Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Altadena

Zia in Altadena called the Bee Rescue Hotline when she spotted a swarm in her yard. It was suspended from a metal table and had been there for a couple of days.

Following Kirk's recent advice, I sprayed the bees with plenty of sugar water before nudging them into a nuc box; I probably sprayed them 6 or 7 times over the course of 20 minutes.

This made a big difference! Each time another bunch of foragers collected where the main swarm had been, I gave them a good couple of sprays, then waited a few minutes before scraping them into the box. The bees stayed very calm and nonaggressive the whole time.

I knew I had the queen in the box when I saw this line of bees headed up to get inside.


Unexpected honey harvest

Today Amy and I headed up to see how our hives (three mature, one new) are doing.

The first thing we noticed was how this hot weather makes the hives amazingly easy to take apart—all the propolis is softened, so you don't even need a hive tool to get the frames out. Plus, the bees are way too busy working and trying to stay cool to care about you taking their home apart a bit.

In the first two mature hives we were happy to find pretty much what we expected: lots and lots of brood surrounded by honey, and a few frames of mostly uncapped honey at the top.

In the third mature hive we found way more than we expected: plenty of brood surrounded by honey, and lots more honey to spare! This hive has been exceptionally busy over the last couple of months.

We took just a couple of frames, which we'll leave in the comb. It'll be showing up in small pieces on the cheese plate at Bar Covell in Los Feliz starting tonight.


A cut-out for a new beekeeper

Kirk tackles a big cut-out, and helps another new beekeeper get started:

And Larry writes:


It was a pleasure to meet you yesterday and I really appreciate how skillfully and patiently you transferred our colony of feral bees from inside a stucco wall into a hive.

In addition to the sting that I got on my cheek, I got a few more as I was futzing with the hive later. I got a sting on my right wrist when a bee crawled inside my glove, and later when I couldn't find my big, heavy welding glove, I got stung on the left wrist by a bee who crawled inside an ordinary work glove, and on the finger by a bee who was able to sting me through the fabric of the glove.

After you left, I kept spraying the bees clustered on the wall with sugar water, and the clusters kept getting smaller. At one point, I decided to scrape some of the comb off the 2 x 6 studs in the wall, and that's when I got stings 3 and 4.

At about 9:30 pm I suited up again, this time with duct tape around the cuffs of my gloves, and went out to transfer any remaining clusters of bees into the hive. But there was not one bee left on the wall in the old colony space. They had all gone into the hive.

Pretty cool! Looks like our transplant was a total success.

This morning, I went out to the freezer to see about some honey. I cut away some empty comb and cut up the juicy comb into blocks that I put in plastic containers. I mooshed up a lot of the comb that was not as full, and I'm letting the honey drain out of it.

I just had a piece of toast with butter and some of the honey from my bees. Unbelievable! I'm a budding bee dude.

You're awesome, Kirk.




Beekeeping at night

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

One of the best parts of LA beekeeping is that it can fit into the day before and after work. Everyone's busy but there's always a little time for the bees.

William in Elysian Valley let me show my friend Carmen his roof top bees after work. We brought a swarm and some bees from a trap-out and added them to the top of the hive.

William caught this great shot of the roof line wires, moon, night sky and a little beekeeping.



The branch-in-a-nuc bees

A couple of weeks ago Travis (who runs a pest removal company that we link to on the Bee Rescue page) gave me a nuc containing a very small hive that had drawn comb around a tree branch.

Once it became clear that the bees were going to stick around in their new Silver Lake home, it was time to get the combs tied into frames. Who better to supervise this job than Kirk?

Kirk took a good-sized knife (which he likes to call a "toad stabber") and gently cut the layers of comb away from the branch, and I tied them into frames.

On Kirk's suggestion, we put the frames back into the nuc box (instead of a full-size hive box) in the hope that they'll be better able to keep themselves warm in this freakishly cool LA summer.



The Walnut Tree bees

The latest from LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta:

I was doing a trap out from a walnut tree and a neighbor, John, saw the "Bee Rescue" sign. John also had a walnut tree with bees and he had us come check it out. The bees had been there "as long as he can remember" and he's been there since a child! A branch finally fell off exposing the hive. Lucky for us.

Our bee rescue team was made up of Patrick and Bobby Jo (in the veils),Ginger (on the ladder) came to give the bees a home and John (behind the ladder) the homeowner. Ginger said that she had done enough cut outs but she couldn't help herself and was in the thick of it soon enough with her gear on.

Patrick was the first to tackle the cut out. Bobby Jo tied in the comb. There were many layers of dark thick comb with decent brood.

The inside of the tree was awkward so it was hard to see where the bees were. With the camera we could see that the hollowed out tree was pretty deep and pretty high inside. In the end we couldn't scoop bees out of the tree so we left the box with a trap out like set-up with the hive for them to move into.

Another super fun bee rescue. I would love to see what other people are doing too. Please send in your story too. beehumans [at] gmail.com



The School Garden Bees

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta continues to rule this blog. She writes:
Melanie needed new bees so we went to a school garden that had bees in the irrigation box. Kathy is the teacher taking care of the beautiful garden (Robin gave her our info and was our photographer).

