Tag Archives: Bee

What Happens When You Call the City/County to Take Care of a Bee “Problem”

[Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com]
The City (as most cities) doesn’t have any resources to perform the logistics of a relocation, so when anyone calls the City (or County) for help, they will exterminate (public safety reasons).

They usually spray Cypermethrin or Fipronil because it’s cheapest. – http://store.doyourownpestcontrol.com/pest-control-products/generic-insecticides

Bees are interestingly resilient because their lifecycle is so short (only the queen lasts up to 7 years – which is why people like eating/consuming/rubbing royal jelly on themselves hoping to live longer – but it’s a integral genetic modifying hormone in the food that does that).  Most bees last 3 to 5 weeks, so what is being observed is when a productive hive is sprayed in the daytime, 80% of the colony is usually out foraging.  They return and smell the poison and try to figure out what is killing their sisters (the males are only useful once in their lifetimes and that’s to pollenate/impregnate another queen, once. Then they die.)

What happens next depends on the numbers. They will not usually attempt to reoccupy a sprayed nest, but they tend to gather nearby, similar to what happens during normal swarming (when a hive gets too crowded and they generate one more queen and the old one takes 1/2 the colony with her to make a new hive). But in the case there is no queen (because she’s been killed by the insecticide), the existing workers will still swarm, and relocate and attempt to re-raise a new queen within that 5 week timespan.  If there were one or two drones left in the mix, they can impregnate a worker (who normally could only lay infertile eggs) and begin rearing a new queen (by feeding royal jelly and propolis to the larvae).

Otherwise, that particular colony just gradually dies off because the workers need sufficient numbers to maintain sufficient heat inside a new hive to raise the larvae. (workers can gather food, produce drones/males and build wax, but they can’t lay eggs as fast as a queen to regenerate an entire colony).

What you could do, if you happen to have a suitable backyard available, or another tree, is to make up a bee box home and place it up where it would be out of the direct path of anyone nearby (we even use cardboard boxes with a small 1-inch hole punched in it when we just want to relocate a colony).  Then you try to get a few slabs of the old comb from the old colony from the inside where it was least likely to have been sprayed and take half and just lay it in the box, and the other half and kind of rub the honey and wax around the inside of the box. (This procedure is based upon there being an absence of bees around, of course. If the bees are still active and you do not have prior experience handling bees, I would always recommend you let trained people handle this part – they can help you learn how to do it properly, if you wish to learn about bee management.)

The smell attracts the remaining foragers and they will usually try to rebuild the colony inside the box. (which is how we end up adopting new feral colonies, if it’s not swarming season.)  We can use the same technique to “capture” a wild swarm (they dont’ sting when they’re swarming because there’s no new home to protect yet). By basically taking an empty frame box and making it smell good to them and placing (or dumping) the swarm directly into the box with frames for them to build comb upon.

Without the frames, they will just attach their comb to the top of the box and build a naturally-shaped hive. You can also contact http://honeylove.org/ – which is our new parent organization throughout Southern California. Go Bees!

nb: a friend said this was useful to them, and thought it would be nice to have a permanent place to post it for people to refer to in the future.

Beauty and The Bees – a Town & Country Magazine article

By Cristina Mueller

Beauty and the Bees – Cristina Muller (Town & Country, Sept 2012)

A gentle article about urban beekeeping, health and skin care bee-related product development and the cosmetics industry impacts on bee survival.

(republished without permission)

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Month

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Month – 2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Truth, Self and Goodness http://ow.ly/1mg http://ow.ly/2sijjb

Shinnyo-en LA Bees – Buddhist Bees?

Received a call from the office staff at my local Shinnyo-en Temple (Los Angeles/Yorba Linda) of bees having decided to move into an irrigation box near the Saito Homa field.  Because the landscaper needed to adjust settings in the box, these bees needed to be relocated.

Used minimal smoke and cleared brush around the box. Removing the lid caused 5 of the combs to disconnect as they were attached to the sides of the ground box walls.

Placed the lid over the emptied cardboard nuc while deciding which set to move first.  Cut the largest combs to the smallest from the lid first, since those were primarily honey and pollen stores.  All combs maintained in order-of-removal when transferred to the deep frames with rubber bands to secure the combs in-place.

Then proceeded with the ground box combs – several were ensnared in the irrigation wiring requiring delicate tearing to maintain primary comb integrity during removal. Once the largest comb segments were removed, remaining smaller combs were attached to the empty spaces remaining on the occupied deeps. Order of combs still maintained.

Wax scraped from lid and box and vinegar sprayed to prevent immediate return (the Temple uses only distilled vinegar to clean surfaces, so it turned out to be a convenient source). Remaining nurse bees in the ground box were transferred by the handful to the nuc, while I watched the ones on the ground marching into the nuc box through the front hole (indicating presence of the queen.)

