It all started about three weeks ago. I was taking some trash out to our alley and noticed a large number of bees buzzing around the alley behind our house. After looking around I noticed a large population of honey bees making themselves at home inside a water meter. We have a high fence and I heard somewhere that bees will not fly over tall fences, as silly as it sounded I went with it and left them to their own devices.
Hearing the news a few years about how bee hives were collapsing, I thought it'd be senseless to call the city or an exterminator to kill the creatures. As the days went by, my theory about bees not flying over fences was quickly shot down as numerous bees made themselves at home in our backyard garden. My plants were reaping the benefits of their presence, but unfortunately our dogs didn't take to kindly to these new visitors.
A few weeks back I read about Kirk and his bee rescue in the LA times and decided to look him up and see if he would give the hive a new home. I called him, he showed up and before I knew it I was in a bee suit getting up close and personal with 4-5 thousand bees. It was a thrilling experience and best of all Kirk was able to save most of the bees.
Chef extraordinaire Andy Windack put together an evening of wonder and sweet delights with a 10 course dinner paired with honey from around the world and featuring Leonardo's "God Save The Queen" Silver Lake Honey.
To read all about it, visit The Wind Attack Blog.
My daughters and I harvested about 16 pounds of honey yesterday. I hope the bees are going to be OK. I don't know what I'm doing, really. But I sure am having fun!
Labels: honey harvesting
Hey there Kirk!
I enjoy your blog and Twitter stream, thanks for your beekeeping evangelism :)
Today I captured my first ever "wild" hive and thought I'd share some pics with you all:
Want to know more? Here's a post about bee vacuuming from last year.
I am getting ready to get into top bar bee keeping in San Antonio, TX, in the middle of the city. Obviously, I will not be able to control what plants the bees gather from. Oleander plants are quite common in my area and I need to know if the honey made from that nectar is poisonous. Do you have any info on this?
San Antonio, TX
We ran a post on our Yahoo Group a little while ago from Aaron at Concord Farms, a mushroom grower near downtown LA. He had a shipping pallet at his business with a hive of bees living inside.
Backwards Beekeeper Roberta jumped at the opportunity, and she picks up the story:
Thought you might like some pictures from this great little hive from Concord Farms in Vernon. The pallet was delivered and in their storeroom with bees attached. The next day the room was filled with bees. The majority of the crew there wanted to burn the pallet and bees! Aaron, who called us, really wanted them to be safe. He also took the pictures.
I bought a couple new nucs to make sure this one went well. I used rubber bands and the pallet height is almost the same height as the medium frame so no cutting was needed. There were 5 combs, also perfect for the nuc.
I brought them home and put them in their new hive. They looked happy when I looked inside. I saw the queen on one of the frames so I'm hoping I might finally have a real colony!! I sure hope so 'cause I'm tired.... This will make attempt 9! And my queenless hive is starting to look smaller...
Urban Beekeeping 101
Hosted by sustainablesilverlake.org
at the Silver Lake Library
Saturday June 5 @ 11AM
Talk with Q&A by Kirk Anderson
and Leonardo Chalupowicz
Kirk Anderson, a local master beekeeper, and Leonardo Chalupowicz, a local green architect and amateur beekeeper, will outline a brief history of bees and beekeeping and the fundamentals of beekeeping in an urban setting. They will explore the basic equipment and techniques, how to do it the bee's way versus the commercial way, and colony collapse disorder.
Backwards Beekeeper David S. pointed us to this video (by YouTube user Jeff McMullan) of an inventive method of swarm capture. It may not be gentle, but it looks pretty effective.
Anne Marie Chaker of The Wall Street Journal got in touch with us last week to talk about urban beekeeping, and her article is in tomorrow's issue:
In California, new beekeeper Max Wong has submitted a proposal to the City of Santa Monica encouraging workers to relocate, rather than exterminate, swarms of bees when they're reported.
"With the crisis of colony collapse disorder, it's never been so important for all communities—urban and rural—to promote beekeeping," Ms. Wong, a 40-year-old film producer, wrote in her proposal...
In Los Angeles, an organization called Backwards Beekeepers—which advocates non-chemical forms of managing bees—began less than two years ago with a handful of members. Today, there are 300.
