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.
Pesticide Action Network: SIGN THE PETITION!
• U.S. bee populations are still declining and scientists believe pesticides are a critical piece of the puzzle. Clothianidin’s family of pesticides (neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid) are an especially suspect culprit.
• Clothianidin is on the U.S. market on the basis of unsound science and deeply flawed EPA decision-making. Like most pesticides registered in the last 15 years, it was rushed to market prior to safety testing with a “conditional registration.”
• Beekeepers can’t take another season of losses. Beekeepers tell us that like their hives, their industry is on the verge of collapse. With 1/3 of food reliant on bees for pollination, the collapse of commercial beekeeping would devastate U.S. farmers as well.
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.”
What’s That Buzz in Mar Vista?
The Mar Vista Community Council is studying a proposal to legalize beekeeping in the neighborhood.
“Mar Vista may soon become home to the city of Los Angeles’ first urban beekeeping farms. The Mar Vista Community Council unanimously approved a feasibility study Tuesday on legalizing beekeeping within the coastal enclave.
The move comes as scientists seek to explain the mysterious death of billions of bees nationwide, a problem many experts think urban beekeeping could help ameliorate.
“We will have no more bees by 2035 if nothing is done,” warned Rob McFarland of the urban beekeeping advocacy group Backwards Beekeepers. “The future of beekeeping is not one man with 60,000 hives, but rather 60,000 men with one hive.” [Simon Buxton, Vanishing of the Bees]
Honeybees pollinate more than a third of America’s crops. Many farmers in the Central Valley import the insects every year to pollinate almond trees and other important regional crops.
Millions of hives have collapsed without warning in recent years. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says beekeepers began reporting the inexplicable loss of 30-90 percent of their hives during the winter of 2006-07. EPA officials attribute the phenomenon to Colony Collapse Disorder, the cause of which continues to elude scientists. Theories include an invasive mite and harsh pesticides used to protect crops.
The Backwards Beekeepers—named for celebrated writer-beekeeper Charles Martin Simon’s philosophy that people should conform to nature instead of forcing nature to conform to them—formed in 2008 to promote urban beekeeping in Los Angeles. Urban beekeeping, the group leaders say, allows bees to thrive in highly controlled environments.
One of the Backwards Beekeepers’ major accomplishments is the legalization of beekeeping in Santa Monica last year. Before the city ordinance passed in 2010, Santa Monica had a blanket policy of euthanizing bees in so-called “feral” hives.
The Backwards Beekepers had a strong presence at the Mar Vista Community Council meeting Tuesday to support a proposed resolution legalizing beekeeping. “This gives bees another get-out-of-jail-free card,” McFarland told the council. “We believe this is a necessary measure requiring immediate action,” he said.
Mar Vista resident Mark Lebovitz has battled numerous bouts of cancer and ascribes his current good health to a well-balanced diet high in organic fruits and vegetables.“Food is my medicine,” he said. “Suddenly, we’re looking into the possibility that we’re not going to have any more good foods to eat.”
Council members enthusiastically embraced the idea of urban beekeeping, with Kate Anderson even volunteering up her backyard for the venture.
Maurice Vickers of Backwards Beekeepers voiced his approval of the council’s vote outside the Mar Vista Recreation Center after the meeting. Legalizing beekeeping, Vickers said, just makes sense. “After all, bees are keeping themselves all over Mar Vista. Are they here legally or do they have to have someone’s approval? I think it’s better to have a controlled beekeeping situation. … Let’s put bees in their rightful place,” he said.
Once the study is complete, the council will decide whether to legalize beekeeping in Mar Vista.”
I inspected Sophie Anne’s hive yesterday and she has drawn quite a bit of comb, but it would appear (unless I am mistaken, and correct me if I am) that the workers have designs on replacing their queen. You’ll notice in the middle of the photo a unique cell that sticks out. I believe this to be a queen cell, and more specifically a supercedure cell. Bees will create these cells when they believe their queen is failing and want to replace her. That would appear to be the case with Sophie Anne. Perhaps she was injured or just not laying enough brood. I didn’t see her during the inspection so I can’t speak to her condition or existence for that matter. At any rate, I’m excited to see what happens. Hopefully they will emerge a stronger, healthier hive.
Breakfast without Bees?
“Without honeybees, many foods included in the breakfast [on top] would become too rare for most people to afford. Shortages would affect an array of fruits, as well as jams and jellies, almonds and even milk, because dairies use alfalfa (which needs pollinators) as a protein-rich feed for dairy cows.” – ScientificAmerican.com
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
Cat House Cut-Out
I responded to a call on the Backwards Beekeepers rescue hotline last week when a guy got back from an extended trip to Mexico to find that bees had taken up residence in his cat’s house on the balcony of his Marina del Rey apartment. He returned home to find his balcony covered in dead bees and peeled back a rolled up carpet to find the hive bulging out of the fabric cat house. Penniless from his vacation, he plied my conservation guilt to take the bees off his hands gratis. In cases where I don’t have to drive very far, I often find myself making this bargain, though as my beekeeping expenses add up, I find myself a little resentful of the exterminators making hundreds to kill or remove the “pests.” At any rate, I digress.
The morning after picking up the bees from the balcony, I brought them to a couple’s house I had met on a previous rescue. As vegans, they have no interest in the honey, but they know that the urban environment is the future for the honeybee and were only happy to make their beautifully landscaped backyard available to my cat house bees.
This was my first cut-out, and like all firsts, I made a few mistakes. The first mistake was that I did it by myself. Probably could have used someone with some experience in my ear, but I figured I had read enough and watched enough videos…not so much. The second mistake was that on my first cut-out, I elected to move the bees into a top-bar hive I had just built. The hive in itself wasn’t the problem – it was built to spec with wood molding for comb guides. The problem was tying in the salvaged comb. It did not want to cooperate at all. In the end, completely covered in honey, pollen and all things sticky, I was able to make it work but it wasn’t without tremendous effort. The final mistake I made was briefly unzipping my veil just a fraction of an inch. It was just enough time for a bee to shoot the gap and sting me between the eyes. It actually didn’t hurt all that bad, but later that night my face had swelled up pretty good. I woke up the next morning looking like a Navi from Avatar.
The best part of the entire experience came when I found the queen in a pile of bees on the ground. I held out my finger for her and she walked right on. I then held my finger just inside the top bars and she instantly rejoined her compadres.
I was also able to harvest a Mason jar full of fresh, raw honey. Nothing has ever tasted quite so sweet. This was easily one of the best, most educational experiences of my life. Can’t wait for the next cut-out, though no matter how itchy my nose gets, I’m staying zipped up
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