The LAST meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers

One of the first Backwards Beekeepers meetings at Solano Gardens.

As many of you know, after five years the Backwards Beekeepers is going to disappear into the ether the same way it appeared. We helped thousands of people learn about organic, hands-off beekeeping and we are confident that the next wave of bee groups will be just as successful.

Please join us for this last meeting, where we can celebrate a great run, introduce some of the new groups that have sprouted up, and thank Kirkobeeo for changing our lives.

This blog will live on as an information resource.

Sunday, September 29

Citibank, Silver Lake branch
2450 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles 90039

As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping.

See you there!


A beekeeping service dog!

Via Treehugger:

In the photo above is Bazz, a black labrador that beekeeper Josh Kennett has trained to detect by smell a serious bee disease called American foulbrood. The Paenibacillus larvae caused by the infection are usually only visible under high-magnification microscope, but thanks to Bazz, that's not necessary.

Microscope analysis might not be needed thanks to Bazz's nose, but the dog still had to be protected from bee attack to get close enough to sniff out the hives. That's why Kennett built this protective suit that makes Bazz look a big like a canine astronaut.

Beekeeping dog in 'astronaut' suit detects infected hives by smell (Treehugger)


Next meeting: Sunday, August 25

The Backwards Beekeepers took last month off and headed to Oregon for the Pacific Northwest Treatment-Free Beekeeping Conference.

At this month's meeting, we'll have several presentations from that conference:
  • Walker - Les Crowder's DIY Top Bar Hives
  • Susan - Tom Seeley's swarm intelligence and colony decision making
  • Ceebs - video/clips of Dr. Seeley's swarm board
  • Tyson - half size moveable frame hives in trees

Sunday, August 25

Citibank, Silver Lake branch
2450 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles 90039

As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping.

See you there!

4th of July swarm rescue

LA newbee Jan writes:

Yesterday, about 2:00, my next-door-neighbor Marty called, saying, "You've got a problem." We'd had a swarm of bees settle on our house. I love bees, but Marty was hiding in his house and a bunch of other neighbors were freaking out; there were going to be tons of people coming for the 4th on 4th Street. I found Backwards Beekeepers online. The person I spoke to doubted anyone was available on the holiday, but said he'd contact a volunteer who lives in Manhattan. Susan came over and voila! We learned about their group and all kinds of bee and hive stuff. So cool.

The original group landed on the house, by the chimney.

The cluster got bigger, spreading to the pittosporum, so we braced the branch out with a 2x4 to split it and encourage them to leave. They didn't.

Marty was scared they were Africanized 'killer' bees, but they were harmless Western honey bees who, having outgrown their old hive, were looking for a home. Susan told us they assign and send out scouts. The remaining bees follow the scouts, clustering around the queen to protect her while they're outside and she's vulnerable. Because she's not built to fly, she tires easily and has to rest. That was what was happening here....they'd most likely stay overnight and move on in the morning to find a permanent spot where it was dark and the entry area was small and easy to defend (hopefully not our attic or between our walls). The queen is in the middle of the 'branch' group. The 'house' bees on the right eventually moved over to the branch.

Susan arrived with her portable hive....

....complete with a ready-for-occupancy bee condo, taken from one of her own hives. Her box holds 5 of these. The boxes we see on orchards each hold 10 each. You can see the bee 'bread' (their food) in most of the darker cells, and honey in the upper left, lighter area.

The 'tree' cluster turned out to be a good thing, enabling her to trim little branches away, then cut the top off and place it, along with the swarm, into her box.

We both stood close by for at least 45 minutes without one sting. Apparently, regardless of where they are, all the bees return at night to rest, and that's the best time to move them. Susan returned at 9:00 pm and took the box to her house to start a new hive.

Susan said the city of Manhattan Beach refers calls to her. She told me my call was good timing; she'd just gotten up from a nap after going out at 3:30 am to collect a swarm on 12th St! Here's Susan with the portable box on the roof behind her. You can see some of the scouts returning.


Next meeting: Sunday, June 30

The next meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers is scheduled!

Sunday, June 30

Citibank, Silver Lake branch
2450 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles 90039

This month our guru-in-chief Kirk Anderson will speak about Charles Martin Simon's principles of doing beekeeping backwards: how to inspect crowded hives, how to make sure your bees have room to grow and thrive naturally, and how, when beekeeping, to be simple and think like a bee instead of like a human.

