Viewer mail

Angie from Utah writes:
Hi Kirkobeeo!

Love your YouTube videos! I am wondering if I could go with your style of beekeeping in the Cottonwood Canyons of Utah. I use foundations and do extracting rather than crush and straining. Although I originally had planned to do the crush and strain method. The beekeepers in my area said that because of our short growing season, it takes too much time for the bees to rebuild the wax and have enough honey ready for winter.

Most beekeepers lose their hives that are in my area because we are high in the mountains and it gets super cold in the winter. I move my bees against the house to get radiant heat and so far I have been able to keep my hives over the winter. I have snow from mid-October through late May.

Also, do you use a queen excluder? I have been because I am afraid I will lose my queen when I am in the hive to do extraction, but I am pretty sure it is crowding the queen because I had a swarm last year.

Thanks for your guidance!

Angie, NOVICE beekeeper

Kirk replies:
Hay great to hear from you. I have spent many days up Cottonwood Canyons—both Big and Little.

I don't use a queeen excluder. I call it a honey excluder. Most people or other bekeepers who say foundationless frames take too long for the bees to draw in a short season have not observed that personally. The old books' statement that it takes "so much honey to make a pound of comb" is not true in my opinion.

The prime reason not to use foundation is cell size and the pollution in the foundation.

Now that idea you have to move the hives so as to get radiant heat from the house is a real good Idea for sure. Enjoy the blog, join the backwards beekeeping club and most of all keep succeeding with your beekeeping. I'm comming up to Utah to visit my Daughter in August love to drop by. Also would love a story from you and some pictures of your Beekeeping.

your pal kirkobeeo

Wondering what Angie means by "crush and straining"? Check out this video.


Palos Verdes 4-H rescues a swarm

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Dee, who leads an incredible group of young beekeepers in the Palos Verdes 4-H club, got a call from someone who heard that she rescues bees. She was able to get her adventurous group of young ladies together before the sun set. They had them rescued and back to her to hive in no time.

She put them in a hive where we found a colony that hadn't survived the winter. When we had inspected the hive a couple of weeks ago and found a handful of dead bees clumped in the middle of the hive with no honey stores. The new bees were dearly needed. It sounds like they really like their home as they are flying in and out a couple days later.



Make your hive stand strong

LA Backwards Beekeeper Erik of the blog Root Simple (and co-author with Kelly Coyne of The Urban Homestead) writes:
Here's a hive stand I did in Google sketchup. I discovered the hard way that the stand needs to be super-sturdy. Hives get heavy, after all--well over 150 pounds by summertime. My first hive almost toppled over.

And, them damn ants! Had an invasion this winter that I was, thankfully able to fend off. I coat the legs with tangefoot (which you can get at a nursery) and put the legs in cans of cheap cooking oil. I have noticed ants, by the way, walking on the surface of liquids, so the tangefoot is a good backup.

The metal sheets over the oil cans keep the bees from falling in the cans and drowning. Lumber dimensions are variable depending on what you have on hand.



Bees from a cut-out for Laura

New Backwards Beekeeper Laura writes about getting her bees via a cut-out in El Segundo; she went along with Backwards Beekeeping mentor Maurice:
Maurice was great at tearing apart a platform that housed (hope this is accurate) 10-20,000 bees. First time using a bee vac. It was amazing see them get sucked up and end up unharmed.


Ask and you shall receive

Last Sunday I went to the Backwards Beekeepers meeting at Farmlab to reconnect with the peeps and spread the word that my bees had absconded and was in the lookout for a swarm. The meeting is always a lot of fun and a great opportunity to relearn that a little sugar water spray is the best way to deal with them bees in a swarm trapping situation.

The next morning the call came from a lady in North Hollywood—no relation to anybody in the club, heard about me through the grapevine—bees were nesting in the back bumper of her minivan!