She wanted to make sure the bees were saved. It was a small hive and easy to remove from the irrigation box lid. The brood comb looked great. We tied the comb into Melanie's frames and we were done in no time.

We left some bee free comb for Kathy who wants to discuss how important bees are with the children. Maybe we can bring them an observation hive to see and learn from.



Bee Rescue Dream Team

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
I found Robin through Craiglist. She wanted a rooftop beehive rescued in Commerce. Little did she know that she would get the dream team of bee rescuers. Vincent, Maurice and Ruth met me early Sun morning to do the cutout, supposedly in the wall of a warehouse.

When we got there we found it was actually in the facade of the roof line! Well I would have done a trap out if on my own but with Vincent and Maurice, power tools were pulled out and Maurice got right in there.

The hive was compact with many layers. There was honey everywhere. The brood looked OK. The bees were gentle and didn't seem to mind that we were invading their space.

I brought a bunch of bees over to Will and then we waited for the rest of the bees to come back. Unfortunately when I got back, ants had overrun the box of brood and the bees were gone. Wish I had taken the rest of the bees and run.



Next Meeting: Sunday, September 26th!

Here's the plan for our next Backwards Beekeepers meeting.

When: Sunday, September 26 at 11am
Where: Under Spring outdoor space at Farmlab in downtown L.A.

    Come on down! Everyone is welcome.

    Kirk will be doing an inspection of Farmlab's two hives, so if you want a close look, bring your protective gear!

    We'll also have Backwards Beekeepers t-shirts for sale—including size XXL! All shirts cost $15.

    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.


    Roberta finds a mighty big swarm

    LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
    We got a call from LaCanda about a swarm. The homeowner said it was on her fence and looked like the state of Texas. When I got there, I was a little shocked. Shaped like Texas and texas sized!!

    I'd never seen such a big swarm, could have been 10 lbs (but I'm exaggerating a little). I could barely fit all of them into the box.

    I brought them to Sam and we decided to let them leave the box on their own since there were just too many bees! They were also kind of grumpy so we added some brood with the hope that they'd calm down and make a queen with the brood and eggs.

    If they don't move into the hive soon, we're going to have to make them. I don't think it will be much fun but Sam looks ready!



    Dennis grabs a Labor Day swarm

    Over at his blog, Lawndale Backwards Beekeeper Dennis writes:
    I was just starting to organize my Labor Day possibilities when Tammy called. She and Steve live in Costa Mesa and she knew about my bee life. As fortune would have it, a nice sized swarm of feral bees had landed in a tree across from their house. My Labor Day now had a plan and the Bee Man was on the way to Costa Mesa.

    Unlike most bee calls, her description was spot on. It was in a tree but not over my head (instead of the usual call where bees 6 ft up are really 12 ft up. This was a very nice sized swarm of small feral bees easily reachable.

    Tammy's Bees (The Buzz In The Dale)


    The Happy Meal bees

    Kirk writes:
    I went to catch a large swarm last night. The bees would have nothing to do with it—they left the box and went up into a tree 25 feet high.

    I went home and came back this morning. I noticed a secondary swarm about the size of a softball. I fished a Happy Meal box out of the recycle bin, cut a hole in it, added a screen, sprayed the bees with honey water, scooped them up, and took them home.

    I hope a club member comes to get it. It could be used for a Trap Out.



    The mail box bees

    LA Backwards Beekeeper Roxana writes on her blog:
    While lamenting the loss of our Birdhouse Bees my friend Jamie called to say that a swarm had appeared in her neighbors mailbox and could I come and get them. How auspicious we thought! Thus we organized all our supplies and treked out to Northridge, stopping at John Lyons to borrow his bee suit. We choose to arrive close to dusk so that we could capture the swarm and bring them home immediately.

    The white mailbox was shaped like a little house and had a pretty large swarm inside. Thanks to fellow BB member Michael who suggested we unscrew the top of the box, which is exactly what Greg did. After removing the very long bolt Greg took the box off and made a clean dump into the nuc box. Regrettably, due to the pitched roof, only a portion of the bees had gone into the box. Thus came the tedious task of scooping out all the bees into the box with the rest of their clan...

    BeeVille (via Roxana's blog)


    Mother Nature Network covers a Backwards Beekeepers meeting

    Rachel Whitman, who blogs for Mother Nature Network, attended our meeting last Sunday and writes about the experience:

    I'm completely intrigued with the Backwards Beekeepers group and what the people in it are sharing. Though we live in a highly developed, urban, fast-paced environment, we're all choosing to make a connection with nature. A connection strong enough to drag us all out of bed this past Sunday morning and to a fantastic meeting space called Farmlab, situated under a bridge in downtown Los Angeles.

    Kirk Anderson presided over what I understand is a monthly gathering of hive keepers and people interested in becoming bee patrons (like myself). The setting was oddly appropriate — unmistakably urban but with a clear desire for some wilderness and nature...

    The meeting got rolling right away, with people sharing stories about hive issues and seeking advice or, more plainly, help. In each case, Kirk asks questions to troubleshoot the problem, and gives opinions about possible remedial action. As always, his descriptions and views are colorful and practical.

    My first Backwards Beekeepers meeting (Rachel Whitman on Mother Nature Network)