Bee handoff at the LA Zoo

Sam, Dawn, Ceebs, Roberta.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
The Bee Rescue Hotline got a call from the LA Zoo. Ceebs jumped on it and arranged for us (Sam, Dawn, Ceebs and myself) to check things out at 6am so we could all still make it to work on time. We set up a quick trap-out.

While there, we did a handoff of bees to Sam. I had picked up these bees from a compost bin in Culver City on the way home from work the day before.

All done before 7am!


Viewer mail

M writes:

I live in Bakersfield, California.

This spring has been unusually cool compared to normal years and we've had 10.25 inches of rain, almosts double normal.
I don't keep bees but find the whole thing fascinating. Perhaps later...

Here's my question: is the 1:4 sugar to water ratio in hummingbird feeders good or bad for bees? Does it depend on the season at all?

Bees have discovered my hummingbird feeders and really, really like to drink from them. The bees are cute with their little bee-butts sticking up, but is it healthy or not for them to drink the sugar water that is in the feeders?

I've got a nice size garden of sages and other native plants, so something is always blooming to provide the bees plenty of other natural sources for flowers. There is also a pond/sump nearby for "regular" water for any wildlife who dares live in an urban setting.

Thank you!

Kirk responds:

Hi there.

Bees are very efficient creatures..........they like to get the most for their effort. The sugar water in the feeders won't hurt them. They probably go there because the sugar content is higher than the flowers right now. As soon as the flowers start up in full bloom, they may change their minds.

all communication welcome


Rescuing some squirrel box bees

Squirrel box (containing bees) sitting on hive box (empty).

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Earlier in the week I dropped off a squirrel box full of bees (from Elaine in Torrance) at Chris' place. We put the squirrel box on top of the hive box so that the bees could orientate to their new location.

After a few days Ceebs and I went over to do the quick evening cutout. We removed the top of the box and off came the tops of the combs along with it. There were a few combs and lots of bees.

Ceebs and Chris.

We took out one comb at a time, shook the bees into the hive...

...and then put them into the frames. Easy.

The hard part was separating the bees from the squirrel bedding and nuts. We dumped everything from box onto a piece of cardboard and then let them walk right in. It took a little bit of coaxing but they figured it out.

These bees are going to love living up in the hills near Lincoln Heights.

Thanks also to Marcia of Coast and Canyon Rehabilitation and the squirrel box hosts for helping us save the bees. It takes a lot of planning to coordinate but it's worth it.



Kirk mentors Emma

Kirk writes:

Emma came to the last bee club meeting. She tagged along today—we went to take a swarm out of a trap at Leonardo's house.

This is Emma all geared up.

This is the top of the trap. It had comb attached, and there were 5 pizza-shaped combs in the trap.


Roberta finds a tough trap-out and makes a new beekeeper

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Kirk put me in contact with Barrett, who had bees in the base of a Sycamore tree. The bees had been there at least a year. A bee company had come to fill up the opening with a spray foam, but that didn't work. Now it was time to try something new and better, so we met planned a 6am trap out. Luckily Barrett found out that his neighbor, David, had just set-up a new hive a couple of weeks ago and he was interested in helping despite the crazy hour.

We nailed in the screen with a small hole in the middle of a cone shape that would help funnel the bees out of the trap out screen. We tacked down the screen to the ground with garden staples and then buried it in dirt. It looked great but it didn't last very long, as some creature found it the next day and dug up the dirt and closed the hole. We fixed it the next weekend but then those sneaky bees found a way out the back of the tree!

We'll throw some dirt where they are coming out and hope for the best. The trap-out will take a while but in the meantime...


Kirk mentors Summer on a Sunday

After Sunday's Backwards Beekeepers meeting, Kirk headed out with Summer for some hive maintenance and mentoring. Follow along with the photos as Kirk tells the story:

Summer runs her hand over the frames to test for meanness.

The acid in citrus helps neutralize the alkali in bee stings.


New Yahoo group for Bee Rescue Hotline calls!

The Backwards Beekeepers Bee Rescue Hotline is getting busier every season, and we've realized that the volume of calls getting posted to our existing Yahoo group is overwhelming if you're just looking for conversations and advice about Backwards Beekeeping.

So we've established a new Yahoo group called LA Bee Rescue. That group's sole purpose is for posting and responding to Bee Rescue Hotline calls.

Meanwhile, our original Yahoo group will continue to be your forum for questions, tips, stories, advice, and anything else relating to Backwards Beekeeping.

As of Tuesday, May 24th, all Bee Rescue Hotline calls will be posted to the new group. If you want to receive these messages, go there now and join. Just as with our original Yahoo group, you can control whether you receive individual e-mails, a daily digest of e-mails, or no e-mails at all if you'd just like to read posts via the web.

Hope you like this new setup! All comments and suggestions are welcome.


New Facebook page!

We have a new Facebook page! As it grows it'll be a great place to see collections of photos from our meetings, events, and bee rescues of all kinds—as well as a place to post your own stories, photos, and videos about beekeeping.

Give us a 'Like' today!

News flash: we're part of the 'honeybee underground.'

Check out our own Max Wong and Kirk Anderson in this article (running in both the LA Daily News and the Pasadena Star-News) about people's growing awareness that bees should be rescued instead of eradicated. Don't miss the photo gallery!


Viewer mail

Brittany writes:
I live in Bluefield, West Virginia, and I'm just starting my first hive. I want to go the backwards way but I'm wondering how to use the starter strip with the paint stick if I don't have my own clean wax. I ordered a beginner's kit that came with foundation but I don't want to use that.

Thanks for your willingness to help. You guys are awesome!


