Viewer mail: Top bar hives

Scott in Illinois writes:


Do you keep any top bar hives, or have you in the past? I am a first-year beekeeper and have 3 top bar hives. I have already made arrangements to add 3 more and 2 foundationless Langstroth hives to my apiaries.

The reason I ask is that it seems like the philosophies of the top bar beekeepers mirror your style of Backwards Beekeeping and vice versa. If you had a preference I would be interested in hearing it.

I also have watched some of your swarm captures and cutouts and it seems that your bees draw out comb much faster than the bees do here in Illinois; do you have any thoughts why that might be?...

We are basically done at the hives til spring here so I don't want to drive myself nuts trying to think like a bee if someone already knows the answer.


Scott P
Kankakee IL

Kirk responds:

I don't have any top bar hives myself. Sam Comfort up in New York State does, and is very successful with them. The top bar hive philosophy is very Backwards; its design was to be simple and cheap so people could keep bees without going broke.

Bees draw comb as needed so it depends on the flow. The last two years have been very good—the two before were the shits. You don't have to think like a bee, the bees do that pretty good. Being Backwards is always more interesting than the conventional beekeeping. Send us some of your pictures would you? We would love to share your knowledge and your success.


UPDATE: You can see Scott's YouTube channel here.


Mar Vista leads the way toward legal LA beekeeping

Chelsea McFarland, Sherri Akers,
LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, Rob McFarland

At today's Backwards Beekeepers meeting, Rob and Chelsea spoke about their increasingly successful push toward legalizing beekeeping in the city of Los Angeles.

Mar Vista Patch writes:

The initiative began back in May, when local residents Chelsea and Rob McFarland approached the Green Committee about creating a feasibility study for a pilot beekeeping program in Mar Vista, similar to the recently-adopted Santa Monica beekeeping ordinance. The motion was passed unanimously and was approved by the MVCC the following month, where outreach began in earnest.

Want to join the cause? Check out HoneyLove.org, and consider attending the November 8th meeting of the Mar Vista Community Council to show your support.


Next Meeting: Sunday, October 30

PLEASE NOTE: Backwards Beekeepers meetings will now take place regularly on the last Sunday of every month**.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, October 30 at 11am at the Atwater Crossing arts complex.

Topics to be covered:
  • How to prepare your hives for the winter season so that your bees can thrive in the spring
  • Legalization efforts in Los Angeles; Chelsea and Rob will tell us about some important things happening and how we can help support the effort
  • Questions and Answers from Kirkobeeo

Future 2011 meetings:
  • **November 20th a week earlier than usual due to the holiday
  • **NO Meeting in December due to holiday & cranky/cold bees

Atwater Crossing
3265-3191 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039-2205

There is ample free parking in the complex parking lot  - PLEASE park in the lot so the residents of the neighborhood can park near their homes.

Map link

Closest freeway exit is Fletcher off the 2 freeway
Casitas is between Minneapolis St & Silver Lake Blvd…
1 long block SW of N. San Fernando Road (across the railroad tracks)
1 ½ blocks NW of Fletcher Drive
2 ½ blocks SE of Glendale Blvd

See you at the meeting!
Anne & Gwen

Editor's note: There will also be Backwards Beekeepers t-shirts (brown, gray, and green) for sale at $15 each!


Strong Showing at Moving Planet

James and Ruth man the booth.

Here's a report from Susan Rudnicki about Backwards Beekeepers' participation in the inaugural Moving Planet event that took place on September 24 in Manhattan beach...nice work everyone!

There is a major over-haul of bike routes to allow safer and wider passage of bike commuters, establishment of community garden spaces where people can raise vegetables and fruits, more school gardens going in, and promotion of backyard food growing with bees and chickens part of the exhibits.

James, Victor and Susan demonstrate bee skills.

We had a great turn-out, even with the dense, foggy weather, and the organizers gave us a premium central booth space as you can see. Our booth (provided by Ruth)  had a observation hive with bees from my home, a fully fitted Lang hive so people could see the parts, a tri-fold brochure that James made showing people interacting with the bees and photos of typical places where citizens might encounter wild bees, BBK rescue hotline cards and BBK postcards,  a smoker (it was lit), samples of a good local wild honey v.s. a Costco honey and info on the difference, and lots of large photographs decorating the booth showing the interior of a working hive.

James and Victor brush up on their bee talk.

As a result of this showing, we are being asked to do a workshop on beekeeping the Backwards Beekeepers way in February for the Transition South Bay LA group.


One week, Four Trees and 8 Beekeepers

Trap-out team: Yuka, James, Barbara, Dave, Mark.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

This was a catch-up week for tree trap-outs and a big mentoring and learn-by-doing opportunity.

Bees love to swarm into trees and set up shop there, but it's not easy to get them out. It takes patience and persistence. There are only a few of us willing to do it, and I wanted to show some new people the ropes.

I started with Barbara and Richard. They were helping a woman who called the Bee Rescue Hotline with a pretty common story: bees had entered her tree and she had exterminated them not once but a few times because the cavity was always left open. And with the smell of wax and honey it’s irresistible to a swarm of bees. This time she also had a new little puppy that she didn’t want exposed to pesticides. Great news for the bees!

So we set up the trap-out with my favorite aluminum window screen modified with a little funnel made with a citrus juicer. We anchored a cardboard box just at the opening and in no time a little bee was fanning at the entrance.

Richard has gone a few times to check it out and there aren’t a lot of bees in the box, but they are good tempered and we’re saving them for Barbara for when her top bar hive arrives.

Then the next day I met James, Yuka, Barbara and Mark at the LA Zoo to do two more trap-outs. Dave at the zoo had one of our teams chainsaw off some dead branches from a tree where a bee hive had set up. This made it a lot easier to access. We set up the screen and leaned the cardboard against it.

This one has been tricky because there are so many little places that the bees are escaping. Barbara has gone there a few times (sometimes with Mark or Jeremy) to fix the holes. They've been working hard to plug all the holes in the tree in an effort to get the bees to all come out of one spot. It would be impossible to do this on your own unless you lived just down the street from the trap out.

Then Barbara, Mark and I set up another tree trap-out at Mt. Sinai. It was 6am and still pitch black, but we could still see where the bees were living. No pictures here because it’s a cemetery. Matt, the manager of the grounds, will update with the progress.

We’ll leave them alone to give the bees time to emerge and if we are lucky, the queen will exit and then the bees can be removed and the holes in the trees closed completely with cement. Now that we have a great team of trap out artists, we might be able to help out more callers.

Thanks everyone!