As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping.

See you there!


Backwards Beekeepers in the LA Weekly

Rob and Chelsea (who also lead HoneyLove.org) are featured in an LA Weekly cover story about the Backwards Beekeepers. Also appearing: LA Backwards Beekeepers Kirk, Ceebs, and Max; LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl; retired California State Supreme Court justice Carlos Moreno; Pizzeria Mozza; and more!

Soon [Rob] started going on rescues, too — as many as three a day. He climbed a tangerine tree in the middle of the night and brought down the biggest open-air hive Chelsea had ever seen. With a frenzied smile, Rob gripped the severed branch with massive honeycombs dangling off it — a 60-pound lollipop of bees. Chelsea snapped a picture.

Then the dawning realization: "Where the hell do we put them?" It is a recurring question that will consume their next few days, then months, then years.

The tangerine tree hive sat on their roof for a spell. The McFarlands live in a modest house in the Del Rey neighborhood, a narrow, two-mile strip that cleaves Culver City from Mar Vista. They don't exactly have a lot of space. And what kind of neighbor welcomes a swarm?

By some miracle, after weeks of shlepping hives across the city — after the crazy logistics of matching up people who had bees but didn't want them with people who want bees but didn't have them — Chelsea secured a spot: a small, scrubby hilltop in agrarian Moorpark, overlooking an organic farm owned by a friend of a friend. The McFarlands christened the hilltop the HoneyLove Sanctuary.

Today it hosts 16 hives in colorful wood boxes, each from somewhere around L.A., rescued from water meters and birdhouses and compost bins, places Rob can't recall anymore.

"Each one of these is a family," Chelsea says. "We're usually rushing to beat the exterminator out there."

Read the whole thing here.


HoneyLove's 2nd Annual Yellow Tie Event

HoneyLove.org says:

Join us for Yellow Carpet photos, fun drinks, local honey tasting, games, prizes and special musical performance in support of HoneyLove’s mission to protect honeybees and inspire and educate new urban beekeepers!

DATE: June 8th, 7-11pm
LOCATION: Writers Boot Camp @ Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Avenue, Building I, Santa Monica, CA 90404

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/343396772412699/
Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/HoneyLove/events/98303182/


Next meeting: Sunday, May 26

The next meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers is scheduled!

Sunday, May 26

Citibank, Silver Lake branch
2450 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles 90039

This month we're featuring an appearance by Sean Schwab, a longtime treatment-free beekeeper in Orange County. He's accumulated lots of knowledge about capturing and keeping feral bees, and will discuss the many misconceptions people have about them.

We'll be covering a lot of important points about keeping feral bees in an urban environment, including:
  • Getting educated with books, online resources, and hands-on mentoring
  • The risks and responsibilities of hive inspection, hive placement, and maintenance of space to prevent swarming and grouchy bees
  • Hive stand construction, ant control, and the rationale for these set-ups
  • Safety equipment, using a smoker effectively, being aware of neighbors
  • Capturing feral bees safely and humanely

As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping.

See you there!


4-H Club makes a swarm rescue in Torrance

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta passes this story along from the Palos Verdes Peninsula 4-H club:

Sunday morning our Surfing Group was surfing at Torrance Beach and noticed a beehive on the backside of the Torrance Beach Lifeguard Tower. Bill Johnston, the Surfing Project Leader, notified the Palos Verdes Peninsula 4-H Club Bee Project and the project members made arrangements to meet at Torrance Beach at dusk to capture the swarm.

The Bee Project Members have saved swarms before but never one on the ground, which is very unusual. As the Bee Project members further investigated, they noticed that the swarm had already begun to make a hive structure. They found the queen and put her and most of the other bees into a shoe box which we eventually put into a cooler to transport to John's Canyon in Rolling Hills.

Some of us returned today to Torrance Beach to make sure our operation was successful! And it appears that it was indeed. Our Bee Project members are very happy that they have been able to help the Community in these instances, and it has also given them a chance to educate the public in the value of bees in the environment. We need to be aware of preserving the bee population.

We were happy to help the Los Angeles County Lifeguards and the bees as well.


Spreading bee knowledge on Earth Day

Check out these photos of Backwards Beekeepers at last week's Earth Day event at Santa Monica College!