Total effort about 90 minutes for a 14 x 9 hive of approximately 30,000 bees.  Temperment was pretty mellow – while they did swarm around, I didn’t witness any dive-bombing or attack behavior during the cut-out.  Keeping the bees on the comb during transfer helped a lot to keep the overall hive calm. Each time a frame was filled it went back into the box with the cover to keep sunlight to a minimum.

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Wild Swarm Moves Itself In

It’s Monday, April 2nd, and my wife says, “Looks like there’s a lot of bees in the backyard.” Earlier this morning and over the past few days we noticed one or two scout bees wandering around the empty boxes outside (the TBH and two cardboard nucs have resident colonies.)
We watched as a very pretty and good-sized swarm created a fuzzy cloud over the whole patio, and began settling on a couple of stacked Langstroth boxes from last year (a deep and a medium.) Taking pictures and videos of these are quite easy as swarms are much more docile and calm when searching for a place to live. They become more defensive once moved in and built comb. But at this stage, if you don’t mind their sheer numbers, they’re quite easy to be around. New home, zero work for us. “Easy breezy!” – Kirk Anderson

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (and why it probably isn’t a disorder)

ImageBees eat nectar, pollen and collect plant sap (propolis). Normally they eat a varied diet of many different flowers, plants and various flora.  They live outside in tree hollows, under structures, inside walls, and many times even just hanging from tree branches out in the open where they survive just fine against all kinds of rain, snow, ants, mites, beetles, moths and whatever else the natural world throws at them.

People decided to try and make more food producible from less land, so it’s cheaper (or more profitable, depending on how you look at it.)  Monoculture developed (growing a lot of one kind of plant in an area). Insect-resistant strains of species were cultivated, engineered and distributed. Multi-spectrum insecticides were invented to combat the increasing number of insects that seemed to like our vast fields full of single-crop plantings (sort of like putting a CostCo where a 7-11 convenience store once stood).

Until the robotic bees are perfected, in order to keep growing grains, fruits and vegetables, regular honeybees (apis mellifera) do the work of pollenating the fields. Even when trucked and transported thousands of miles into foreign soils and dumped on the grounds of vast monoculture plantings, they do their work.

But just like humans, if one is fed a single-source diet, bees own immune systems start breaking down and getting weaker. Gets worse when starting to be fed refined sugar syrups or soy protein extracts instead of plain raw organic pollen. Add to that trace elemental insecticides into the nectar, pollen and plant saps that are coming from all of the agricultural engineering being applied, and you get, one weak bee (or a few billion of them.)

Because we like to work our fields during the daytime, and we don’t like getting stung by bees, we start promoting the more docile-behaving bees, and kill the queens that produce the “angrier” kind. Behaviorally, these “calm” and “easy to manage” bees also seem to have lackluster response to common bee pests, such as varroa mites, small hive beetles, wax moths and even ants.  While their feral and “mean” cousins seem to be able to manage these pesky intruders by themselves, our “calm” bees seem to need assistance keeping their houses in-order, so we add miticide pads, screening boards, moth adhesive traps, and ant barriers to the mix.

What we end up with is a “easy to manage” bee that is basically domesticated – that is, it’s lazy. It lets someone else clean up the intruders and messes, isn’t very disease-resistant, and occasionally can’t figure out how to get home. Sound a little like “Fluffy” or “Spot” at home?Image

But bees are unusually resilient by nature’s norms – and they have wings. So if someone camped you out in a fast food place and said, “Here. Eat these burgers until you die 45 days from now,”  and the burgers were making your digestion runny, and you seemed to get no end of colds, flu, and all sorts of skin irritations head-to-toe and were getting pretty annoyed by the number of moths and beetles that seemed to be liking your particular burger joint, and you had keys to a personal helicopter, what would you do?

Go find better digs and fly away perhaps? The statistical surveys of bee populations within a state are based upon commercial bee hive and other registered control counts. Generally, in the past, they have ignored feral populations on the basis that they were not worth counting, any more than counting the number of houseflies around town. We, as Backwards Beekeepers, have noticed something very different happening. All the usual number of swarms are where they typically occur (trees, old sheds, people’s attics), but these populations are much more large and well-distributed within urban and suburban areas than in prior years.

ImageLet’s say you’re a bee. You notice that the local City seems to take very good care of their flower beds.  In fact, people seem to be planting beautiful flowers year-round, including removing other annuals, and re-planting new ones in their place just to keep the bed looking full of flowers. Home gardeners seem to be using fewer chemicals than before – because people are trying to grow “better quality” food at home than they find in their markets. Whole areas are void of the usual predatory yellowjackets and wasps because they happen to be areas where people don’t like such annoying insects and they’ve put out thousands of traps. Where would you go?

