Web story about Backwards Beekeepers

The online community/blog TakePart.com is running a piece about the Backwards Beekeepers—they talked to Kirk at our most recent meeting.

It’s a resplendent Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, that rare smog-free day. You decide to charbroil some burgers for lunch. You creek open the lid of your backyard grill and…bzzZZZzzzz! A bee-hive! In ten seconds flat, you’ve hightailed it back into the house, slammed the door, and Googled "exterminator."

Best to kill those sons-a-beeswax before they swarm, right? Wrong!

Slow your roll. Have a heart. And call Kirk Anderson at the Bee Rescue Hotline.

For a fee, Anderson, 61, a sort of bee Svengali in the City of Angels, will not only remove your unwanted bees, he’ll find them an adopted home through Backward Beekeepers, the organization of small-scale organic urban beekeepers that rely on sustainable, natural practices to keep their bees thriving.

“I’ve had people call me who’ve got bees in their dryer ducts,” said Anderson of the hotline, which receives up to 10 calls a day. “I’ve taken bees out of five-gallon paint cans, suitcases, chests of drawers, car glove boxes.”

At a recent Backward Beekeeper monthly meeting, Anderson held court like the Queen Bee—that is, if she sported Catfish Hunter’s mustache and wielded Yogi Berra’s wit.

The Buzz About Big City Beekeepers


Maurice re-hives a swarm

Backwards Beekeeper Maurice says:
I caught a small swarm a couple of days ago in Culver City. I donated it to another bee club and as we were walking by three hours later the bees began tumbling out of the hole cut in the bottom of the catch box.

In about two minuets they were all airborne in a total mass of a couple of VW campers. They began moving very slowly at an altitude of about 20' towards a big tree limb.

A few settled on it but the queen said that "this isn't the place" and they all moved off into a field about 50' away and settled on the weed stem that I'm holding.

We gently dropped them onto a board and within 10 seconds all made a bee line for the nuc, none went airborne on entering ...and they all lived happily ever after...


The nursery swarm

Backwards Beekeeper Marianne says:
Visit to the local nursery to get some tomato and basil plants. Big ado there, manager, customers, and a whole bunch of bees in the air. Wow, there is a swarm stuck to the underside of that shelf!

Me: Can I take it?!
Voice in my mind: Did I really say that? Do I know how to do that?
Manager: Please, take them away, they upset the customers!
Me: O.k., I'll be right back. Voice in my mind: What am I doing? I must be crazy! But I have read so much about it, call myself a beekeeper, I should be able to do this!

Home and back in ten minutes with my hive box—which has been ready for a while—and friend Jeff. Set open box (minus 4 or 5 frames in the center) on the shelf below, sprayed bees with sugar water, used dustpan to scrape them off the bottom of the upper shelf, and that was it. They fell right in!

Lid back on (forgot to tape it in my excitement, but bee goddess was with us and it stayed on). Half hour later, after setting box back on frame, inserting missing frames and laying baggie with honey from last bees (may they be blessed!) across top sitting with beer in hand watching MY NEW BEES crawling in and out of the entrance, doing orientation flights, feeling quite at home already.

I love them! Can't believe I did this! Thanks to everybody for all the information I got from this site.

Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Torrance

Vicky at the Torrance YMCA called the Bee Rescue Hotline when she spotted a swarm in one of their trees. Backwards Beekeeper Dennis headed over there, and he tells the story on his blog:

The swarm was in an acacia tree but 8 ft up? More like 8 ft over my head. But this has been one of Kirkobeeo's swarm warnings. They are never that close and never that easy. People just want them gone and see them in the most favorable light. On the good side the Y had ladders...

We were just able to squeeze the ladder onto the space without it toppling over with my favorite beekeeper aboard. I forgot to get his name but one of the Y-guys was stellar. They are all dressed in polo shirts and shorts. Once I offered my spare hat and veil, the magic armor, he stayed holding the ladder ready to assist long after his first sting. He did very well and I appreciated it immensely...

One point: I am a certified senior citizen and over 6 ft tall. Anyone who has been 6 ft since jr high knows the problem. Your heaviest body part is your head and you have a very sensitive center of balance. As a kid you fall often, ladders are not your natural millieu. Add a knee that needs replacement and disaster can always rear its ugly head.

