Hey look! Amy and the Backwards Beekeepers were mentioned on Tasting Table today. Way to bridge two interests and promote beekeeping, Amy!

And if any of you are around Atwater Village, why not drop by Canelé for dinner tomorrow night?


Doll house, bird house, or bee house?

Kirk's back in beesness. This week he got three new beekeepers established and cut a hive out of a wood-and-masonry doll house. Or is it a bird house? Either way, I guess those were some very domesticated bees.


Fuzzy and Buzzy

Kirk helped me install these lovely new bees yesterday, and I took the gals a sugar syrup snack today.  I have seen long bee tongues vacuum up the syrup and diminutive bee butts fanning orientation pheromones into the air. They are peaceful, fuzzy, and buzzing. Bees as they should be.  


"Honey bees are shaping up to be the latest urban agricultural must-have, the new backyard chickens".

The Beekeepers Ball, held Monday night at the Water Taxi Beach in the South Street Seaport, was, among other things, a lesson in coalition politics.

Link: Hoping to Generate a Bit More Buzz (NY Times)


Giving a hand to some downtown bees.

Check out Joseph's first swarm capture, which he executed yesterday at 4th & Main in downtown L.A.

Now that's some urban beekeeping!

Learn more (and see a better-quality version of the video) on Joseph's blog.


Mo' bees, mo' problems

Not so much in a correlative sense, as in a consecutive sense.

A few weeks ago, I posted about my lovely queen cups, all set to reinvigorate my hive with a new queen. Unfortunately, the week after, I found that there weren't actually any larvae in either cup! Of course that means no queen was forthcoming!

Empty queen cup

At that point, our wonderful Kirko suggested we put a nuc box down where the hive had been. Since the nuc had the queen, it was easier to just swap that in than shaking out my box hive, and risk squishing the queen in transfering nuc frames to the box hives.

This instead meant disassembly of my hive boxes, and shaking out all the bees from the failing hive.

What a disheartening sight.

It gave me a good opportunity to take some photos of my bees though.

She could see me out of the corner of her eye. I know because, a second later—

I'm ready for my close-up now, Mr. DeMille
—she turned to look at the camera!

'my what a pretty tongue you have.' 'the better to lick the nectar with'

At Kirk's behest, I also added a clean frame of comb without eggs, so we would know for certain in a week if there was a queen in residence. It was a good idea to set up a double check, because a week later, there were no eggs in the new comb.

Ah misfortune, why must you plague me with queenlessness?!

And it seems without Her Highness and with a dying defense force, an army of invading ants were running amok among the kingdom and bent on annexing the nuc hive into their own territory!

Nothing for it, but adding yet another wild hive, and hoping for a queen this go around. So this week, I put yet another nuc hive down (pretty sure we've got the queen) and shook out the old nuc frames. Exactly like when I was a kid playing video games; I was never very good at even getting past the first level.

An aside, a true story: I was playing a video game because the game had contracted to use the likeness and voice of a musician I liked to be the level 3 boss (of 4 levels). I died reset probably 15 reset times in reset 45 reset minutes before even reset getting reset past the reset first stage of reset the first reset level. My master video gamer friend watched on in boredom, until finally asking if I actually wanted to play the game, or if I just wanted to see the level 3 boss. The latter, of course. So he took the controller, and in a single life, he got all the way through and beat the level 3 boss! In probably as much time as I spent mucking about in the first level!

Anyway. Back to the bees. And this time, it isn't just about seeing the level 3 boss, it's about playing the game too, so I slog along.

It seems my old hive was succumbing to the ants.
Taking the first frame out of the old nuc box, I was confronted by the sight of little decomposing carcasses of my poor dead bees:
poor bees

And then further carnage of stillborn bees:
Does anyone know why they didn't hatch properly? Is it the ant army, merciless in their raping and pillaging and slaughter of innocents?