So she DROVE THEM TO MY DOOR in Silver Lake, where after an application of said sugar water, we got them into a bucket and then into the recently empty beehive.



Five Days of Bee Drama

New LA Backwards Beekeeper Larabee writes:

Our feral bees were a joy. They lived in a stucco wall for a few years and on a sunny day they would spark the air with flashes of gold and hum a tune that made our garden sing. The air teemed with them in the lavender and Mexican sage on both sides of our West Hollywood sidewalk, but nobody ever got stung.

But we had to rebuild their wall, which had been crushed by the roots of a giant bird of paradise, and when I started thumping the yucca roots near their wall with an axe, the vibrations upset them and they became defensive near their home. We couldn’t let them stay there, but we wanted to keep them around.

I found Backwards Beekeepers on line and called Kirkobeeo, who told me what to buy in order to become an accomplice of bees. I bought a couple of medium hive boxes, protective gear and “First Lessons in Beekeeping,” which they recommended at L.A. Honey and Bee. I read it in a couple of sittings.

Kirk and I cut them out of the wall and put them in a medium hive body.

Kirk gentled the bees throughout the whole process, smoking them and waiting, spraying them with sugar water to keep them busy grooming themselves. I cut the comb and tied it into the frames. Kirk made sure we left them plenty of honey, maybe four full frames.

When the hive was ready, Kirk scooped the bees out of the wall with a Cirque de Soleil big gulp cup and dumped them on top of the frames. They melted right down between the frames and moved in. There were a few groups hanging around the wax that remained stuck to the wall, so Kirk told me to check back after dark and scoop any stragglers into the hive. But after dark, everybody was in the hive, so I put the lid on.


Winter honey for Sue

Last weekend Amy and I helped LA Backwards Beekeeper Sue put an escape board in her hive stack so that after a couple of days the top two supers would be relatively free of bees and easier to harvest. Sue is holding the escape board in the photo above.

I went back there on Tuesday, and Sue & I found that her bees had been working hard since last June!

We filled one bucket with comb...


Snow bees in Newfoundland

We Southern California beekeepers will be complaining about rain and cold this weekend. Well, take a look at what our Backwards Beekeeper friend Phillip in St. Johns, Newfoundland saw when he went to take a look at his hives a few days ago:

And yes, those hives have living (and tightly clustered) bees inside. They're looking forward to spring, whenever that is up there.

Backwards crew on a Northridge cut-out

LA Backwards Beekeeper Danny writes on his blog:

Had another privilege to see masters at work, this time in Northridge.

Maurice, Dawn, Vincent, and Danny:

Vincent preparing to get to work:

Finally down to the cutout of the comb:


Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Whittier

Fernando in Whittier called the Bee Rescue Hotline when he spotted a swarm hanging from the front of his garage. David and Kristy (below) are new Backwards Beekeepers who hadn't caught a swarm before. I went along to give some pointers.

Before calling us, Fernando had "smoked" the bees with some burning newspaper (not recommended, by the way), causing them to find their way up into a soffit just above the garage. David got started with a pry bar and hammer.

Here was the strangest part of the morning: after David had been extracting nails and banging the pry bar for a couple of minutes, we suddenly noticed that all the bees had disappeared. All of them—not one to be seen.

We walked around the house a couple of times, thinking the swarm might have moved to a nearby shrub or tree. Then, as I was standing under the garage, I suddenly saw one bee fly back to the soffet—followed by three, then 50, then 100. In less than a minute the entire swarm reappeared and ran back up into the soffit. Damndest thing I've ever seen.

So we went back to work with the pry bar.


Backwards Beekeepers TV: Principles and Strategies

Earlier this week Kirkobeeo did a video chat on Skype with Danielle, who is president of a beekeepers association in Birmingham, Alabama. She and Kirk talked about the ideas behind Backwards Beekeeping and strategies for getting people informed about them.

We're always looking to make contact with other beekeepers around the world. If you'd like to do a conversation like this one, drop us an e-mail.


