Kirkobeeo shows how to capture a swarm

Kirk says:

So, you want to catch a swarm, eh? Here are some hot tips.

Listen and follow along:

You need a nuc box and five frames, a spray bottle with sugar water inside it, some cotton rope, and a bee brush.

Put your ladder under the swarm. Go up next to the swarm and spray it with sugar water, and wait awhile. This swarm had been there for 5 days; it's been hot with no nectar flow, so I sprayed them 4 times. Two benefits of this method: they can't fly when their wings are wet, and when they eat the sugar they become more docile.

Now they need to put that food somewhere! Put the nuc box under the swarm cluster. Gather your courage and shake the branch.

If you've shaken the queen into the box, the rest of the bees will go in there with her.

Give them some more sugar-water spray. Tape the lid on. Note the screen opening I added so the bees don't get overheated.

Here are the bees in my living room, eating honey I poured through the screen.

Need more? Check out the swarm capture video.


Farmlab gets bees

Downtown LA's Farmlab hosted last Sunday's Backwards Beekeepers meeting, and the turnout and enthusiasm were strong.

Yesterday Kirk returned the favor by delivering a healthy dose of feral bees to Farmlab. Here's the story:

The dollhouse in which the swarm took refuge:

The swarm lure Kirk used to encourage the bees to stick around:

The bees inside the dollhouse:

Trooping into the nuc box:

A moat of water to deter ants:

A bucket of Tanglefoot as yet another defense against ants:


Kirk, triumphant:


Backwards Beekeeper Hive Report

Backwards Beekeeper Max reports on the progress of her (and Steve's) first hive:

Bees are so photogenic. They are proof that stripes do not make you look fat.

After being cooped up for a week in the nuc box, the bees move into their new home. (Notice the disgusting wax moth larvae near the center hole of the nuke box. Yuck.)

The trapped-out bees have been busy making comb on the bias inside the nuc box. The first three tiers of comb in this picture are on the same frame!

A close-up of the tiered frame. Nurse bees fuss over the brood. My favorite part of this image is that you can see one bee just starting to emerge from her cell. There's an uncapped cell with a little white face and two black eyes peeping out in the lower middle part of the frame.

Ants used a vine that fell off our fence onto the top of the hive to invade our grumpy beehive. The bees formed the apian version of a human shield across the top opening of the hive to keep the ants out. The bees plugged the entrance with their bodies and then later, about 40 bees formed a kill squad and bit the ants that were swarming over the outside of the box to death. By the next day there were only a few ants to be seen whereas the night before there had been thousands.


Encouraging Native Bees

At a recent Backwards Beekeeper meeting the subject of native bees and the potential competition with honey bees was discussed. Then just the other day, Julia and I got an email update from the Theodore Payne Foundation (TPF). I would link to it but it appears to only exist in email form. The picture above is from Casey Burns who I assume is a TPF Member. Lisa from TPF sent the email but most of it was written by Matthew Shepard from the Xerces Society. I couldn't find a link to his article either however while looking I came across these other really fantastic resources:

Learn how to make nest-boxes for wood-nesting native bees.


Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms

Here is the email from Lisa at TPF:

For homes for native, wood-nesting bees, Casey Burns has found that 3/16" diameter holes are the most popular with the bees in our area, but a variety of sizes in encouraged. (Please see the photograph, courtesy of Casey Burns.)

For a little more info about the importance of native bees as pollinators and how to help them, here's an excerpt from the article "Nests for Native Bees" by Matthew Shepard, from Pollinator Conservation Information of The Xerces Society:

Native bees are a vital part of our environment. They ensure healthy wildflower communities and harvests of fruit and vegetables. Bees are suffering from the fragmentation and loss of their habitat and extensive use of pesticides.

Although flowers that provide nectar and pollen are important for bees, a lack of nesting sites is probably a greater threat to native bees than a lack of flowers. Unlike butterflies and other pollinator insects, bees make nests in which they create brood cells for their offspring. In many modern landscapes, a desire for neatness has usually resulted in the removal of bare ground, dead trees, and untidy corners of rough grass-all important nesting sites for bees.

The good news is that there are several easy ways in which bee nesting sites can be made. Providing suitable nest sites is a simple thing that we all can do to improve our gardens, parks, and wild areas for these important insects.

Nesting sites for solitary wood-nesting bees: The great majority of bees nest on their own, many in holes in wood. With wood nests, providing a range of hole sizes between 3/32" and 3/8" (2.5 mm to 10 mm) in diameter will support a wide range of bee species. All of these types of nest need to be placed so that the open holes face the morning sun. Not only will this warm the nests earlier in the day so the bees will become active, but it will also prevent them from overheating in the hottest part of the summer afternoons.

Nesting blocks. Bee blocks can be made by drilling nesting holes between 3/32" and 3/8" in diameter, at approximate ¾" centers, into the side of a block of preservative-free lumber. The holes need to be smooth inside, as deep as possible, and closed at one end. The length of the lumber is not critical-8" or more is good-but the lumber should be at least 4" deep. This block can be fixed firmly to a stake, fence, or building, or placed in a tree.

Twig bundles. Some plants, like teasel and bamboo, have naturally hollow stems. Cut the stems into 6" to 8" lengths. Be careful to cut the stems close to a stem node to create a tube with one end open and the other closed. Take fifteen to twenty stem pieces of a variety of internal diameters and tie them into bundles with the closed ends of the stems together. Fix each bundle to a stake, fence, or tree with the stems horizontal to the ground.