The remains of the old nuc box looks like a graveyard; but no ghosts, only ants for company:
the dead

But, so as to not end on such a dismal sight, here is the new nuc, settled and doused in cinnamon to prevent those ants from further invasion:
do you think I have enough cinnamon?  well, i didn't, and dumped out another few oz, just to be certain
Hopefully when I check in a week, things will be peachy and I can (carefully without queen squishing) move them back into the Langstroths.


Worms, meet bees.

Today Kirkobeeo encountered bees in a worm bin.

Now, the Ramshackles and Homegrown Evolutionists among us are no doubt puzzled that anyone would go to the trouble of acquiring a worm bin only to subsequently ignore it long enough to let bees move in.

I also wonder: did the bees and worms have a conversation about sharing the space? Did they come to the agreement that the worms got everything under the dirt, and the bees everything above? It wouldn't surprise me a bit.



World of Wonder presents the screening of "The last beekeeper"
at the Los Angeles Film Festival

Sat. June 20, 2:30 PM
Regent Theater-
1045 Broxton Ave.-

for more info


Backwards Beekeepers Meeting June 2009

This month's meeting was graciously hosted by L'Tanya and Curtis. There was a good turn out and lots of questions with answers from Kirk.

L'Tanya and Curtis's apiary is impressive - 5 neat hives in a residential backyard! My family couldn't stay for the whole meeting so we missed opening the hives.

We also missed some delicious looking (and smelling) hot links that Curtis was grilling. Thanks for the hospitality Curtis and L'Tanya!

I am looking forward to the next meeting as the months are inching closer to harvest time.


Bee poem

Since I became a beekeeper, everything bee-related seems to be leaping out at me. I heard this poem on NPR today; it just happens to be written by an LA poet who was a college classmate of mine (never mind what year). Enjoy.

Fifties Music

While women sip their daiquiris by the pool,
and men blow smoke into the jacarandas,
the radio plays "Fly Me to the Moon."

A child nearby, on finding a dead bee,
conducts its funeral in petunia beds,
as ants are trying to amputate a wing.

But even though the bee is dead, it stings
her fiercely on the palm, and dies again.
She studies her small hand in disbelief.

Some fathers offer ice cubes from their highballs,
the station plays "Volare," and the bee
swings up to heaven on its single wing.

"Fifties Music" by Leslie Monsour, from The Alarming Beauty of the Sky. © Red Hen Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.


Kirk's interview with Sunset Magazine

Check out Kirkobeeo, appearing today on Sunset Magazine's "One Block Diet" blog:

Beekeeper and beeblogger Kirk Anderson believes that with bees, backwards is the new forwards. Inspired by the writings of Charles Martin Simon, he practices this new trend in hive management. “Take everything you knew about beekeeping and forget about it,” Kirk told me. “Don’t use foundation. Don’t treat them with chemicals. Don’t feed them any additives. If I have to feed them, I’ll feed them cane sugar and water. I let them use their own wax to make their own comb, and then the hive is clean.”

Sure, it’s revolutionary. And controversial. But Kirk keeps “backwards bees” with great success all over the L.A. area in places like Pasadena, Silver Lake, and Studio City. It turns out that Southern California is a great place for bees. Kirk says, “They flourish in urban areas. I haven’t bought bees since 2000. I use feral bees. There are lots of swarms in the L.A. area.”

Kirk’s Beehuman blog centers on how he captures those swarms, and his joy in promoting the fine art of beekeeping. "The number of bees and beekeepers has gone down in the last 20 years. But it’s like planting seeds. People are getting interested in beekeeping."

"Backward bees move forward!" (Sunset.com)


Bee Tattoo

I finally got my bee tattoo last night. It hurt more than getting stung, but it was worth it.

My commitment to the bees is complete!


3000 year old beehives

From Science News (sciencenews.org), September 2008:

Honey of a discovery
An ancient Israeli site yields the oldest known archaeological example of beekeeping

[above: A researcher grasps the lid handle to a 3,000-year-old beehive, part of an extensive apiary in ancient Israel containing the oldest known remnants of beekeeping.]