Next Meeting: Sunday, February 20

Here's the plan for our next Backwards Beekeepers meeting. IT WILL HAPPEN RAIN OR SHINE. Dress warmly - we meet outside.

When: Sunday, February 20th, 2011 at 11am
Where: Under Spring outdoor space at Metabolic Studio (aka Farmlab) in downtown L.A.

    Come on down! Everyone is welcome, whether you're a newbee or not.

    -Kirk answers your questions
    -The "Need Bees" list explained
    -Meet the Mentors!
    -Casual bee discussion, the selling of t-shirts ($15 cash), starter strip workshop...bring snacks if you like!

    Have a burning question and/or can't make the meeting? Join the email group! You can search hundreds of topics or ask the group a question. Join our Yahoo group.

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

    Hope to see you there! Let's change the world.

    Click here for a map to the Backwards Beekeepers meeting.

    View Larger Map


    Roberta heads up a shed hive rescue

    LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
    I got a call from Sherry today after her neighbor noticed that there were bees coming out of her shed. She called me immediately as she was scared but she didn’t want them exterminated. I tried to email a couple people on the “Need Bees” list and the first person I heard from was on vacation in Kenya!

    I hadn't heard from anyone else right away so I started to worry that I'd have bees on my hands and nowhere to put them. Well, OK, I only waited an hour. Then just to be safe I listed the bees on the Backwards Beekeepers Yahoo group and I got 10 emails in a couple of hours! Boy are people eager to get bees this time of year. There just aren’t enough bees right now to go around.

    Luckily Jeanine and Kevin saw that it was just a couple of blocks down the street from them and contacted me. They had just started beekeeping this winter with a swarm that started to build some comb but couldn’t make it through the cold spells.

    They checked out the situation since they were so close and let me know they wanted to do it tonight. It was a little bigger then I expected. It took up 9 frames and the hive looked beautiful. There was a perfect laying pattern with tight brood and just a couple of open cells. Jeanine and Kevin did all the work of cutting out the hive and seemed liked pros.

    They had the comb tied in, bees scooped up and into the hive in less than a couple of hours and the bees were off to their house in the back of their truck. They said the cut out was more extreme then the swarm they had rescued but definitely worth it.

    Hope this is the start of more bee calls!!



    Viewer mail

    Kurt in Arizona writes:
    I am so grateful for the support you have given to aspiring beekeepers. I have learned more from your website and example than any book or other source. Beekeeping goes way back in my life history. I have never kept bees, but have always had the aspiration. When I was very young, my grandfather raised bees on his ranch and he helped me developed a great love and appreciation for them. One of my many great memories of him.

    I will be moving from Scottsdale, AZ to Malibu, CA this spring and hope to become a committed participant in the Backwards Beekeepers group. Next month, I am going to make an attempt to travel to Tucson for the Natural Beekeeping Symposium / Lusby event. I hope to meet you in person then!

    Sincerely, from an aspiring beekeeper,

    Kurt K.


    Honey Salon in Tucson AZ

    Our good friend Meredith of Metabolic Studio (where we hold our monthly meetings of the Backwards Beekeepers) forwards us this notice about a chance to sample honey from über-organic Arizona beekeeper Dee Lusby.

    If you'll be in Tucson next Sunday, check it out!


    Gather and taste wild honeys from bees foraging native plants in the Arizona rangelands...
    Support a local beekeeper, Dee Lusby...
    Learn about the history of mead making...
    & Try your hand at wild mead making!

    Sunday, Feb 13th
    836 north 11th avenue (tucson AZ) 4-6pm
    $20/person includes some light foraged snacks and tastings of honeys and aged wild mead.

    All interested in making mead should bring 3 empty wine bottles(or similar bottles with necks), a cup of the best honey they've tasted and a 1 quart glass jar.

