Dorothy grabs two swarms

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Kathy called us from Brentwood to let us know that there were two swarms in a sidewalk lemon tree. This was my 5th call of the day to try and find some bees. All the others had left so I wanted to get these before they flew off. Dorothy wanted the bees and came down from Topanga to get them. Kathy posed with one of her neighbors, Ellie, who was out walking her dog Oliver.

Dorothy had already been on a swarm rescue where she scooped out a small swarm from a compost bin with Maurice. That one was a softball-sized swarm, but with a wonderful temperament. But she wanted to start up a second hive, always a good idea.

The smaller swarm was the size of a football and lower in the tree so we did that one first. We cut the branch and then Dorothy put it into a box. Super easy!

Then the we looked at the bigger swarm (probably two footballs) which was in an awkward position. Hmmm....Dorothy took parts of the swarm off of the mass of bees and they dropped into the box with a plop. But with all the little branches we had to shake them into the box. Dorothy was holding the box and she got a good layer of bees on her suit but she stayed sting-free.

The bees were packed up and ready to go home to Topanga. Lucky bees.



4-H club learns about honey harvesting

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
This weekend the Palos Verdes 4H group, their leader Dee, Backwards Beekeeper Steve and I met up to learn how to do crush-and-strain honey extraction. Before we got started the group discussed their fair project which will include an observation hive set-up and a display of beekeeping equipment.

It was rainy but I took a quick peek in Dee's hive and took out some uncapped nectar cells to practice with. We passed it around and everyone took a close look at the glistening nectar. It wasn't capped yet so not ready for honey extraction but we planned on eating it right away.


Moving a hive the easy way

Rob getting suited up.

Kirk writes:
If you take your time to move your hive, have a helper (or two), and go late in the day, that makes it pretty easy.

Rob and Rick have the entrance screen on and some of the 1x4's.

We put a piece of window screen in the entrance, screwed four pieces of 1x4 on each side of the hive. Then we screwed the top and bottom boards on.

Rolling to the truck.

I have a hand truck with 1x4 screwed on the tongue so the hive is supported. I have rope attached to the hand truck also to secure the boxes. Wheel it to the truck. Pick up the whole thing, put it in the truck. Transport.

In the truck.

Now if it were summer, we would have put a screened top on also.



Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Pico-Robertson

LA Backwards Beekeeper Ruth writes:
On Friday I answered a call on the Bee Rescue Hotline to pick up a swarm near my house in Mid-City LA. Newbee Rob met me there to pick up the bees, and Ceebs took the pictures and offered words of wisdom.

The swarm was barely visible - the homeowner had to point it out to me.

From close up it was easier to see (it's on the right in the photo above).

While I put the nuc box together, and put some honey comb in it, Anne, the caller, watched and her girls danced around.

It turned out to be a bigger swarm than it looked. They just kept falling into that nuc.

Rescuing a hive using masonry skills

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Every once and awhile I check Craiglist for bees. Recently I found one listed by Georgiy in Bellflower. He said that he would like to keep them but felt like he didn't have enough time. Warren, another Backwards Beekeeper, had a mentee in Bellflower, making this a perfect opportunity. So we went to cut out the hive which had set-up in a post of a fence.

At first I looked at the cement-covered post and wasn't sure what I was going to do. I also thought, "Why do I do this? It's crazy!" I took a hammer and hit it but nothing happened. Luckily, Georgiy had a diamond cutting blade on his handsaw. The bees didn't like the hammering and sawing and were very defensive but then they settled down.

We exposed the hive and saw that the combs were long and beautiful. Here is a video of what it looked like:


Max stars in a Kashi commercial

LA Backwards Beekeeper Max recently spent a day showing off her beekeeping skills in a Kashi commercial. From her blog:
Before the filming started, I met with the commercial beekeepers who had dropped off 10 frames of bees that had been split between two separate hives, so I could meet my buzzy co-stars in advance. Once they left, it was going to be up to me to wrangle the bugs. One of the beekeepers asked how I was treating for Varroa mites. When I told him that I don’t deal with mites, because I use small-cell feral bees that are naturally disease resistant, he looked at me gravely and said in his best ooga booga voice, “Oh, you’re using AFRICANIZED BEES.” Like I should be afraid. “Yeah, they’re so dangerous,” I said, without bothering to mention that my meanest hive are not as spazzy as the allegedly gentle bees he’d brought for the shoot.

The first shot of the day took place in the middle of a group of beehives that had been meticulously positioned by the art department in the center of a peach orchard in Ojai. The trees hadn’t flowered yet, but the wild mustard was in full bloom. It was gorgeous.