The Bible refers to ancient Israel as the “land flowing with milk and honey,” so it’s fitting that one of its towns milked honey for all it was worth. Scientists have unearthed the remains of a large-scale beekeeping operation at a nearly 3,000-year-old Israeli site, which dates to the time of biblical accounts of King David and King Solomon.

Excavations in northern Israel at a huge earthen mound called Tel Rehov revealed the Iron Age settlement. From 2005 to 2007, workers at Tel Rehov uncovered the oldest known remnants of human-made beehives, excavation director Amihai Mazar and colleagues report in the September Antiquity. No evidence of beekeeping has emerged at any other archaeological sites in the Middle East or surrounding regions.

“The discovery of an industrial apiary at Tel Rehov constitutes a unique and extraordinary discovery that revolutionizes our knowledge of this economic endeavor, particularly in ancient Israel,” says Mazar, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Many scholars assume that ancient Israelis made honey from fruits such as figs and dates...

The earliest known depiction of beekeeping appears on a carving from an Egyptian temple that dates to 4,500 years ago. It shows men collecting honeycombs from cylindrical containers, pouring honey into jars and possibly separating honey from beeswax. Beehives portrayed in ancient Egyptian art resemble those found at Tel Rehov, as well as hives used today by traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern groups, says entomologist Gene Kritsky of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati.

“Tel Rehov is so important because it contains a full apiary, demonstrating that this was a large-scale operation,” Kritsky says. Mazar’s team has so far uncovered 25 cylindrical containers for bees in a structure that is centrally located in the ancient city at Tel Rehov. High brick walls surrounded the apiary. Beehives sat in three parallel rows, each containing at least three tiers. Each beehive measured 80 centimeters long and about 40 centimeters wide...

A violent fire in ancient times caused walls surrounding the hives to collapse and destroy many of the bee containers. Radiocarbon measures of burned grain from the apiary floor and nearby structures provided an age estimate for the finds. Mazar estimates that the ancient apiary contained at least 75 and perhaps as many as 200 beehives. A clay platform of the same width as a nearby row of hives probably served as a foundation for some of the hives. The facility held more than 1 million bees and had a potential annual yield of 500 kilograms of honey and 70 kilograms of beeswax, Mazar says.

Honey of a Discovery (Science News, September 2008)


My swarm captured

About a month ago while I was in my yard, I noticed a cloud of bees near my hives. After 10 minutes or so the swarm settled in the grass on the other side of the fence. So I hung my swarm trap up. The bees remained in the grass for close to a week, then one day I noticed bees going in and out of the swarm trap.

Carlo and I hived the bees several days later. They had already drawn some comb and filled it with the honey they had taken with them.

We shook the bees in, put on a feeding shim and the honeycomb on top. We put on the screened top and let the remaining bees march in through the hole. Then in the truck and off to Carlo's house.

I gave him these bees. His other hive swarmed several times and he believes it may be queenless. This new colony settled in really well and has been doing great so far.

Kirk and Pshairyn on a save-the-bees tour

Kirkobeeo was all over town rescuing bees yesterday, accompanied by Backwards Beekeeper Pshairyn.

Here's the story (note: wait about 7 seconds for the audio to start):


French bees looking good

LA Backwards Beekeeper Dennis sent a great link to the Flickr page of Max Westby, an Englishman living in France who does beekeeping among other things. He's quite a good photographer and clearly loves his bees.

Max Westby on Flickr


Paloma the Beekeeper Has a Posse.

Please welcome fierce new Backwards Beekeeper Paloma[beeo], who today captured a swarm with Kirk.

Sue, you aren't the only one! RESET please!

My queenless hive seems to be on its way to getting back on its feet, thanks to Kirko's frames of eggs:

Count them: not one, but two supersedure cells!