A newbee's first rescue

Feral bees love to take up residence in buried meter boxes. The Bee Rescue Hotline gets hundreds of calls about them every year.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Ruth writes:

Brad had been given a deep box of bees and comb last year but they absconded after the huge windstorm we had on December 1st. He decided it was time to get in on the action and get his next hive himself!

We laid everything out so we could see what we had and how his old comb looked. We had tons of space; there was practically nobody in the parking lot of Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park. His kids had painted his hive boxes for him.

The meter box had about 8 very nice, flat combs in it, that detached intact. Super easy! Lots of brood and honey, too. We even found some eggs.

But did they want to leave that meter box? No they did not.



Settling bees...and neighbors

Pasadena Backwards Beekeeper Deborah writes:

Re-stacked my hive that was upended in the Dec. 1st winds here in Pasadena. Wasn't sure what the end result would be with so many dead bees on the roof from the cold, but the hive is now thriving!

Just did my first honey harvest ever. Very first jar went to my next door neighbor who was stung in the face four times the day after the hive got tumbled. They have since settled down....(neighbors and bees!)



Another step forward for beekeeping in LA

In the ongoing march toward legalizing beekeeping in Los Angeles, last night the Griffith Park Neighborhood Council voted in favor of supporting urban beekeeping in Los Angeles.

And of course, the Backwards Beekeepers were there to support the effort.

UPDATE: Another victory at the South Robertson Neighborhood Council! HoneyLove.org keeps score.


Kirk's Sunday mentoring

Sunday's mentoring crew: Doug, Donna, Pheonix, Aya, Summer, and Emma

Kirk writes:

Went mentoring on Sunday—we had a full house.

Everyone got involved. Emma always spots the queen. I didn't have enough bee suits to go around, so me and Doug sat on the hill and took pictures.

Summer's big hive is so strong we moved more frames up to the upper boxes.

If anyone wants to donate any beekeeper's gear, let me know—I need some to loan out on Sunday.



Simplicity vs. sensationalism in the media

Kirk at KPCC last June.

Kirk Anderson, co-founder of and chief guru to the Backwards Beekeepers, was a guest on KPCC's Patt Morrison program last Friday. Kirk's done a lot of media appearances in recent years (such as this interview with KPCC's Madeleine Brand last June), and I'm always impressed with his ability to clearly communicate our group's philosophy while remaining his natural and charming self. It can be difficult to stay on message and still have a personality, but Kirk's an expert at it.

Yesterday's appearance came about because Patt and her producers wanted to discuss the recent publicity surrounding the phorid fly, which a researcher at San Francisco State University thinks may be causing declines in bee populations. They wanted a local LA beekeeper to weigh in on the topic.

It's unfortunate that the segment was so short, because while the other two guests (the above-mentioned John Hafernick of SF State and David Hackenberg, a commercial beekeeper) were articulate with their viewpoints, there wasn't time for Kirk to point out that while terms like "Zombie Flies" and "Colony Collapse" make great headlines and stimulating talk radio, they're kind of beside the point.

Food production over the last few decades has moved to an industrial model that plants mono-crops by the square mile and relies on commercial pollination services that deliver bee boxes to the fields by the tens of thousands. These beekeepers, in turn, are so economically squeezed that they're forced to breed for quantity rather than quality, to stress their bees through endless travel, and to supplement their bees' mono-crop diet with cheap junk food that leaves the bees susceptible to parasites and disease.

The industrial model gives us cheap food in the short term, at a high cost in the long term. The bees' plight is one indicator of this.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Ruth made this comment on KPCC's Patt Morrison web page (and, to her credit, Patt read it on air):

This is a tempest in a teacup! Bees have been around for 70 million years, and they will overcome this if we stop feeding them [high fructose corn syrup], loading them with antibiotics and antifungals, and otherwise weakening their immune systems. Bees get rid of all kinds of critters from their hives, from skunks to mice. They'll get rid of these too if we stop messing with their wild genetics.

At least we're getting this point of view into the discussion now. Little by little, we're making progress.

Link: Zombie bees: what’s really to blame for colony collapse? (KPCC)


Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Silver Lake

Ray and Sally in Silver Lake called the Bee Rescue Hotline about a hive of bees in one of their backyard trees. The bees had only swarmed there 4 or 5 days ago, but they had already drawn three small combs, started collecting honey, and had a decent amount of new brood going. Impressive!

I'm not good at identifying trees, but this one has the kind of fast-growing branches that feel like they can snap off without too much effort. And despite not being superstitious, I wasn't all that excited about being up on a ladder on Friday the 13th. But that's bee fever for you.

Viewer mail: Charles Martin Simon

A reader writes:

I have a question about Charles Martin Simon. I can't thank you enough for introducing me to his work. He's pretty awesome. Anyways my question is about how he was able to collect pollen with bottomless hives?

Thank you so much for sharing your work.



Kirk replies:
Thank You for the question. Charles used a Pollen Trap. He placed it at top entrance of his hives. He got so he didn't care too much about honey.


"It's not about honey, it's not about money. It's about survival."

—Charles Martin Simon


Mentoring and making new beekeepers

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

I worked this weekend with David, a senior at Whittier High School. He contacted me and needed some hours for his beekeeping fieldwork as soon as possible. I put out a call to the group and within an hour Summer and Susan both said that he could take a look at their hives. Susan already had another high school student coming over too, and Summer was hosting a mentoring session herself. Thank you ladies.

We also happened to get calls on the LA Rescue Hotline about two feral hives: a tree hive in Long Beach and a fence hive in Hacienda Heights—so we were set with something to do.

The tree hive was spotted by a woman out walking—it was in the parkway with the bees' path right across the sidewalk. We could easily spot the bees coming from an opening on the side of the tree but it looked hard to set up for a trap out.

Luckily, there was a hole in the tree where a branch had died and was removed. Someone had put a plastic bag in the hole and we removed it to find a window right into the hive. It was great!


Winter honey 2012

The rains from late fall, combined with all the warm weather and sunshine, have given our bees plenty to do. We've taken honey from three of our four hives in the last couple of weeks.

Has everyone else been on the honey train lately as well? Send us some photos if you have them!


Summer's mentoring pays off

Kirk writes:

I did my weekly mentoring today. I just sit back and let Summer do the mentoring now. She has come just about every Sunday for six months. She knows what she is doing. I just watch now.

If you go every week, it helps you go through all the different phases of the bee hive. Summer did a full inspection today on her strong hive.


Kirk does mentoring most Sundays at 9:30am (not the last Sunday of each month, though, because that's our meeting day).

Want to come to a mentoring session? Join our Yahoo group; once there, click "Database" in the left margin, then click on "Beekeeper mentors." Kirk's contact info is there.


The Backwards Beekeepers hoodies have arrived!

Here's Tomas from Grow Your Own Media in Atwater Village, showing off the fresh-off-the-presses Backwards Beekeepers hoodie.

If you ordered one at the end of 2011, you can pick yours up at our next meeting on Sunday, January 29.

If you paid for shipping, your hoodie will ship soon.