    I will have ecological (since 1888) Arizona Rangeland Honey from Dee Lusby of Moyza/Arivaca to purchase as well as airlocks for purchase.

    Arizona Rangeland Honey, produced by beekeeper Dee Lusby, is from bees that live in the remote desert rangeland of southern Arizona. These bees forage entirely on wild desert flowers and blooming trees on ranches and wildlife preserves, far from cultivated agriculture.

    The honey that they produce is very thick (around 14% moisture content) with a natural crystal that ranges from smooth and creamy to slightly crunchy as the seasons progress. The flavors and textures of each barrel of honey vary by bee yard location and time of season but generally have a unique buttery undertone with hints of caramel and citrus.

    contact nance: nettlesting@yahoo.com


    Roberta unites a swarm with a new beekeeper

    LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

    I got an email from Liz to let me know that some new bees had moved into her meter box. We had cut out a hive a couple of months ago and now the bees were back. It sounded like a swarm and just perfect for a new beekeeper.

    Gwen had let me know that she was going to be ready at a minute's notice so I gave her a call. She came over right after work in her suit and high heels. Sooo LA beekeeping! Luckily she also had her bee suit and a nuc in her trunk. Only her yoga shoes though, also very LA beekeeping.

    The bees had only been there a few days but they had already built some new comb. We could see that they were building right onto what was left from the last cutout. It was easy to collect them as we just scooped them into a container and plopped them into her nuc.

    Gwen looked pretty happy with her new bees. If they stick around, it will be a great hive by the time summer comes along. Can't wait for the next swarm.

    So far for 2011: one cutout, two swarms, 3 new beekeepers!



    Warren leads a cut-out in Glendale

    LA Backwards Beekeeper Warren writes:

    Hi, this is Warren writing from beautiful downtown Highland Park. Melanie, newbeek Yann, and I recently went to a home in Glendale to cut out a colony living in a pool heater. Here's the story:

    A few days earlier, I had met with the homeowner, Andy, and we checked out the situation. It was 5:30 p.m. and no honey bee activity was visible. The only signs of bees were a few dead ones caught in spider webs. I decided to return another day and be prepared to do a cutout.

    Melanie's hive died out this winter, so she came along to get the brood comb and bees. Newbeek Yann also joined us to get some hands-on experience and to take photos. When we arrived, there was no mistaking - lots of bees were going in and out of the heater enclosure! Their entrance was the hole where the gas line connects to the heater:

    We began by gently smoking the colony through their entrance. The heater was under a huge fig tree and screened by other shrubs, so we did some light pruning to give us more room to work:

    The heater access panel was frozen shut with rust. Good thing I had my hive tool handy - which by the way, makes for a great pry bar!

    I gave the bees a few more puffs of smoke at this point. Overall these bees seemed very docile:

    The bees had filled the entire front of the heater enclosure with comb. The comb went around all the wires and gas lines. Note the bright white, newly drawn honeycomb on the right:

    There were easily 10,000 bees in this heater. Yann pointed out that this photo would make for a great puzzle!

    Melanie and Yann went to work cutting out all the comb. Melanie has a few cutouts under her belt, and is very skilled at cutting and tying the comb into frames. Yann assisted and got some great hands-on experience working with Melanie. The combs were 2-3 feet tall and quickly filled up Melanie's 10-frame box.

    The combs went all the way to the top of the heater enclosure, so I removed the top section. Apparently, the bees found the top section to be a good place for a honey super - there was a lot of uncapped nectar and some capped honey there. The last few pieces of brood comb went into deep frames and into my cardboard nuc. We placed the nuc near their old front door:

    The remaining bees seemed to like the nuc - as Yann observed, they were pouring into it!

    We left the nuc beside the heater to attract the remaining bees. I'll go back for them in a few days. We sealed Melanie's box well and took it to her backyard. Melanie unwrapped the box the following day, and reports that the bees seem fine. We think we got the queen!