4/14/11

An epic quest for bees

Meet Grove, a man on a mission for bees.


LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

Grove has a perfect location for bees right by the LA River. He has chickens and a beautiful garden. For the ultimate garden addition, he wanted a beehive.

Grove had visited two other Backwards Beekeepers and wanted to get started as soon as possible. He got his protective gear from his brother who and once been a beekeeper.

The first attempt to get bees was when Sam, another astute Backwards Beekeeper, spotted a swarm in a Home Depot tree. But LA Backwards Beekeepers Max and Steve took care of this one.

A day later, however, Sam saw that there was still a grapefruit sized ball of bees in the Home Depot tree. Seemed not quite worth it since I had already rescued Veronica's swarm from Norwalk and planned to bring it to Grove. I scheduled to do a 6am drop off of The Norwalk swarm for Grove, but when I went to my car at 5am, someone had stolen the box of bees that had been sitting on the car roof! Pure craziness! Who, the heck steals a box of bees in the middle of the night !?! I stood by the car for a few minutes in shock and with a lot of concern for the poor bees who were in some criminal's possession....

Anyways I thought, I'll go get those darn straggler Home Depot bees.



This little cluster was a great size because Grove and I could look through them and learn without being overwhelmed.

The Home Depot straggler bees.

I had another swarm from a Loquot tree in Lakewood, so I figure I'd bring that to Grove too.

The Lakewood Loquat swarm.

Unfortunately, as often happens with swarms, the bees didn't stick around—or so we thought. Days later, Grove noticed a swarm of bees in one of his trees and was determined to get them. This swarm was 15-20 ft high, so Grove needed some help to do it safely even though he was pretty close to trying it on his own.

While he waited he placed a nuc as close as possible with the hope that they would find it, but no luck.


The next morning I came over to try out the technique shown in this YouTube clip:




We attached a 5 gallon bottle with the bottom cut off to the top of a fruit picker pole. There was a bolt in place to keep the bottle from slipping down the pole. We did a couple of trials with a plan to quickly lift the bottle up under the swarm to shake them loose and then dump them into the nuc.



This demo picture of me shows us adjusting the pole height, we didn't do it at that angle and I did put on my gear first.



For the real action Grove stood directly underneath the swarm so an upward motion would jolt the bees loose from the tree branch. Grove did the honors and it was so easy and nice to keep our feet on the ground. (Skip to the :40 mark in the video.)


Success!

Unfortunately, they apparently didn't like the move and flew off later in the day—probably the scouts had already found just the right spot for their colony.

Time to try again.

The Birdhouse swarm.

Luckily we had already planned on getting a swarm in Atwater that had set up in a birdhouse that Nate had removed a hive from earlier. The swarm had been there for a week so hopefully they aren't still looking for a home and will stay put this time.

It takes dedication and perseverance but once someone has caught bee fever, there's no stopping them until they have a hive. It took me three months before I knew that I had a hive that was thriving and had a laying queen.

—roberta

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