Relax, not disaster this day but movement up and down and on the ladder was severely restricted. Too bad there was no KirkoBeeo, house painter and ladder expert available. The Y had to get along with Old Bad Knees.

After the ladders were swapped out I make another journey up and sprayed the bees. The ladder was too tall to fit directly under the bees swarm and the rungs were too close together to have room for the nuc. I was limited to shoving the nuc up under the hive and hoping they would crawl in (Where was that d.... swarm lure when I needed it?)...

Next move, I hung onto a branch, cut out one smaller one, placed the nuc under the swarm and tried to use the bee brush. Not very effective and the bees started to get annoyed. One point here, the veil works only if it is not touching skin. I kept readjusting the hat but I was jammed up in the tree branches and got at least three hits around my fore head. Tomorrow I may look like I belong to some tribe on Survivor with a row of little red dots peppered across my forehead above the eyebrows. Just another form of high-style in the Beek world.

I finally dropped my brush and just used my hand to gently move the bees into the nuc. Well I thought I was gentle, apparently the bees had other ideas, they got more annoyed and more of them. My helper left the area and I did not blame him. I stayed up as long as I could keep the nuc balanced with one hand and moving bees with the other...

When I got home I placed the nuc on my empty hive with the swarm lure and opened the bee hole on the front of the nuc. I went in for dinner and a big martini.... all you can do is try. I will take a picture in the morning and see who is there...

All You Can Do Is Try
(The Buzz In The Dale)


Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: La Crescenta

Jill in La Crescenta spotted a swarm in her front yard and called the Bee Rescue Hotline.

Backwards Beekeeper Maurice headed out there. He says:
I captured and hived this swarm today...the limb from which the swarm was suspended was so thick that I couldn't get but about 70% in first box. Two more shakes and two more boxes brought the total to about 95%.

Maurice continues:
Many loose bees clustered on the screen of box #1, so I assumed the the queen was in that one. How long does it take for the uncaught bees to totally dissipate from the swarm site?

The remaining bees:


Backwards Beekeepers in LA Times "Brand X"

Writer Jessica Hundley interviewed Kirk, Amy and me for a piece in this week's LA Times "Brand X" section:
In L.A....the urban bee-keeping community has been growing exponentially, in large part due to the efforts of one Kirk Anderson, a longtime beekeeper and a man who does not suffer fools gladly.

Anderson's philosophy is simple: "We call ourselves the Backwards Beekeepers 'cause we do everything ass-backwards, compared to everybody else. Everyone else is treating their hives, using chemicals. But we keep no dope bees."

The buzz biz: Saving the bees (LA Times)

Next Meeting: This Sunday, March 28!

Hey all - we've got a meeting coming up this weekend!

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

Kirk will demo a hive inspection of the Farmlab bees, so bring your gear if you'd like to take part. Also, feel free to bring snacks to share.

Other topics
  • Advice for new beekeepers
  • Cut out/Trap out school
  • Bee Rescue Hotline
  • The Bee List
  • Changing the world
Newbies always welcome. Please take a look at this blog before you come - it may answer a lot of your questions.

We'll also have Backwards Beekeepers t-shirts for sale in small, medium and large. More sizes coming soon.

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 finds bees that won't stay in their hive

Here's Kirk's story from a trip to visit Backwards Beekeeper Phil:

Listen and follow along.

The swarm in the tree:

Kirk catches the swarm:

Many queen cells:

These are restless bees:

Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Canyon Country

Backwards Beekeeper Bonnie says:
Hi Everyone,

Marcus and I picked up [a swarm in Canyon Country] this evening. Woo hoo! Our first swarm capture! What a rush. The home owner was cool—he'd taken a short beekeeping class in high school, so he had some good info going in. He was right in the middle of the effort. I offered him a veil, but he declined, unfortunately. He ended up getting stung—twice. First one flew right into his face! He turned the other check, and got stung on that one a little later...

Note to self: Insist that folks wear a veil if they're going to be in on the capture.

Second note to self: Don't forget the duct tape. That was embarrassing.

Third note to self: Benadryl might not be a bad addition to my kit...for the homeowners, anyway!

All in all, not a bad evening, though!