I’m A Beekeeper, And I Play One On T.V. (myromanapartment.com)


Roberta rescues a swarm and makes a family of beekeepers

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
We got a Bee Rescue Hotline call from Lisa and her parents with a swarm in their kumquat tree. Three days ago they noticed a swarm in their trash can. When the bees first swarmed to the trash can, the family moved it to the street but the bees were determined to make Lisa's house their home.

Lisa saw the bees in the process of swarming and she described it as pretty impressive. She called the city and was referred to an exterminator. When her father found out, he was firm that they should be rescued. Lisa found us and when I arrived at about 6:45am everyone was up and ready to watch the swarm capture.

We started talking and they seemed to be very concerned about the bees so I asked if they had considered keeping them. Lisa and her father were immediately interested and she called her brothers to come over and help out.


Backwards Beekeepers story coming to CNN

Today Amy and I shot with John Torigoe from CNN, who is producing a segment featuring the Backwards Beekeepers. We harvested a frame of comb honey and then brought it to our friends at Bar Covell, with John shooting the whole process.

The story will also include Kirk, Roberta, and maybe other beekeepers I'm failing to mention. It should hit the web next week, and when it does we'll post it here.


Pictorial: How to make wax starter strips

LA Backwards Beekeepers Kacy and Bethan made this great pictorial series about how to make wax starter strips for your frames.

# I: First Kacy wets down a piece of 1 x 2 pine that's cut or marked to the length of the frame.

#2: The melted beeswax is painted onto the wet board with a chip brush. 2 or 3 coats will do it.

#3: Bethan cuts the strip down the center of the board with a razor blade, so two strips, about one inch wide apiece, are made.

Kirk does the splits with a booming hive

Kirk went to LA Backwards Beekeeper Kathyn's house to check the progress of the Arrowhead Water cut-out.

Here's Kirk's story:


These beekeepers pack chainsaws

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Mary from Chatsworth called the Bee Rescue Hotline about a two-year-old hive in a tree. The city came by and cut the tree down but the hive remained safely in the stump. There was a hole in the center of the stump but we couldn't see the hive.

It was the perfect scenario to use the new Bee Removal signs that Ceebs made. I love these signs. We put them up all along the sidewalk.

I brought an electric chainsaw but this stump was stubborn. Luckily we had half of the team from the Pierce College cutout. At one point, we had two electric chainsaws going and then a neighbor brought over his bigger gas chainsaw which was really powerful but still not enough.

The homeowner tried to move the stump with a chain strung through the stump and attached to the hitch of his huge truck, but it didn't budge. Then a couple of crow bars and a couple of car jacks were brought out to break apart the stump. Finally the stump gave up and exposed the hive which was in a part of the roots.


Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Atwater Village

Lorraine in Atwater Village called the Bee Rescue Hotline about a hive living in a birdhouse on her front porch.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Nate, who took on the task with his dad RG, picks up the story:
We began to take the birdhouse apart. We started by opening the small door used to add bird seed and then we pried off the boards on the back. I used my knife and carefully cut off a piece of comb, put it in a frame, and placed it in my nuc. The birdhouse comb was so tall, that I had used up my 6 frames before I had taken off two layers of comb!

As best we could, we put the brood into the nuc and put any honey comb into a plastic bin. By the time we had removed all the comb bees had really started to gather on the front of the house. We had spotted the queen a couple times so we knew she was back there.

There's more at Nate's blog.


There's no stopping this team

Left ro right: Dennis, Anne, Ruth, Patrick, Bee Hive, Tom, Gwen, Roberta (kneeling), Danny, Warren, Ceebs

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Backwards Beekeeping Mentor extraordinaire Warren and new beekeeper Tom called out for extra hands to cut out a hive of some grumpy bees at Pierce College. Warren and Tom had gone to check out the situation earlier and exposed the hive by removing an old wall and the bees were not happy about it.

To show how great our growing community of beekeepers is, 8 people immediately said that they would come out to help at 6:30am on a Saturday. In classic LA style, we had 9 cars arrive and everyone brought a trunk full of equipment. Dennis brought his new bee vac and it made a world of difference.

The cutout was simple and hardly a bee was left thanks to the bee vac. The bees must have been grumpy from being cramped because when we returned as a group they didn't try to sting except once.

With all the hands, everyone had a job and had a chance to try out the vac. We cut out the comb, handed it to someone to vacuum and then Tom tied it into his frames while others took pictures. Good thing it didn't take very long because the next cut out from a tree stump wasn't so easy.

I can't wait till the next group cut out! They are easy and fast.


Tom shot this excellent photo of a developing queen in an open cell:

Dennis has more on his blog The Buzz In The Dale.