Logs and snags. Get some logs or old stumps and place them in sunny areas. Those with beetle tunnels are ideal. Plant a few upright, like dead trees, to ensure some deadwood habitat stays dry. On the southeast side of each log, drill a range of holes. Make the interior of the holes as smooth as possible. Bees don't like rough holes and may avoid them.

For more info, please visit the website of The Xerces Society, www.xerces.org

In the original Casey Burns gives his email and phone number - email us if you really want to call or email Casey a message - I don't want to post that here.

If I have any of the attributions wrong or anything else for that matter, either email us or please let me know in the comments.

Cross Posted over at Ramshackle Solid.


Vacuumed bees are clean bees

Don't miss Dennis' post on his blog about doing a cutout with fellow Backwards Beekeepers Steve and Carlo. They bust out the bee vacuum, and it's quite impressive.

The Cutout (from The Buzz In The Dale)

Viewer mail

Hello from northern Michigan. There is a hive living inside a brick wall of a dormitory here at the college where I work. The bees are entering thru several holes in the mortar within 3 feet of the roof. The bricks are coming away from the wall, and parts of the building are going to be demolished someday, but not sure when.

Any suggestions for doing a trap-out? What kind of box do you use? Should we collect the comb too? Most importantly, should we wait for spring? Not much foraging season left for the bees up here.

The proposed home for the bees is an observation hive in one of the classrooms, but that doesn't exist yet. I do have an empty brood super at home, though.

--Kirk (something about the name and bees?) W.


Bees evicted, then rescued

Check out Kirk's story about a happy San Pedro hive that got served with eviction papers.


Bee Meeting this Sunday, Sept. 20

This Sunday's bee meeting is going to be about:

* Catching Swarms
* Trap Outs
* Starter Strips

...Then we'll have some Q&A with Kirk and help folks out with waxing their starter strips and putting together nuc boxes.

There may also be snacks and casual talking about bees.

When: Sunday, September 20th at 11am
Where: Under Spring outdoor space at Farmlab

Farmlab Directions

You want to follow the above directions most of the way, but park on Aurora and walk through the alley (under Spring) to the meeting.

Check out this street view map to see what I am talking about.

Hope to see you there!


Viewer mail

We are posed a question:
I fell into beekeeping a month ago when the clubhouse I built for the kids attracted bees for the third time in about a year. So instead of hiring a local beekeeper again, I bought a suit.

I've moved the bees into a hive pushed out into the preserve a few feet, so we have our clubhouse back. The bees are happy. But I tried making honey following your technique on YouTube. I got some honey, but it tasted funny. Not just like wildflower honey, but really wild. Much wilder than the local beekeepers produce. I didn't know whether it was what the bees were eating, or how or when I harvested, or what. I didn't pay much attention to what was in the cells -- just as long as they weren't obviously brood. What do you think?

Melbourne, FL


Another ant prevention method

Kirk posted these photos to our Yahoo Group. They show another strategy against ants: a plastic tub full of water, a milk crate inside the tub, and the hive perched on the milk crate.

Backwards Beekeeper Riley followed up:

I'd have a problem with mosquitoes doing this. Perhaps some oil on top of the water?

I would guess that just a bit of bleach in the water every so often would prevent any mosquito breeding.


The beekeepers are taking over.

The Los Angeles Backwards Beekeepers are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Kirk put out a notice yesterday on our Yahoo Group that there was a swarm available near 6th and Pico, and Thomas leaped at the opportunity.

He writes:

Turns out that it wasn’t difficult at all. I just followed the directions from the video and it worked like a charm. The swarm was not that big. Maybe the volume of a football.

I didn’t get a single sting! But I did notice that one bee must have stung something as is guts popped out.

Btw, can anyone explain why, evolutionarily speaking, it would be advantageous for a bee to die when it stings? Ie, what advantage does the barb in their stinger have?

Stacy adds:

The barb in the stinger guarantees that it stays in whatever got stung in the case of mammals and birds. The bits ripped out of her abdomen will continue to pump venom into the stingee after she's been brushed away. Evolutionarily speaking, this means they do more damage than they might with a single pricking motion, and thus hurt their stingees more, thereby creating a stronger aversion about attacking hives.

Other species of bee who lack the barb (like bumble bees) can sting more than once.

Additionally, according to Wikipedia, apparently the barb helps with penetration in exoskeletons in the case of marauding bees and wasps in the nest. Under these conditions, worker bees can theoretically sting more than once. I couldn't pin down where they sourced that tidbit as it's not a commonly conveyed idea.

Check out more photos of Thomas' swarm capture.

Kirk rescues a little one.

Kirk says:
I captured a small swarm today. I mean small—the size of a baseball. Now I've got them in the living room, and I'm feeding them.

Looks like Paloma doesn't want to get too close.


Get a "LEG" up on ants

Inspired by Max & Steve's photos and my own success, I collected the following photos from various posts on this blog to illustrate what seems to be a foolproof way to keep the ants out of your beehive: Put your hive on legs.


Kirkobeeo: New beekeepers, and a strategy against ants

Kirk says:
I went over to Max and Steve's to put the bees in the box for them.

Notice in the pictures the stand for the hive: the legs are in small cans with oil in them to keep the ants out.

Plus notice Max helping me tie a piece of comb in the frame. Notice her bee gear. These bees came out of a hot tub. They are wild bees that made their own queen. They sure don't seem mean to me.

You know the drill. Play the audio and scroll down for the photos.

Here's where the nuc was hanging out, on a hive stand with legs in cans of oil:

Frames and hive boxes (nice paint job!):

Max preps the smoker:

Bees in the nuc:

Bees festooning:

Notice Max's elaborate bee gear to protect against the dangerous bees:

The hive in place:

It's bee paradise!