Kirk hives a swarm

Kirk says:
I went to Long Beach today to put Rick and Bora's swarm in their hive. The bees had drawn four frames in the nuc box.

Here are some of Rick's photos from the visit:

Bees love a BBQ.

Kirk says:

I went to Debra's to help her with her bees—I added two boxes.

Then a neighbor said there were bees in a Barbeque. Couldn't pass that up.


Kirk puts bees on a roof garden

Check out Kirk's day today—this is some real urban beekeeping.

Listen and follow along with the photos.

Russell's swarm:

Swarm boxed:

Lora and Marta:

The rooftop garden:

The garden's new bees:

Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Atwater Village

Greg (above) in Atwater Village called the Bee Rescue Hotline yesterday to say that he had a swarm in front of his house. This is right around the corner from me, and one of the two recent swarms that came into our yard took off, so I picked up the empty nuc box and headed over.

This swarm couldn't have been easier to reach. It was in a small shrub, about one foot above the ground and right next to the sidewalk.

I sprayed the cluster with some sugar water and eased the nuc box under it. The bees started marching down to check out the frames right away.

Since I didn't want to wait around for an hour or so, I followed Kirk's advice and gently brushed the whole cluster into the box with my hands. I put the box top on, gave the stragglers a few minutes to find their way in through the open hole at the end, and headed out with a new bunch of bees.

Here's a video clip showing a couple steps of the process.


Let's make bees legal in LA as well!

From NYTimes.com:

Bees in the City? New York May Let the Hives Come Out of Hiding

Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Long Beach

Backwards Beekeeper Rick P. writes:

Just sending you some photos of the bees (from the Burbank swarm) that we got from Kirk.

Kirk was gracious enough to let us pick up the nuc box from his place after dinner on Saturday night. The bees are getting acclimated to their new home in Long Beach, and hopefully within the few more days we can transfer them to their new house!

Rick & Bora
excited new Backwards Beekeepers


Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Burbank

Jeff in Burbank called the Bee Rescue Hotline today, and Kirk got himself a new swarm of bees. Everyone wins!

If you haven't joined our Yahoo Group to be informed of bee rescue opportunities, you're missing out.

Kirk makes a night-time swarm capture

Kirk says:
I just got back from Echo Park. I got this one with a flashlight. I took the pictures by holding the flashlight on the cluster.


One swarm hived, and two more arrive.

You may recall the Valley Village swarm that I caught a couple of weeks ago (via a call to the Bee Hotline). Yesterday it finally got sunny and warm enough to take them out of the nuc box and put them in a proper hive, so I set to work.

When I got the box open, the first thing I noticed was water, and lots of it. Apparently a lot of our recent rain got in there, and water doesn't have many places to go once it's inside a wax-lined box.

(Kirk later told me that this is why he cuts a hole in the top of a nuc box, then covers the hole with screen. He's a smart one.)

That water didn't seem to have slowed the bees down. They had nearly filled five frames with comb and brood. Very impressive.

I didn't want to tear the comb apart, so I just moved the whole bunch of frames as one into a hive box.

As I walked away from the hive, I happened to glance up at the nuc box that I had tied up in a Eucalyptus tree some time ago, hoping to attract a swarm. Kirk had stopped by a couple of days earlier and seen some scout bees checking it out; he predicted that a swarm would be there soon. He was right.

A lot of the bees seemed to be clustering outside the box, so I climbed up on the ladder, sprayed them with sugar water, and brushed them inside the box. About half the bees were beyond my reach, but I wasn't willing to climb around to get them—falling out of a tree while pursuing bees is not my idea of a good idea.

Then this morning I noticed yet another swarm—this one clinging to the back of the hive box where I'd put the Valley Village bees. Consulting via phone, Kirk speculated that some scout bees had found this hive box while it was empty and then led their swarm there, only to find it occupied once they arrived. That's one messed-up moving day.

At first I thought the Valley Village bees themselves might have swarmed, but they were still hard at work inside their new hive box. So back I went with another nuc box, sprayed this easy-to-reach swarm with sugar water, and brushed them into the box.

It looks like I may have gotten the queen in there, as the rest of the bees seem pretty eager to get inside.

I don't know how many hives our yard can accommodate, but it looks like we're going to find out.