Kirk replies:
Hi Buddy, it is real simple: don't wax them. The bees will do fine—in nature they don't have waxed starter strips and they do just great.

Good luck, and keep us posted on your progress.



Kirk's mentoring marathon

Always bring your magnifying glass!

Kirk is making new beekeepers like nobody's business. Check out his latest audio message and follow along:

Summer smokes the bees.

Bingo! Eggs and brood.

Trap-out at Stephanie and Jeff's. Angry bees!

Stephanie and Jeff.


An especially calm swarm

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
We got a call on the Bee Rescue Hotline about a swarm in a trellis at the West LA Meditation Center. Tim had spotted them and wanted to make sure that they were saved.

I took them off to Ceebs, my go-to-woman for rescued bee distribution and support. I couldn't keep up with all these bees without her.


Just in time

Everyone loves a bee swarm.

We got a call to the Bee Rescue Hotline yesterday about a swarm on a forklift at a Glendale trucking company. When I called back, the manager told me that he'd already called an exterminator, but that I could try to get there before the killing began. "No guarantees," he said.

When I arrived, Jason the exterminator was filling out his paperwork but hadn't broken out the poison yet. The trucking company manager agreed to keep mum about the bees getting rescued instead of killed, since his landlord was paying for the job anyway.

Jason the exterminator.

I climbed atop the forklift and knocked the swarm into one of the wooden nuc boxes custom-made by LA Backwards Beekeeper David S. I got the queen in on the first try, and the rest of the bees started marching right in.

It was a good thing the swarm was easy to catch, because the manager was itchy as could be to get his forklift going again. "I need you to move it along," he kept calling to me. He didn't want Jason to drive away without killing all the straggler bees. (To Jason's credit, he was very interested in the swarm-catching process and lent a hand in holding the box when I knocked the bees into it.)

Kill kill kill!

I finally decided that I had caught most of the swarm, so I taped up the box and put it in my trunk. Then Jason moved in to kill him some bugs. I snapped a quick photo and took off.



Danny rescues a water meter hive

Ventura Backwards Beekeeper Danny had never cut a hive out of a water meter box before yesterday. I'm sure it won't be his last, because meter boxes seem to attract bees like crazy.

Many more pictures are on Danny's blog, Bee Rescue Ventura.

Dennis and Steve on a big bee rescue

Steve, loaded for bees.

SoCal Backwards Beekeepers Dennis and Steve (of Lawndale and Torrance, respectively) collected a hive of bees out of a big pot in Palos Verdes yesterday. You can read the whole story on Dennis' blog, The Buzz In The Dale.

Dennis and Steve found yet another hive at the same spot, and Dennis will be returning on Saturday to remove it. Want to join him and learn how to rescue feral bees? Join our Yahoo group for details.

Sometimes forwards is just the new sideways

Kirk did some mentoring with Barnaby the other day.

Here's his audio report. Follow along with the pictures.

Barnaby looking in the hive. These bees are from Coma Apiaries in Northern California. I purchased bees from them in 1999.

We pulled a frame. Good pattern of brood, very yellow bees—haven't seen yellow bees for a while.

Supercedure cell..."but there are eggs and larvae!" he says...bees don't care what Humans say. The queen is being replaced.

Second hive: Barnaby getting ready to open it up.

I don't know if you can see it, but there was a supercedure cell in this hive—also not much brood. "Why the supercedure cell?" the human asks. Well, we saw the queen—she was going in circles like she was frustrated. "How would you like to be ready to lay 5000 eggs a day and have nowhere to lay them?" I said.

The bees think something is wrong—the queen is not laying, so they start to replace her.


More plastic comb, another supercedure cell.

Closing up the third hive.

The second hive when we opened it sounded funny. I pointed this out to him. When bees are happy they sound in tune. I also had him put frames with wax foundation in the hive so the queen can lay. The bees here been here for a month—their numbers are going down.

A queen excluder is a device that removes the queen's determinism. She should be able to decide whether to swarm or leave or lay wherever she decides is best. When a human or humans decide what is best for the bees the bees fail...humans don't know as much about the hive as the queen and the bees do.

But it has been fun Mentoring Barnaby anyway.



The backyard dresser hive

Ty in his improvised bee suit.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
I met Ty and Rick Saturday morning to do a cut-out from dresser in Long Beach. Yolanda and Johnny had a dresser that bees had moved into 8 years ago! The bees had gone into the 2nd drawer when it was upright and then at one point it fell down and they went into the top drawer.

Yolanda and Johnny.

This was a really strong hive and was producing swarms regularly. There were 4 swarms in the past month so it was time for the bees to move into a bigger hive, so Yolanda and Johnny called the Bee Rescue Hotline.

I only had one extra veil so Ty jumped in with borrowed dishwashing gloves and lots of duct tape. These were some mean bees but Ty was great and took a bunch of stings and kept on smiling. We got them into a deep box but unfortunately I only had medium frames. Ughh!

Inside the hive there were a bunch of queen cells including some closed ones. The left side of this comb had drone cells and nice capped worker cells on the right.

These bees will go to Malibu where they can live undisturbed and Ty and Rick will get some nicer bees. Not quite new beekeepers but almost. Ty gives a wrap-up in the video just below.



Kirk goes mentoring

Kirk writes:
Debra had bees that I took out of her chimney last year. They left in January. I told her to leave boxes out—maybe a swarm would move in. They Did.

Debra smokes the bees.

Yup, we have brood and eggs. Good deal.

Put the lid on, check in two weeks.

I mentored Debra and Summer both earlier this week. It is fun to mentor.