Feb. 28th Meeting Recap

The Backwards Beekeeper's meeting was well attended today and very interesting. Kirk talked about his goal of creating 80 new beekeepers this year, and how to get on the "bee list" before giving the floor to Max.

Max chronicled her and her husband Steve's adventures in apiculture over the past year which included becoming first time beekeepers, capturing a swarm, performing a cutout and their current trap out efforts.

There were baked goods to enjoy, we brought a jar of honey for from our recent harvest to share and Sue had some of her honey for sale.

After a while outside we moved inside where Steve took us through a slide show of their adventures and pictures of their log hive. I think we were all inspired by and able to learn from Max and Steve's experiences.

After that Kirk did an inspection on the Farmlab's two Langstroth hives (they also have a log hive over in the corner). With our kids getting hungry we had to head out before the lesson. I hope someone else can post pictures of the hive inspection.


Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Valley Village

Andrea (above) in Valley Village had a swarm in her front yard, and her crafty organic gardener Travis called the Backwards Beekeepers Hotline.

I had a semi-free afternoon (and we're hungry for more bees), so I headed out for my first solo swarm capture.

I found the swarm in what Travis had called a "wax-leaf shrub" (I am an ignoramus about plant names) about two feet off the ground. I sprayed the bees with sugar water, then wedged a nuc box (with five frames in it) under the swarm and gave the shrub a good shake.

The sugar water is definitely a good move. It gives the bees something to do and makes them clump together nicely so you can scoop them up with a piece of cardboard and dump them in the box.

I spent a fair amount of time scraping as many bees as I could off the inside branches of the shrub, then noticed that the bees in the box seemed to be sticking around. I started to get a good feeling that I'd managed to get the queen in there.

I put the lid on the box, moved it about a foot away, and opened the bottom entrance. Soon I noticed bees congregating around the hole and fanning like crazy. More and more bees began descending and heading right into the box. Virtually none were leaving. Score!

About 90 minutes after starting work I wrapped up the box in a sheet and loaded it into my car. The bees are now exploring their new Silver Lake garden. Here's hoping they stick around.

Next Meeting: this Sunday 2/28!

The next meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers will be held on Sunday, February 28.

The plan:
* Max is going to talk about her and Steve's bee adventures
* Kirk is going to talk about the various ways to get bees
* There will be plenty of time to ask Kirk questions and to swap stories with fellow beekeepers
* Sue will have her delicious honey for sale - $5 gets you 8 oz. of Camp Waterloo Honey
* Snacks/curiosity/newbies always welcome

When: Sunday, February 28 at 11am
Where: Under Spring outdoor space at Farmlab in downtown L.A.

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 view to see what it looks like from the street.


Kirk rescues some hot-tubbing bees

Kirk says:

These bees were in a hot tub in Venice. I cut them out. They had swarmed about a week before.

As I took them out I could see that they had back-filled the brood nest with honey. This is a sign of swarming—the bees stop feeding the queen so she can fly when they leave. They fill the brood neat with honey so the bees left behind can survive.

Kirk tells the full story:


Los Angeles Bee Rescue Hotline

The volunteers of the Backwards Beekeepers save wild bees in the Los Angeles area and make new beekeepers through education and helpful guidance.

If you have a swarm that's easily reachable, or bees living in some easily accessible area (NOT a chimney), we may be able to help you. Please note that Backwards Beekeepers, its members and its founders cannot be responsible for any damage or injuries that may occur.

Before you call, please note: If you have bees in a chimney or any difficult-to-reach location, we probably cannot help you—you may want to call a professional. See below for suggested contacts.

We do not handle anything beyond honey bees. No wasps, hornets, bumblebees, ladybugs, termites, bedbugs or bugaboos. Please make sure you're calling about honey bees before arranging a visit from one of our hard-working rescuers. Click here for a visual comparison of different bee-like insects.

If you call, please make sure you tell us:
-Your name.
-A phone number that you will answer.
-Your specific city AND neighborhood.
-A description of the bees: Are they in a tree? How high? Do you know how long they've been there?

If a volunteer contacts you, they may ask to be reimbursed for the cost of travel to your location at a rate of $1/mile. No other charges are allowed.

BEE RESCUE HOTLINE: (213) 373-1104.
Please make sure you fit the criteria above before calling.

If you have bees that are more complicated to remove or if you need them gone in a hurry, you may want to contact one of the for-hire beekeepers listed below who will charge you for their services. They all specialize in live bee removal and do not use harmful chemicals. We cannot guarantee their work or their fees, but we've met them all and they seem to do honorable work.

The following businesses are NOT affiliated with the Backwards Beekeepers and WILL charge you for bee removal:

Industrious Folk Homestead
Warren Ontiveros
email Warren

Ventura Bee Rescue
Danny ter Haar
email Danny

Queen Bee Removal

Stealth Environmental

Please note: The Backwards Beekeepers are not affiliated with these for-profit businesses and cannot vouch for them. If anyone presents themselves to you as a member of the Backwards Beekeepers but turns out to be affiliated with a for-profit business, please call us at (213) 373-1104 to let us know.

If you would like to become a Bee Rescue Hotline Volunteer, or would like your bee rescue business listed above, please click here for info.


Backwards Beekeeper of the Week

Jeffrey in Barkhamsted, Connecticut ordered a t-shirt from us last week and then sent us this picture of him modeling it in front of his bees...in the snow! He writes:

It's funny to see the beekeepers in your area talking about swarms. This is the most critical time of the year for getting a hive though the winter in our area.