ImageWe don’t count bees.  But we do notice there are way more bees showing up in our cities and suburbs than have been in past years.  And maybe all those field bees just got tired of getting shipped around the country and decided to move into the cozy suburbs instead.

Of significance to this situation is in the majority of reported colony and hive “collapse” cases, dead bees are found only in small or insignificant numbers. We’ve seen what happens when a colony gets sprayed with insecticide – LOTS of dead bees. And the typical observation has been that they’ve “vanished.”  How about they just flew away to greener pastures?

But there might be one more domino-effect to the bees eating so many chemicals and becoming weaker – what happens to the animals that eat them? I was watching a PBS special, entitled “Saving Songbirds” related to wild songbird population reductions that have been observed more consistently over the past decade. Food chain. Coincidences usually are not coincidences.

Dem Dryer Vent bees have been moved…

Jeremy (owner of the Vent Bees) captured the history of what the trap-out on this looks like this video:

And here you see the early buzzin’ and pawing at the new box, which was packed with a bunch of old comb from an earlier cut-out:

And here’s some photos of the pre-relocation work:


So, Jeremy’s Dryer Vent trap-out worked about 50% – they managed to be orderly enough to persist in slowly entering the trap-out cone one-by-one over the past 3 weeks.  After taking the box down for inspection, some of the trapped-out bees had set up home inside and started caring for the uncapped brood and building burr comb to attach it to the frames and box walls. But with neighbors starting to complain about the buzzing, we decided to move ’em out.

The vent has a 5″ x 6″ opening, leading to a 1.5′ x 1.5′ x 8′ non-functional space left open to the outside world.  (and filled with not only bees, but also paper wasps, wood borer beetles and a couple of roaches).  This was the result of a interior remodel, which should have included sealing-off or at least screening-off the opening.

Putting in a borescope (from ThinkGeek) only showed a lens absolutely full of bees (rather curious bees poking at the LED lights and wondering what creature this was).  Brought out the bee vacuum and captured most of the visible first layer off of the trap-out cone face, and those visible from the vent.

There was about 1/2″ thick stucco surrounding which would cause too much siding damage, so we opened up the dryer vent using tin snips like a can, folding aside the flaps. Puffed in a little smoke, but the sound change sounded wrong, and I noticed the bees had vacated the entire first layer of comb when the smoke came in.  So we put the smoker aside and instead decided to opt for the gentler sugar spray and leave them on the combs method.

Inside revealed 7 – 6″ x 7″ combs neatly built parallel to the wall-face.  All new comb, and about 1.5 combs of honey.

Yuka had to vertically slice some of the combs to fit through the opening, but one-by-one was able to gently remove each comb, with most of the bees still on the combs.
After all the combs were out, another session of vacuuming to remove the straggling bees and finish by foaming the vent with a backer board using self-expanding foam to keep out the future intruders.
Final tally, 6 medium frames of comb. And a foamed up vent.  And Jeremy now has his first experiences with trap-outs, light demolition, vacuuming, framing, packing up a moving hive

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And the Lemon Tree bees of Atwater will be moving to a new home!

This was originally classed as a “difficult” to “impossible”cut-out because of: 1) rather sensitive bees that were really bouncing off of veils at the slightest vibration of the tree, and 2) the lemon tree had been left to grow untrimmed for probably the better part of a decade and all of its branches had become intertwined into a nest of inter-connected twigs without a central trunk.

Yuka and I spent about 2 hours carefully pruning with a sharp Fiskars pole pruner (without the saw blade) until we had cleared to the main branches.  Once the outer frass of branches was trimmed away, an extension ladder fit nicely against 4 central branches to get a closer look.  Turned out the colony had placed 90% of the comb mass against only the main branch, and the others were simply growing around it (with a little burr comb to further strengthen the mass.)

I guessed at using pruning loppers to cut free the top-most branches and the comb stayed nicely intact only on the main branch.  This allows a “standard” t0p-bar cutout rescue similar to what I did with the palm frond colony (snip both ends and lower the whole thing to a receiving box and trim to-size).  Because the branch is quite curved, to maintain the uprightedness of the colony, we chose to sit one end on the box bottom, and support the other end with a forked stick from other tree trimmings.  One more in the middle braces the mass, and duct tape creates the desired side-to-side stability for movement.

No smoke used at all.  Only 1:1 sugar water spray with vanilla.  Bees stayed completely sane the entire time all the way into the box.  We dimmed the lights around before cutting and used my head LED red light to do the downward movement – but they didn’t mind white light while I was cutting.  This is how I really like to see relocations work.

Closeup of hive in the box cradle.

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