A Backyard Battleground to Save the Honeybee (The Wall Street Journal)
Last week I put six frames, two with some ancient empty comb tied in, into a nuc box, added a couple of swarm lures I got at LA Honey, and stuck it in a peach tree in the garden. Nothing had happened when I went out of town last Friday, but when I checked it on my return today, there were bees galore, coming and going and bringing in pollen. How cool is that!?!
I will inspect them next week, and if it looks like there's royalty present, I'll move them to a wooden home.
Labels: swarm capture
Finally, there's a book that gets beekeepers off the treadmill of more and more drug treatments with ever diminishing returns. I heard that when the Idiot's Guide publishers approached beekeepers Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer they said they'd write the book but only if they could base it on no-treatment beekeeping. The result is the excellent Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping which contains everything you need to know to get started keeping bees. It's the first book to describe no-treatment beekeeping and it also clearly explains the basic biology of the hive, no easy task. The book's approach is summed up on page 139, "We keep a bunch of bees, don't use treatments on them, and we don't breed from the ones that die." While not the only cause, standard commercial beekeeping practices probably play a big role in recent bee colony losses. Funny how the kind of common sense delivered in this book can seem so radical.
(Full review at Homegrown Evolution)
Kirk was nice enough to come downtown and check out my two rooftop hives a couple weeks ago. During the hive check, we saw a replacement queen cell and Kirk thought it would be fun to come back with a group to see if she's laying.
We can only have 15 extra folks up on the roof, so if you're interested, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you information about location, parking, etc. You'll need to have a veil and whatever makes you comfortable around an open hive. We're planning to do the hive check at 10:30am. The first 15 to respond are in!
WHAT: Hive Check in DTLA – Queen a-laying?
WHEN: Sunday, May 16th, 10:30am
WHERE: Corner of 4th and Main
Hope to see you on Sunday!
Backwards Beekeeper David writes:
Hi all - thanks to Kirk, I got a nuc on Sunday. I took it over to the house where I had set up a Top Bar Hive and left it there with some sugar water around and hoped they'd move into the hive. Today, I went back and suited up and cut them out of the frames and put them into the top bar hive. I'm posting some photos in a minute - one of my friends took stills and another video taped the whole thing.
I was amazed at how sticky everything got! I guess it was a no brainer, but when everything stuck to everything else, it was getting a little annoying. This group of bees was completely gentle and easy going. I don't think I need the whole suit and everything. Not one of us got stung or even seriously threatened...
Thanks to Kirk and everyone else for all their help! It was an awesome experience! What a thrill!
Join our Yahoo group to see more of David's photos.
Labels: hive installation
Wow...it's almost time for our May Backwards Beekeepers Meeting.
When: Sunday, May 23 at 11am
Where: Under Spring outdoor space at Farmlab in downtown L.A.
Topics TBD - we'll post soon
We'll also have Backwards Beekeepers t-shirts for sale. They cost $15.
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.
There are docile Africanized bees and there are European bees that are aggressive and will kill a horse. Apis Mellifera—same species. Stung 30 times? I was tagged perhaps 15 times on just one hand doing a cutout last weekend and didn't run around screaming like a child and got no media attention—you disturb any hive and the bees are going to be less than happy, Africanized or not. That's just a fact of life. I'm in supposedly Africanized hot Texas. Frankly, I couldn't care less—ferals is what I do and bees are bees. No, it does not make sense [that anyone] killing valuable survivor genetics under the guise of "eradicating dem bad ol' killer bees"...
"Africanized" doesn't mean much anymore except to describe mean bees—even tho there have been mean bees since we've been keeping bees and well before the Africanized thing. There are grumpy bees and docile'ish bees (all bees are defensive—we're not keeping sheep here). Reward docile colonies with multiplication and manage grumpy colonies as you grow your apiary and don't worry about this Africanized thing.
I've read them Italians can be quite grumpy. And the black German bees. Wonder if we should test for them too and eradicate their colonies. :)
Mike blogs at Natural Bee Farm.
A USC student media report on Kirk and Backwards Beekeeping:
Kirk visited Barnaby to help him place a new mail-order queen in a hive of feral bees. This proved challenging.
