Solar Beeswax Melter
I have a bunch of beeswax from cut-outs…so what to do? I came up with this design based on a few I’d seen online and was able to pull together most of the material from around the house. The concept is pretty simple – sun heats up metal, melting wax into a trough.
Seemed to be working well, though I think it needs a full day of sun to fully melt the wax. It got warm enough today to melt the wax into piles, though not warm enough to make it run into the trough. We’ll see tomorrow after it gets full sun all day.
“Mar Vista tripleheader”
Today, Roberta of Backwards Beekeepers and I cut-out three hives from my neighbor’s garage. John contacted BB after what sounds like a few bungled removals. What started as one hive in his wall splintered into three robust hives, taking up residence in various parts of the garage.
John’s daughter Catherine, a biology student at UCSB, helped us throughout the whole ordeal. I suspect we have a newbie beek in the making. She was really impressive.
The first hive we tackled was in a window frame and was fully exposed after removing a sheet of plywood that was installed after the previous removal.
We were able to easily cut out the comb and tie it into frames. Look at all that brood!
Next up was a hive that set up in a wine box left behind to trap stragglers from the previous removal. The thought was that it was better to have them living in the box than in the wall.
Unfortunately, they quickly got over-crowded and sent out at least two more swarms, which set up shop in the window and wall. Makes me wonder if this is where the swarm that showed up in my yard originated. If so, I have John to thank for my good fortune. The good news was that the box made for a really simple cut-out.
We tied all the comb into 5 frames and dropped them into a nuc box I just built. We obviously got the queen because the rest of the crew was eager to get inside.
And finally, after a ton of sawing and brute demo work, we were able to cut-out the swarm in the wall. They really spread out throughout the wall, so it took a ton of coaxing to get them all. And by coaxing, I mean busting the hell out of the wall and brushing and vacuuming like a mad man. And though I’m no fan of the bee vac, I’ve found it to be essential in some of the hairier cut-outs. Going to try to build one this weekend, stay tuned for how that turns out.
Special thanks to John and Catherine for helping rescue many thousands of honeybees, and to Roberta for the mentoring.
Ancient Egyptian Beekeeping
“The earliest record of keeping bees in hives was found in the sun temple erected in 2400 BC near Cairo. The bee featured frequently in Egyptian hieroglyphs and, being favored by the pharaohs, often symbolized royalty… Honey is mentioned in the oldest written histories, dating back to at least 2100 BC where it was mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite code, and the sacred writings of India and Egypt.”
Billboard poster design for the plight of the honey beeeee
“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
- A.A Milne
Victory! Santa Monica Legalizes Beekeeping
Following in the footsteps of cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Seattle — and after receiving nearly 200 signatures each from Change.org members — the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to legalize beekeeping. The very night the legislation passed I received an email from Councilmember Kevin McKeown asking me to please call off the Change.org dogs, so you can bet we all had a hand in pushing this law forward!
The new ordinance allows up to two hives on residential property as long as keepers register with Animal Control and meet modest hive placement, screening, and management requirements. Hives must be kept five feet from a property line, be provided a water source, and have a six-foot screen, fence, or some kind of vegetation to make sure the bees fly up before they fly out. Otherwise, the hive can be kept eight feet up without a screen.
In addition, the city now has a policy of exterminating swarms only as a last resort. Previously, the city had an automatic extermination policy regarding feral bees. Under the new legislation, these renegade bees will be captured and relocated to an apiary in either Ventura or the San Fernando Valley. Only if this is impossible will swarms be exterminated.
The new ordinance spells out just how important bees are to society, noting that they provide pollination services vital to up to 30 percent of our food. They also recognize that bee populations have been in trouble for the last 50 years, and that their populations have declined by 50 percent. Because of Colony Collapse Disorder, some beekeepers have noticed their hives dwindling by 30 to 90 percent since 2006. Legalizing beekeeping in Santa Monica will not only boost local food security, it will help conserve beleaguered honeybees.
While Santa Monica joined a growing number of locales that let residents keep bees legally, several cities still ban the practice. Los Angeles is one of them. As the victory in Santa Monica showed, our pressure can make a difference on local lawmakers. Sign our petition asking the Los Angeles City Council to legalize beekeeping in all parts of the city.
Tangerine Trees, Marmalade Hives
The other night fellow Backwards Beekeeper Roberta and I responded to a call in Culver City from a guy claiming to have a hive the size of two basketballs in his tangerine tree. Sure enough, we showed up to discover one of the largest tree hives any of us had seen. Despite being nearly sunset, we couldn’t resist and decided to try to take the whole thing while all the bees were in for the night.
We were going to need back-up for this one, so Roberta called in Yvonne for some extra support. The three of us tediously trimmed away branches overhead, freeing the hive of the thousands of buttressing branches needed to keep this massive hive in place. Eventually we got it to a place where we could cut off one branch and bring the whole thing down. I held on to the limb as Roberta and Yvonne hacked away with a pole trimmer. After what felt like forever, we sawed our way through and were able to bring it down.
We trimmed the branches some more to allow us to stick the whole thing in a box. Surprisingly the bees were very cooperative throughout, all things considered.
It was a major team effort and a lot of fun. Thanks Roberta and Yvonne, you guys are amazing!
Stay tuned for a video of this hive being cut-out and tied into their new home in a Langstroth hive.
Ed (Redondo Beach, CA)
Ed, a member of Backwards Beekeepers, is a man on a mission. His first encounter with bees came when a hive set up shop in his property. Not knowing his options, Ed had an exterminator out to get rid of the bees – a decision that haunts him to this day. As a gardener and wildlife lover, Ed set out to find a better option, a way to redeem himself.
After some googling, Ed found the Backwards Beekeepers and the rest is history. He’s got bee fever as bad as anyone.
In addition to going out and rescuing bees himself, Ed made friends with an exterminator who he convinced to do live captures. She now drops off at least three swarms a week. Ed basically runs a bee orphanage – connecting people who need bees with bees in need.
Today we scooped up three swarms from him – two of which went to a new home in Laguna Beach
The third of Ed’s rescues went to newbie beek Mark in Woodland Hills.
NRDC ACTION CENTER:
Bees are a critical agricultural resource that help produce $15 billion worth of crops in the United States each year. The recent unexplained mass disappearance of honey bees, called colony collapse disorder, poses a significant threat to honey bees, beekeepers, farmers and our food supply. Most bee experts believe bees could be falling sick due to a combination of factors, including pesticide exposure, invasive parasitic mites, an inadequate food supply and a new virus that targets bees’ immune systems.
Last year Congress recognized colony collapse disorder as a threat and granted the Department of Agriculture emergency funds to study the problem. In addition, the department receives $20 million each year for honey bee research, pest and pathogen surveillance, and other bee-related programs. But to date, the agency has been unable to fully account for how these funds are being used or show any significant results from its work.
The Agriculture Department should be held accountable for a clear and complete annual report of its progress on all of its duties concerning colony collapse disorder. Moreover, the department should determine what resources are needed to fully address the problem and inform Congress of these needs as soon as possible.
What to do:
Urge the Department of Agriculture to fulfill its commitment to fight colony collapse disorder.
“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.”
Help us save the honey bees!!
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