Next meeting: Sunday, April 28

The next meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers is scheduled!

Sunday, April 28

Citibank, Silver Lake branch
2450 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles 90039

This month we're featuring an appearance by Ray Teurman, a real unsung hero of bee volunteerism here in L.A. who has developed his own unusual and crafty techniques of bee management. Ray is excited to speak about his experiences with bees throughout the L.A. area, and his techniques for doing cutouts and trap-outs.

As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping.

See you there!


Your Bee Rescue Hotline at work: Granada Hills

LA Backwards Beekeeper Max answered a call to the Bee Rescue Hotline:

This Granada Hills swarm capture was a piece of cake. The swarm, about the size of 1 1/2 footballs, was in a hedge next to the front lawn. When I arrived, a gardener (totally oblivious to the swarm just to his left and above his head) was actually mowing the lawn. He nearly had a heart attack when I pointed out the swarm! After he finished, I sprayed the swarm with sugar water, cut the dominant branch with a pair of pruners that I brought along, and gently shook them in a nuc box.

I was in and out in about 30 minutes. I even took along a neighbor who now has total bee fever :)



Your bee rescue hotline at work: Westwood

Check out the handmade warning sign.

LA Backwards Beekeeper Ruth writes about a true community effort:

I responded to a swarm call in Westwood—I was right in the neighborhood. There was a little grapefruit-sized swarm hanging from a crosswalk sign in a super-busy intersection! I used my trusty 1-quart milk carton to get them into a little cardboard box, taped onto the top of my ladder.

Matrone and Erich.

The swarm call was made by Susan Olsen, who learned about the crosswalk-bees from Westwood Ambassadors Matrone Hutchings and Erich Knapper, who work for the Westwood Village Improvement Association.

They in turn, were notified by a manager at the Trader Joes in front of the crosswalk, who heard about the bees from a pedestrian named Frank.


Frank makes documentary films and is very aware of environmental issues. His next film will be about the importance of insect-eating bats.

While I was hanging around waiting for the bees all to go in to the box, a young guy stopped in his tracks in front of the swarm box. "Oh my God that is a swarm box! Amazing!" he yelled.

I said to him "That is MY amazing swarm box! Are you a beekeeper?"

And he said "I am a Backwards Beekeeper!"

And that's how I met Chance, who's been learning beekeeping from Walker and Kirk.


So I said, "Chance, where do you keep your bees?"

And he told me, "I don't have any yet!"

So I gave him these Crosswalk Sign Bees.

And then the corner went back to normal.



James and Kirk get a surprise swarm

Los Angeles Backwards Beekeeper James writes:

Over the past few weeks I had started to notice the comings and goings of the hive was becoming greatly reduced. I spoke with Kirk a few times and he encouraged me to see what was going on for myself.

Upon doing this on sunday morning, I noticed that the bees had become restricted to a third of the super at the bottom of the hive. Lots of empty black brood filled the other 4 brood boxes. I rang and spoke to Kirk about this and seeing as he was close by, he very kindly offered to stop by.

We set about donning our gear and firing up the smoker, to take a further look. My smoker fuel was a bit on the lame side, so Kirk went to his truck to fetch some more fuel. It was then I walked down to the hive and heard what I thought were some angry bees buzzing around the box. I then looked up and saw a massive swarm about to descend on the hive. Kirk arrived back from the truck and we stood in amazement by what was happening!

Kirk said they were either leaving the hive or arriving...it took him but only a few minutes to recognise it was a whole new swarm of bees. We went down to the hive and Kirk slid open the two top brood boxes a little and the bees happily moved inside.

Needless to say Kirk and I spent a great couple of hours in and amongst the bees, watching them doing the amazing work of establishing a new home!


Here's the video!


Next Meeting: Sunday, March 24 at NOON

The next meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers is scheduled!

Sunday, March 24
Noon (note that this meeting is one hour later than usual!)

Citibank, Silver Lake branch
2450 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles 90039

As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping. Here's what we plan to talk about:
  • Longtime chemical-free beekeeper (and highly entertaining speaker/singer/songwriter) Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries in upstate New York joins us for a film presentation and discussion. Sam is the man; don't miss this!

  • Questions from new beekeepers

See you there!


