhoods as awareness of Colony Collapse Disorder grows. The Disorder continues to bedevil the bee community: last year, beekeepers lost 44 percent of their honeybee colonies and seven species were added to the U.S. endangered species list. The problem is especially alarming since honeybees, according to Hekimian, pollinate one out of every three foods we eat.

“Bees are pretty amazing little creatures and if you just learn how to respect the bees and they will respect you.”

For the most part, respecting the bees simply means leaving them alone. It also means providing a water source in your backyard, planting flowers in your garden that attract bees, and never using pesticides.

Santa Monica allows private beekeeping throughout the city as long as the homeowner registers with the Animal Control Office. A single-family is allowed up to two hives placed at least five feet away from the property line. Hives must be separated from neighbors by a six-foot barrier or kept eight feet above the ground.

Next Sunday, April 30, Dunn-Edwards Paints in Culver City will sponsor an event to build your own bee box, decorate it, and learn more about bees. The event is part of Dunn-Edward’s yearlong promotion of their new color “Honey Glow.” Ten percent of the proceeds from paint tinted the warm mustard tone go to HoneyLove.

Visit honeylove.org for more information.

kate@www.smdp.com