That's some nice perspective for those of us in sunny California who are whining about ants. Jeffrey's our newest bee hero.

Send us a photo of you in your BB t-shirt, or just with your bees and we'll try and get it up on the blog - we're excited to bring together beekeepers from all over!


Another Honey Harvest

A couple of weeks ago Kirk came over and helped me do a hive inspection. We found that my bees were honey bound even though I had added a new box a few weeks prior. We moved things around a bit and took out a frame of honey at that time with the idea that I would take the top box the next time the weather warmed up.

This weekend the weather finally warmed up and I was able to collect a few more frames of honey. Not quite as much as I had expected. I thought that the whole top box had been full of honey when Kirk and I opened it up a couple weeks ago but when I went back in this time there was 1 frame of brood - half drone and half worker, 1 frame was partially drawn with new comb, another frame was half drone and half honey, a few had uncapped honey, some only capped and some mixed.

I took as much as I could before the bees got really peeved but that ended up being only about 3 and a half frames (I tossed the half a frame of drone brood at Kirk's instruction). As you can see in the picture above, some of the honey was uncapped but I think we stayed within the 10% limit. Uncapped honey has a higher water content and will spoil in the jar if it exceeds 10% of the mix.

The bees are doing well overall though. If you click this picture you can see two large drones on the porch and two foragers laden with pollen. I still need to finish the starter strips on a deep box I put together last weekend. Once I do that I think I'll call Kirk for another house visit to help me add it to the bottom of the hive and with reshuffling the rest of the frames. I'm confident I could do it myself at this point but with Kirk's help I know we'd get it done much faster with less stress on the bees.

Next month will be the one year anniversary of the hive. We've pulled 148 oz of honey so far. I hope to bring a sample for tasting to the next meeting.


Kirkobeeo: Another bee rescue in Venice

Kirk says:

I went to Venice today to remove some bees from a tree. I caught a swarm late last year for John, but they succumbed during the last rainy spell. I told him I would help him get some more. He called and said his next door neighbor had bees in a tree. The rest is History.

It was pretty straightforward. Remove comb, tie in frames, put in box, spray bees with honey water, shake them into a bucket, dump the bucket into the new hive. Move to new location.

Bob's your Uncle.


Slide show from Venice

Those new beekeepers in Venice made a slide show of their cut-out adventure with Kirk.

Photos: Augusta Quirk, Sarah Bay Williams, Paul Gachot; Song: "Bees" by Caribou.

Via Hynogogic Zoo.


Kirk makes new beekeepers in Venice

Kirk went to Venice the other day to work his hive cut-out magic, and his clients sent some hot-off-the-presses video of the process. Be aware that there's a bit of very colorful language when an onlooker gets stung on the hand.

Hey, new Venice beekeepers: send us an e-mail (see the sidebar on the right) and let us know how it's going!


A new generation of Urban Beekeepers?

Yesterday I had the privilege of talking about Urban Beekeeping to about 150 12-to-13-year-old students at King Middle School in the Los Feliz/Silver Lake area.

I was invited by the folk at Farm Feliz, who created a beautiful organic vegetable garden & composting facility right in the middle of the campus, which the kids help plant and maintain. Bees seemed a perfect complement for the garden, so the volunteering opportunity presented itself.

The kids were unruly, somewhat defiant and very funny. Some of them had a genuine interest in the topic of bees, how to care for them, pollination, etc, and all of them went crazy about tasting honey in the comb and pollen. The highlight of the day was the demonstration of how to wear the veil and gloves, for which I had a long list of volunteers. We were also able to observe some bees at work on the broccoli in bloom.

As I was leaving one of the girls stopped me and said "Mr. Leonardo, I knew nothing about bees until today."

Earlier I got an e-mail from the science teacher, Miss Ralph: "Thanks so much for yesterday- I've quizzed my students today, and they really learned a lot!"

Mission accomplished.

Viewer mail

A reader writes:

Hi guys -

As backstory, last year I had a homemade top bar hive with some bees that a friend had given me - didn't know anything about their background/heritage, or what size cell they were making.

This year, I'm getting 2 Langstroth hives, and am going to go foundationless as it appears you folks do. My question is: should I find someone who is selling "small cell bees", or can I get bees from any reputable source, and they'll draw out on their own at an appropriate size?

I'm on the East Coast, so it's probably not as easy as asking you where you get yours. But I want to raise these bees naturally like in my top bar hive, but I'm not sure if a regular package of bees will be prepared for it.

Any thoughts?


Kirk replies:

The Fat Bee Man sells small cell bees. Give him a call.

Don Kuehenmeister
292 Ashley Brook Dr.
Lula GA 30554

(706) 677-3502



The ShopVac Bees Clean House

Following up on the Backwards Beekeepers TV episode The ShopVac Bees, Erik of Homegrown Evolution writes:

The bees must have seen the BB video. They got around this morning to getting rid of some of the string. The pollen they are collecting has gone from white to yellow. Spring must be near...

Hope to see you all soon.



Next Meeting: February 28

Current and future Backwards Beekeepers -

Please join us at Farmlab downtown at 11am on Sunday, February 28 for our next meeting. We'll post more juicy details about what we'll be talking about as the date nears.

Save the date and bring the kids!