Barnaby getting set up:
The mail-order queen:
Barnaby with his second hive, made up of packaged bees:
Labels: hive inspection
Buddy in Echo Park writes:
We're having a bee thing over here and was wondering if I could ask you some questions...
They seem to be swarming up and around the eaves of our house and going into a small attic space above a loft. There isn't any way to prevent them from going in there - there are just too many ways in... I was wondering if there were any ways to discourage them from setting up a happy home hive up there. Smoke? Bad music?
Smoking bees makes them eat honey—this in turn makes them calmer. I have many people write me thinking this makes them leave. It does not.
They don't like music, especially country music—and they don't like Republicans either. If they have just arrived recently it is hard to get them out. Once they are established you can remove the bees and the comb if you can get to them. You can't do a trap out if there are many ways to get in or out of the attic. You might have to call a exterminator if you don't want them to stay.
The bees were busy pulling the string (that we had used to tie comb into the frames) out of their hive. Check out the bee on the right side of the photo. She's totally riding that string to the ground!
The worker bees heave-ho the string out of the hive, while those fat drones just hang out "supervising."
Labels: bee photography
Backwards Beekeeper David saw Rob's message on the Bee Rescue Hotline and headed out to Alhambra.
Checked out Rob's hive near early evening and found it interesting that this self-contained hive chose a box measuring 18" long x 12" high x 16" wide, similar dimensions to a Langstroth deep.
I opened the door to this previous live-animal trap box & discovered a good sized healthy colony w/ about 10 combs (newer white combs on south/north & yellow brood combs in middle), was getting crowded.
Due to time constraints decided just to remove box back to my mini apiary & cut out at a later date.
I reinforced w/ L-brackets as the hive door was loosely fastened. Duct taped holes & readied to duct tape entrance as sunset approached. Contingent of bees were congregating on upper opening (like bees do when box getting crowded) & when taped over were pissy & started pouring out of hole I couldn't quite seal.
In hindsight, I should have just taken away this 50 lb box w/o sealing entrance as just made 'em more defensive & they stung me round 10 times or more (still itching & smelling banana smell wafting in nostrils,lol).
It was getting late—I picked up box w/ bees in clumps on outside of box in places & put in trunk while few stung glove & arm. I drove to a friend's & sprayed water on clumps & placed on dolly & positioned on hive stand w/ opening facing east as positioned at their old Alhambra location.
I removed the offending duct tape on vent holes & entrance & w/ red flash light viewed many bees covering the front of the hive when I departed. Hopefully the curious recently interloping skunk will have second thoughts messing w/ this hive,lol. Will cut out this week when make more frames & deep boxes.
A Great BeeRescuing weekend, Cheers, David S. in San Gabriel Valley
We inspected their hives today—doing OK! We need to check in two weeks to see if the new queen is laying.
If you live in LA and would like to see beekeeping given the legalization it deserves, read on.
Backwards Beekeeper Max has designed a petition form you can download to gather signatures in support of legalizing beekeeping in Los Angeles. The form has instructions on where to send it when it's completed.
Download it here, and join the effort!
You should also visit HoneyLove.org, where Backwards Beekeepers Rob and Chelsea are making great strides with legalization efforts.
Labels: beekeeping legalization
I've been reading your website and watching your videos for the past few months and I love what you guys do and the way you do it.
I've been interested in starting up a honeybee hive in my backyard for some time now, and I would love to follow the backwards beekeeping methods with starter strips instead of plastic foundation. I also like the destruction method of harvesting honey because it's so simple.
I have my doubts, though, that the backwards beekeeping methods would work well in a colder climate of say, St. John's, Newfoundland, which is where I live -- it's a big and generally cold island in the middle of the North Atlantic. There are only two beekeeping operations in the province. The bees survive the winters, though, and seem to do well here (and they're mite-free). But the summer season is short and the honey flow doesn't last too long when it does kick in.
Do you know if backwards beekeeping is even possible in such a cold climate with a short summer season? I can see it working well in a warm place like LA, but Newfoundland is nowhere close to LA.
All the best,
P.S. I thought I should include a photo of the spot where I'm thinking about putting my hive.
I took this photo 5 minutes ago. This is what May 1st looks like in St. John's, Newfoundland.