Ruth visits the Brooklyn Grange Bees

Los Angeles Backwards Beekeeper Ruth writes:

Last week I visited family in New York and was able to attend an "Apprentice Day" of the Brooklyn Grange Bees.

Brooklyn Grange Bees (BGBees) is a brand of the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, the largest rooftop farm in the world! The apprenticeship program is just a cool side project of the BGBees.

Tim O'Neal of BoroughBees joined on to specifically design and execute the apprenticeship program,and he was there, bare-hands-on, working with the newbies.

Also with the group that day was Chase Emmons, Managing Partner, Chief Beekeeper, and Director of Special Projects for the Grange Farm. Chase and Tim are both founding members of the Backwards Beekeepers of New York City, and they practice treatment-free beekeeping with the BGBees as well.

The meeting gathered its members in a hip cafe in Building 92 of the old Navy Yard in Brooklyn. The group chatted and drank coffee while waiting for everyone to show up.

This was a meeting not of the Bee Club per se, but rather of the 12 lucky individuals who were chosen from over 175 applicants to be Apprentice Beekeepers. They will learn how to take care of the club's 40-some hives. They and their mentors had met several times already at the cub's Navy Yard Apiary, to switch out frames and hive boxes from a group of 10- year old hives which were purchased for this purpose.

We shared the few vehicles and carpooled across an expanse of asphalt to the empty lot where the hives were located. In spite of the fact of all the concrete the apiary is on a sweet little plot of undeveloped land adjacent to the East River and backed by stands of pine and poplar.

Though the BGBees crew takes care to keep anyone from wandering into the hive yard and getting stung , I was about to be completely blown away by how docile and basically non- stinging these bees were!

East Coast beekeepers only use bottom boards that are screened to increase ventilation in the seriously humid heat of the warm months.But in winter they have to switch out their screen bottoms to solid ones to protect bees from the extreme cold! Tim tells me the eastern bees make a lot more honey than our local western ones, because there is no winter foraging so they have to make enough food when they can. In winter they stay inside a lot!

The bees had originally been purchased in packages from local bee-raisers by a farmer years ago, who lost interest in them and left them to the elements. The result: bees that had built and rebuilt so many times on the same comb that they basically regressed themselves over the course of a decade. And so we have Non-feral Small Cell Local Survivor Stock Bees that (almost) don't sting. Am I jealous? More than a little.


Video: Subculture Club meets the Backwards Beekeepers

Check out this fantastic episode of Thrash Lab's Subculture Club, all about the Backwards Beekeepers. Lots of familiar (and new!) faces make an appearance. It's a great overview what our members are up to!

Our group isn't even 4 years old yet, and look what we've accomplished. All without elected officers, membership dues, incorporation, a treasury, rules, regulations, or bylaws. We fly under the radar and we're pretty damn effective that way.

Bonus Thrash Lab videos:
The History of Bees (animated)
Urban Beekeeping Life (16mm film).


A strong year for honey in LA!

Yesterday Betty Hallock of the LA Times (pictured above) came by to check out our operation and taste some honey in the comb.

We're seeing a lot of honey production from Backwards Bees in LA this year. Last weekend here at Feral Honey HQ we got about 50 pounds from three of our hives (shameless plug: this honey is now available at Village Bakery in Atwater).

Kirk writes:
Last week I helped out Joy [of the Old Bank District bees] with a honey harvest downtown. I took along Valerie from the club.

Kirk continues:
I also took some off in April from my Silver Lake hives—I got one five gallon bucket.

My hives in Studio City are full, same with Eagle Rock. Haven't been able to get to them!


Viewer mail: Whiskey bees

Chris W in Eastern Oregon writes:

I have been on the swarm list for my area and have had about 10 different calls to come and remove these scarry bees. Most turned out to be yellow jackets and wasps... not interested in them buggers.

I have been reading your site for a few days and you have done what I was looking for. Let the bees bee. I don't need no stinking chemicals near what my family (bees included) may eat. No thanks, have you read some of the stuff they put in there.

Anyhow my reason for writing was I thought you might enjoy one of my hive removal stories. I was called to save a swarm in down town Hermiston. My dad and I arrived to find "The Swarm" was inside of an old whiskey barrel. So dad and I picked it up and took it to my yard. We were trying to figure out how to get the bees out and put them in a Lang. One day I went to check on them, and before I got to the barrel I noticed something not right. I looked over and saw a swarm cluster under one of my trees. Came right from the barrel and hung out.

A couple days later dad brought a new saw with him that just viberates, and has a very small kerf. I cut all around that barrel in about 5 minutes. This is what we saw.

As of today they are doing great in their new home.

Thanks for all your work...



Next Meeting - June 24

Backwards Beekeepers meetings take place on the last Sunday of every month.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, June 24 at 11am. As always, we'll be at the Atwater Crossing arts complex. Here's what we have planned:

  • Kirk takes questions from new and aspiring beekeepers
  • Break out into smaller groups based on interests - rescue, legalization... (please note that there will be no starter strip waxing this month - Kirk is out of wax)

Upcoming  meetings (mark your calendar!):
  • July 29
  • August 26
  • September 30
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. There is also a cafe that sells beverages and tasty flatbreads if you'd like a snack during the meeting.

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