Viewer mail

David writes:

I had bees (never more than 5 hives) for over 25 years and had to give them up about 10 years ago. I am ready to get back into them again. I just happened to find your website, and I am very interested in "raising" bees naturally.

I live in Maple Valley, Washington (right up against the Cascade foothills), so the weather is cooler and the seasons are shorter here.

I have been out to Michael Bush's website several times and have corresponded with him a couple.

I getting two swarms in late April and want your advice on a few things.

1. Bush recommends that we have an upper hive entrance rather than a bottom one. Any thoughts on that?

2. I purchased the plastic frames (P-120 I believe is the number) from Mann Lake that has the already regressed size comb for starters. I will use this in the first box and then let the bees build their own on subsequent boxes. I have viewed your video about cutting the comb out, mashing it and then filtering the honey out. If I wanted to extract the honey instead using a honey extractor, would it work? I am trying to save the bees from having to build the comb again.

3. Also, what about a queen excluder. Bush recommends not having one and just pulling out the frames I wish to extract.

4. From my past experience, bees always seem to want to move upward. I am going to use all Western supers for my hive boxes and ones for honey. What do I do in the winter when the queen is probably in the top box? Bush says leave them and they will eventually go down. What has been your experience?

Thank you in advance for your input. I want to be successful at doing this the natural way. By the way, the bees i will be getting are Carnolians.

I'm sure I will have other questions. Hopefully that is okay.

Thanks again.

David P.

Kirk responds:

1- use what ever entrance you want. Top or bottom YOU DECIDE.

2- Michael Bush says on his web site he has extracted his frames with an extractor before. But if the combs are brand new it could be tricky. It is so much easier to do crush and strain. But you can always take the time and money and wire them up. You should always do what works for you.

3- I call queen excluders "Honey Excluders." I use them to roast hot dogs instead.

4-The bees will move down; you can always check them in the spring.

5- Good luck! All communication welcome.


No swarm is out of reach

Rod lives just south of USC, and Kirk has been trapping bees out of the walls of his building for about a year now. A couple of days ago one the the hives swarmed to a nearby tree.

Kirk wanted to catch the swarm and get it to a new beekeeper, but the tree was difficult to reach and it's not like you can just ask a swarm to move to a more convenient location.

But if you know Kirk, you know he's the king of improvisation. He attached a nuc box to a painter's pole, and that swarm was on its way to a new home in Eagle Rock.

Roberta engineers an unusual trap-out

Bees at their entrance in the base of a tree.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes about a crafty sort of trap-out:
The Bee Rescue Hotline got a call this week from Mary in Sherman Oaks. She has a hive of very docile bees in the base of her front yard tree. They've been there for 4 years but now a fence near the hive needs to be replaced. There isn't time for a trap out with bees flying everywhere while the construction crew is around. So I'm trying a trap out with the bees trapped between the tree and the hive box.

I heard about this technique from Ginger, and to be honest I didn't think it would work. But in a couple of weeks the bees she was trapping out had migrated to the box. Mary thought it was worth a try so we set it up tonight.

The great part is that Mary's daughter, Lulu, really wants to keep the bees and her mom loves the idea.

We checked out the bees during the evening. They were all in the tree with a cluster of tiny bees at the small entrance. It looks like they have built a wall of propolis at the entrance. There was a soft buzz coming from the tree and the aroma of warm honey wafted up from the entrance.

We didn't need any protection and Mary was a natural with the bees. We nailed the screen tunnel over the entrance and they were not happy with the pounding. They moved back and forth in the screen tunnel and into the hive box.

After a few minutes they calmed down and went back into the tree. We'll see how things go and see if the set-up is bee tight. Once the fence is finished next week, we'll move the bees to the backyard.

Hope this works.

- roberta


Your empty hive box is a swarm magnet

Kirk's hive at Jock's place in Altadena died out this winter. Jock left the empty hive boxes out, and I think you know what happened next.

Jock writes:
This will amaze you...or at least it does me. This afternoon I was crawling around under some large flowering shrubs doing some weeding and clean up. I could hear some bees above me in the shrub's flowers, but the hum of the bees just kept getting louder and louder, so I crawled out to investigate.

To my surprise, there was a large swarm of bees all around the top of a medium size tree. At least a few thousand bees I think. As I watched, they did not seem to be congregating in the top of the tree as I thought they were going to do. Instead the swarm moved slowly (in mid air) to the east and began to descend around the old bee hive boxes. It seems as though as soon as they saw it, and a bunch of them checked it out, then that was going to be their new home.


Kirk adds his 2 cents to the story: