Trap-out and hive transfer

Barrett showing off some very productive bees.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
I went over to Barrett's place before the recent Backwards Beekeeping meeting to work on some projects we've set up.

The first project that Barrett, his neighbor Dave, and I worked on were some bees in the base of the sycamore tree. The bees had been in the tree for about 2 years. After a month of trapping them out, it seemed like all the bees were out and now we wanted to see what was left in the hive.

We found empty comb and no bees which means that the trap-out worked. Then we filled the hive with dirt and cemented the area to discourage bees from coming back. Check out the video for the quick version of the process:

The next project was a hive transfer of a swarm that we put in a deep box about 2 weeks ago. They built comb like crazy. Check out the video to see the beautiful hive they had built:

We cut the beautiful brood comb out and tied them into deep frames. It was an almost perfect fit. Dave spotted the queen with his eagle eye and boy was she huge. She must have been over an inch long! We couldn't catch a picture in time though.

I needed to leave for the meeting but next projects are adding the trapped-out bees to the hive that we transferred and then fix another hive that also suffered from not having all the right equipment at the same time. Medium frames in a deep box—I can only say that I work with what I find in my car.

Barrett has offered to thank the Backwards Beekeepers for the help by hosting a tour of his hives and a satellite meeting on the West side. Look out for details on our Yahoo group page.



Grabbing a swarm in Glassell Park

We got a call to the Bee Rescue Hotline about a swarm in a bougainvillea bush. Amy and I headed up there and met Margot, her husband Ben, and their son Casey. They were psyched to learn about why bees swarm and how a hive works.

We gave the swarm a couple of quick sprays with sugar water, then nudged them into a nuc box. They were as calm as could be.

This swarm is now in our yard and so far, seems inclined to stick around. Foragers are bringing in food, which always seems like a good sign.


Next Meeting: Sunday June 26

A message from Anne & Gwen - our BB Meeting Mavens:

Our next meeting is on Sunday, June 26th at 11am at Atwater Crossing, just east of the Silver Lake & Los Feliz neighborhoods.

The meeting will be in the same location as last month - The Atwater Crossing arts complex.  The address and general area/parking information is below. The meetings last about an hour, but there is time afterwards to talk with other attendees. 

There will be a bake sale going on in one of the adjacent suites and the café may also be open, so feel free to support other users of the arts complex! There is ample free parking in the complex parking lot to the right of the building as you face it. PLEASE do park in the lot so the residents of the neighborhood can park near their homes.

Two really important topics will be covered—Mean Bees and Bee Stings.  As always, all your questions on any beekeeping topics will be addressed by our guru Kirk Anderson and/or any of the many experienced beekeepers who are in attendance.

Everyone is welcome, regardless of beekeeping experience (or lack thereof).

If this is your first meeting, please spend a few minutes with this blog before you come - it may answer a lot of your questions.

We'll also have Backwards Beekeepers t-shirts for sale. They cost $15 and are very fashionable.

See you there!


Saving a tiny swarm

LA Backwards Beekeeper Yvonne writes:
Stacy from Windsor Hills called the Bee Rescue Hotline to remove a swarm from a tree in time for a 3-year old's birthday party. The swarm, located in a crabapple tree, was one of the smallest ones I've seen!

Stacy's son Torin gave me a hand in sweeping them into a shoebox. We put the shoebox in the tree to allow the stragglers to join their queen.



Mar Vista tripleheader

John and a portion of his bees.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

Today Rob and I did three cutouts in Mar Vista all before work!

John has had bees living in various parts of his house for a while. It started with a hive in a detached office wall. A professional took that hive out, but then more bees arrived. Dean from the Backwards Beekeepers removed that second hive. Then yet another swarm arrived and set up housekeeping in the wall!

This hive then outgrew the wall and swarmed to spot where a window used to be, and then later swarmed to a box that John had put up to catch more bees. Finally it had come time to take them all out.

Catherine, John's daughter who was home for college for summer break, helped us with the job. She seemed to really love it except for waking up so early. She scooped up bees, cut comb and tied the comb into frames. She had wanted to keep the bees and I think next time the bees come back she'll be ready.

The brood comb had a spectacular laying pattern in all of the hives. We split them up into a beautiful nuc that Rob had whipped up in his spare time, a medium box, and a deep box.

I took the medium and Rob came back later for the nuc, the deep box, and the stragglers. But when he got there he found a spot in one of the walls that had yet more comb, so he removed that as well. Sounds like a long day. Ughh! Are we crazy or what?



Backwards Beekeepers in an upcoming documentary

Dan Susman is making a documentary called Growing Cities about urban farming across America.

He and his partner Andrew Monbouquette shot this segment about a hive rescue with LA Backwards Beekeeper Warren, who does a great job of explaining our mission.

Urban Bee Rescue from Andrew Monbouquette on Vimeo.


Kirk on KPCC's Madeleine Brand Show

Here's Kirk's interview on KPCC's The Madeleine Brand Show from earlier today.

Thanks again to Madeleine and her great crew for spreading the word!


Queen of the Sun showings start Friday

Queen of the Sun will be showing at the Laemmle Santa Monica and the Laemmle Fallbrook 7 theatres. It runs June 17-23. You can learn more about screenings here.

From their press kit: "Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? is an in-depth investigation to discover the causes and solutions behind Colony Collapse Disorder." It apparently also features shirtless dudes handling bees.

Here's the trailer:


Viewer mail

Susan writes:

I am not on any social media sites, so just sending you RSVP for the June 26 meeting this way.

Am very excited to have got my first hive from a beekeeping friend in Garden Grove...(she removed a 3 year old feral hive from the floor of my son's tree house prior to demolition of a swimming pool in our backyard) so always wanted to get some of my own back!

I have been reading non-stop: your site, "The Idiot's Guide", and a book by Kim Flottum, "the Backyard Beekeeper"—which mentions NOT A WORD ABOUT CELL SIZE! But the latter book had some great exploded diagrams and photos and recipes for wax and honey use, so I got it too...

Now I know some about the "gurus" of beekeeping wisdom and the many philosophical strands, but think your position the strongest, from a biological perspective (my background is science and biology). Just got my smoker, suit, veil and hat yesterday from Brushy Mountain, and am sure I have my hive in a bad location. Won't be able to work around it and have any room to move and it could be in a sunnier East facing site. I had been worried more about secrecy, previously.

Anyway, I am anxious to hook up with the advocates on the 26th!

Manhattan Beach, CA


Huge tangerine tree hive

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:
Last night Rob and I went to check out a tangerine tree hive in Culver City. The hive was a substantial size, described as two basketballs, and the estimate was pretty close—big for a tree hive. It was also pretty high up, about 10 feet.

I shot a few pictures and was trying to figure out when to remove it. Rob just said he would do it that day. He's got a bad case of bee fever! Well, how could I say no?

I called Yvonne who came to lend a hand and Rob started cutting branches away. That took at least an hour and we removed several 8-foot branches to create a path for the hive to some down. We smoked the hive, but the bees were still a little mad about it all.

Since it was night, we could get just about all the bees. By some miracle Rob was able to carry the huge branch down and then Yvonne held it while we trimmed branches to make it fit into the cardboard box. It was a team effort, but Rob did all the hard work.

Rob and Yvonne.

Cutting the hive apart to put it in a box is going to be pretty hard because there are branches stuck all throughout the comb. It's really beautiful. I wish it could have stayed up in the branches, but it was spectacular to see up close.


Rob follows up on the story:
I looked at the bees this morning, and the ants had already found the box. I decided to go ahead and do the cut out this morning. It could not have gone better. The bees were totally honey drunk, as they had gulped virtually every drop of honey. The hive was almost entirely brood, with very little drone comb.

Rather than try another top bar, I tied the comb into some frames for my large super. Total piece of cake comparatively. The problem though is I only had 5 frames. I ordered a bunch but they are still somewhere between here and Brushy Mountain; LA Honey Supply Co. didn't have frames after I drove all the way out there (seriously…?).

This is so much fun Roberta. You said it…I got one heck of a case of bee fever. Maybe I'm under the control of queen pheromones ;)

I'm not sure where these bees are going right now, but I'm sure to find a nice home. In the meantime, they can call my place home.

Thanks again Roberta, you are seriously the best. Total pleasure working with you.




Help us legalize beekeeping in LA

Legalizing Beekeeping is on this Tuesday's meeting agenda for LA City Council District 11. The core of the 11th district is composed of the Westside communities of Brentwood, Brentwood Glen, Pacific Palisades, the Palisades Highland, Mar Vista, Del Rey, and Venice. The district also includes LAX and the surrounding communities of Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista. A very small piece of the San Fernando Valley is located in the northernmost section of the district.

It looks like the path to legalization in LA will be one district at a time, so this could be a big step for us. We've already succeeded in Santa Monica.

What you can do (this is especially effective if you live in District 11):

1. Go to the meeting (Wear your Backwards Beekeepers t-shirt if you have one):
 Tuesday, June 14 from 7-9pm
Mar Vista Rec Center (click for map). 11430 Woodbine St. - Los Angeles, CA 90026. 

2. Send an email or letter to Councilman Bill Rosendahl:
email: Councilman.Rosendahl@lacity.org 
7166 W. Manchester Blvd.
Westchester, CA 90045
(310) 568-8772
(310) 410-3946 Fax

3. Get your friends who live in this district to contact Councilman Rosendahl or to attend the meeting (see above).

Let's do this!

Baldwin Hills: Tree trap-out and a possible new beekeeper

LA Backwards Beekeeper Yvonne writes:
Roberta and I were about ready to go home when we got another Bee Rescue Hotline call about a job a few blocks from my home.

Brad has a tree in the parkway with a bee hive in it. His gardener told him to screen them in and he did a pretty good job of that on his own. When we showed up, Brad has already jerry-rigged screen around the tree. The idea, though, was to try to save the bees. While we were there, we found out that the city has been there several times over the years but the bees always come back. Just another reason why it's important to try to do the job right!

Brad's daughters, the beautiful Laila and Mia Sol, came out to watch the entire operation. They were great students and loved watching the activity. They are going to make great beekeepers!

We started by taking the screen down and put up new screen to allow the bees to come out but not get back in. The final step was rigging up a box for the bees to return to. Luckily, we had brood comb from our Lakewood job. We put that in the box and the bees immediately starting flying in. While we were working, a lot of neighbors came by and we were able to educate several people.

Brad became very interested in having his own hive and is considering keeping these bees. After we were done, since I live a few blocks away, he brought his girls over to see my bee hive (and chickens)! Hopefully, we've made a new beekeeper!



Catching a swarm in Torrance

LA Backwards Beekeeper Yvonne writes:
Kim in Torrance called the Bee Rescue Hotline about a swarm in her neighbor's tree. It was important to Kim that the bees be saved.

We showed up and found a very small swarm. Kim's son Bennett and his neighbor posed for a picture next to the bees. This easy job was a welcome relief in our busy day! We captured the swarm easily and they were ready to move to their new home.



Bee extraction in Lakewood

LA Backwards Beekeeper Yvonne writes:
Roberta and I headed down to Lakewood. We had been called by Bill and Martha who had read an article about the Backwards Beekeepers. They had bees in a roof eave and their neighbor was complaining about them.

When we inspected them, we discovered that they crammed themselves into the roof eave where the space was only a few inches wide. The comb was short but went waaaaay back! It was difficult to see in or to fit any tools in the space.

The homeowners couldn't afford to open the roof up, so the idea was to pull out all of the comb as best as we could, smoke the remaining bees out and then fill up the gap with Big Gap Filler.

Roberta and I took turns shoving various implements in the space to try to pull the comb out. A hive tool worked (barely) in the front but once the front comb was out, we went through a range of tools that could either not fit in or couldn't be maneuvered once in. Finally, someone suggested a coat hanger and we were able to pull out the rest of the comb with it.

Once the comb was out, we smoked out the bees and filled as much of the space as we could. Hopefully, the bees will move on! Martha and Bill were very excited about our work and referred to Roberta as an angel!



Double trouble in Norwalk

Roland and Martina from Norwalk check out some comb.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Yvonne writes:
Roberta and I headed down to Norwalk this morning to help a family out with two different hives.

First up, we handled some bees that had taken up residence in a stucco fence. Recently, they had swarmed but there were still some bees in there. The best part of this job was that the family allowed us to take a sledgehammer to their wall! (They are planning on taking the fence down).

Roberta and I opened the wall and pulled out all of the honeycomb. There was no brood or queen, so we knew the hive was dwindling but we encouraged the family to remove the fence soon so another hive would not move in!

The family also had a tree hive. The city had twice patched the tree up with cement but the bees always found another way in. Roberta and I set up a trap-out. We'll check on them again in a few weeks!


One-way bee door.

Trap-out in place.


It's the queen!

Summer, Emma, Sadie and David (the hive sponsor).

Kirk did a hive inspection with some mentees, and made a rare queen spotting.

Summer and Emma inspect the three hives.

The queen! Emma spotted her.
You can see here in the middle—big beautiful orange queen.


Roberta demonstrates a cut-out

Kieran and his bees.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta sends a story and a couple of very informative videos about a recent cut-out:

Kieran called the Bee Rescue Hotline about bees in a wall. He wanted to keep the bees and was interested in getting them out via a trap-out. We tried to trap them out, but there were too many cracks in the wall for these sneaky bees. This left a cut-out as the only option.

The bees looked like they had two hives going, so it was going to a fair amount of work. We could feel the warmth of the bees through the wall, so that told us where to cut into it. I used my new-from-Craigslist reciprocating saw and carbide blade.

The first hive had a lot of comb but it only had capped brood—no eggs and a lot of open queen cells. So the hive was in the process of re-queening or was just queenless.

The second hive had eggs, lots of brood but also a few closed queen cells. The bees had filled the space between the studs so must have become too crowded. Hopefully they won't swam right away now that they have more space! We split some of the comb with a queen cell to see if we can lure the straggler bees into another box.

I also tried out my new homemade portable bee vacuum. I was able to wrangle a bunch of bees this way and we dumped them into the hive and it went on the roof. We left brood and boxes to try to get the rest of the bees with a plan to combine all them into one hive.



Spreading the fun around

Kirk writes:

I took a bunch of newbies to inspect hives in Los Feliz.

Good times!

We're on TV in South Korea.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

After the CNN story about the Backwards Beekeepers ran we got a call from SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System), a Korean network.

The crew came along with me to a swarm in Culver City. The homeowners there liked the bees, but couldn't keep them. It made for a good news story to dispel fear about bees.

Here's a link to the story—it played in both the US and Korea.