Top Bar Mentoring at Farm Lot 59

Shannon, new beekeeper

LA Backwards Beekeeper Roberta writes:

Shannon and I took a look at the top bar hive at Farm Lot 59 in Long Beach. Farm Lot 59 is run by Sasha Kanno and is a chemical-free farm with fresh fruits, veggies and eggs. She is opening her new farm stand this week. We hope to be adding honey to the bounty soon because their top bar hive is booming.

There is a lot to the story about how this hive came to be. It’s a handmade hive by Steve at BuBees, made of reclaimed wood from the shelves of a beloved Long Beach bookstore, Acre of Books. It was provided by Larry Rich of the Long Beach Sustainability Office.

I can’t remember exactly where the bees came from but Barbara, Henry, Dick and Jaimie of the Long Beach Beekeepers helped transfer the bees to the hive and now they are booming. Now Shannon, a new beekeeper, will be taking care of this hive. I’ll be honest, I’ve never managed a top bar hive but it looks simple enough.

We took a look through the window and the bees were jam-packed and definitely needed some more room. That window is really helpful. We closed it up and gently smoked the hive. The bees were super calm and didn’t mind us at all. We took off the lid and removed the follower board to the right to give them two bars more, in retrospect I probably should have given them 4. They didn’t mind this either.

We could see a bar complete with capped honey but we had two problems: (1) No bucket for honey and (2) No knife to cut the comb away from the hive. Oh well, gives us something to do next time.

We moved the bars over and things were going so well we figured we’d mess with the other end. We took that frame out and this, they minded. We got a great picture of Shannon with the bees and then we closed everything up.

Shannon is a natural with the bees and has the right demeanor to be a great beekeeper. We’ll be harvesting honey for the farm and giving them more room in a couple of weeks.



Your bee rescue hotline at work: Silver Lake

Thomas in Silver Lake called the Bee Rescue Hotline about a nice little swarm hanging from a canvas canopy in front of his house.

First I gave them a few sprays of sugar water. Then I put a ladder underneath, set a nuc box on top of the ladder, and brushed the swarm gently to drop them onto the box.

Thomas' son found this all very interesting.

It took only a few minutes for the swarm to move into the box and start fanning to show the hive where the new home was.


Next meeting: Sunday, February 24

The next meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers is scheduled!

Sunday, February 24

Citibank, Silver Lake branch
2450 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles 90039

As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping. Here's what we plan to talk about:
  • All about your bees' spring honey
  • Recognizing important bee-friendly plants
  • Bee Rescuer qualification updates
  • Questions from new beekeepers

This is our first meeting in this space. Bring something to eat or drink that you can share.

See you there!


Feral Honey dinner at canelé restaurant tomorrow

I'm going to be cooking a local honey-themed dinner tomorrow (2/19) night at canelé restaurant in Atwater Village. It should be fun and tasty. Check out the menu here and come on down if it sounds like fun - I'd love to see you!




Next meeting: Sunday, January 27

The next meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers will be on Sunday, January 27 at 11am, at Golden Road Brewing. We meet outside the building on the covered lawn.

Golden Road brews great beer and also has a full menu. Come hungry and thirsty to support our hosts.

Please follow these basic guidelines to make sure we are welcome back:
  • DO park on the street and let their regular patrons use the parking lot. This should be easy at 11am.
  • DO NOT not bring any animals - bees or otherwise
  • DO NOT bring outside food or drink (and support Golden Road with your business)
  • DO NOT bring wax to melt, or anything else that might attract bees
  • DO clean up after yourself before you leave
As usual, everyone is welcome to the meetings, especially those who are new to beekeeping. Here's what we plan to talk about:
  • Questions from new beekeepers
  • Getting ready for spring
  • Legalization efforts
  • How to become a bee rescuer

Golden Road is located at the southeastern crossing of the 134 and 5 freeways. We'll be at the covered outdoor area (to the left of the building) with picnic tables. 

5410 San Fernando Road, Los Angeles CA 90039 213-373-4677


TakePart TV visits the Backwards Beekeepers

The nice people at TakePart TV recently shot some video in the beautiful yard where LA Backwards Beekeeper Max keeps her bees. Kirk and I gave host Marisha Ray the Backwards take on beekeeping.

Here's part 1:

Here's part 2: