Topbar Beekeeping

I'm an urban topbar beekeeper in Albuquerque, NM. I manage hives in backyards and small organic farms within city limits. These hives are probably pollinating your veggie patches right now. Visit my website at:


Beeyard Admiration

I was driving from downtown to Corrales today on Rio Grande, loving the beeyards I drive by once a week. I'm talking about the crooked collection of top bar hives at Los Poblanos. The ones in the middle of a brand new orchard with spindly little fruit trees.

I also like the orderly Langstroth hives just North of Coors on Rio Grande. The hives look like polished white soldiers. This property is always immaculate and I always swerve a bit into the dirt on the side of the road while I'm busy drooling over this land.

It is amazing to me that the average layman probably has no clue what those odd shaped boxes hold... liquid gold and up to 30,000 bees.


Caught One!

Bravo for the first swarm catch of the year. This lovely clump of bees was perched on a thorny pyracantha about 10 feet off the ground. It looked as if they had swarmed from a feral hive in a cinder block wall about 20 feet away. Luckily, the owner of the property had an empty beehive sitting not 5 feet away and was lamenting that she missed out on ordering bees this year.

It was a good exercise for equipment. My bee vacuum is based on JBee's Rubbermaid BeeVac. This is a fantastic design made from see through plastic storage bins, nestled within each other. The contraption is light and you can watch the speed at which the bees enter the inner catch box. Then, you can adjust the damper to increase or decrease the suction. It's pretty fancy shmancy, but I soon realized that my vacuum didn't have enough suction for this job. It worked to suck lentils on trial runs, but I was really surprised how tightly the bees held onto each others legs and antenae and little bee hands! Awww.... so cute.

We blocked up all the holes with duct tape in this hive, except for the ones on the bottom right hand side. Usually, the comb can be found by the hive entrance. If there are entrances all over the hive, it is hard to know which side of the hive to open without tearing comb and killing bees in the process.

In the end, it was the cardboard box that was successful in catching the queen. We were able to get the box directly under the swarm, give the pyracantha a good shake, and catch the queen and a lump of bees. Once we had the queen, the rest of the bees marched right into the small entrance hole on the side of the box. After about half and hour, and a majority of the bees were in the box, we gave the box a few shakes to dislodge the bees hanging from the lid and then upturned and shook the bees into the hive. By nightfall, the straggler bees had found the hive that we had left under the pyracantha and it's their new home.

Phew, 5 stings and a thorny scratches all over, it was time for a beer and benadryl.


Swarm Calls

I keep getting calls about people looking for bees to start the season. I also made this same mistake my first year of beekeeping. I didn't realize that the best time to place an order is by February. By this time in the year, it is to late. The bees are sold out!

Anybody out there who is looking for bees, make sure and get your name on swarm lists and have a light box, bee veil and smoker in the back of your car at all times. Answer every call immediately and ask a few questions before driving to the location:

-How long has the swarm been there? Hours? Days? Longer? This is a good question to find out if this is a swarm of bees or an established colony.
-How high is the swarm?
-What kind of tree or structure?
-How large is the swarm? Grapefruit? Cantalope? Watermelon? If it's smaller than a grapefruit then it probably isn't worth your time.
-Will someone be at the home when you arrive?
-Have you called any other beekeepers? You might show up and someone has already picked up the swarm.
-Is there a power source? This is a good one if you have a bee vacuum.

Work fast when you get to the swarm site before the bees pick a home and all fly off. Remember that you are an ambassador for the bees. The homeowners are probably scared and it falls on you keep everybody calm, handle the scene and be a little bit of a hero at the same time! Happy Trails.

Swarm basics kit includes:

Box with ventilation
bee veil
smoker fuel
fire source


Is bee regulation coming to Santa Fe?

City May Put Rules on Bees

By Kiera Hay
Journal Staff Writer
The city of Santa Fe may buzz into the bee-regulating business under a new proposal from City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez.
But some in the New Mexico beekeeping community are questioning the need for the additional rules and bureaucracy for what is usually a backyard hobby.
Dominguez said he introduced the ordinance after fielding complaints about a beekeeper in his south Santa Fe district. Some neighbors "had some concerns because there were kids and members of the family who were allergic to bees," Dominguez said.
"I think it's relatively simple. This is something that has come from the constituency," Dominguez said.
His ordinance would require local beekeepers to register their apiaries with the city each year, a task that would include showing proof of an annual state inspection.
Beekeepers would also have to follow a handful of regulations that include keeping bees in movable frame hives, providing the insects with a source of water and limiting beekeepers on lots less than 10,000 square feet to four hives.
The measure would also prohibit colonies within 75 feet of a property line unless the bees are behind a wall, fence or dense vegetation barrier at least six feet high and extending 25 feet beyond the bees in every direction.
City staffers put the ordinance together after researching beekeeping regulations in other areas of the country, Dominguez said.
Alamogordo, which prohibits the activity altogether, is the only New Mexico city that now regulates beekeeping.
Kate Whealen of Santa Fe's Sangre de Cristo Beekeepers, said the trend in most communities around the country is toward deregulation and questioned whether the ordinance would be "an undue regulatory burden."
Most local beekeepers breed gentle bees and work hard to maintain a responsible operation and good relations with neighbors, she said.
"I think if they just say all beekeepers have to regulate and comply with blah, blah, blah, I think that would be a bit much," said Whealan. "This is like one apple spoiling the barrel."
The number of beekeepers in Santa Fe is hard to pin down, but sources the Journal spoke with estimate it to be at least 100.
If complaints about only one beekeeper are what's behind the measure, it might make more sense to deal with that person through the normal public complaint process, said Les Crowder, vice-president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association. The local beekeeping community can also be a resource in troublesome situations, he added.
"I guess I feel like it's one more layer (of regulation) that isn't really necessary," Crowder said. "I don't know that it would solve any problems. If there is a problem, we can work to solve it."
Neither Whealen nor Crowder were aware of the proposed ordinance until contacted by the Journal.
Dominguez's measure specifies that any bee colony in violation of the city's regulations, as well as nests of stinging insects such as hornets and wasps, are a public nuisance.
One potential problem with the ordinance is a requirement that Santa Fe beekeepers, upon registering with the city each year, produce "a copy of the annual inspection certificate from the New Mexico department of agriculture for each apiary under the beekeeper's management."
But the state doesn't inspect "hobbyist" beekeepers, according to state apiarist Greg Watson. While New Mexico's agricultural statutes do say hives should be inspected before owners are allowed to sell honey, it's outdated language that was written when there were concerns about bacterial contamination in honey, Watson said.
He said the state hasn't inspected hobbyist hives since at least 1987 and doesn't have the manpower to begin doing so now.
Otherwise, Watson said the requirements in Dominguez's ordinance appear reasonable to him.
"I'm not against regulations. I would think that these people (beekeepers) probably would welcome this. It's not going to prevent them from establishing colonies, and it will allow them to be good neighbors," he said.
The proposal gets its first public airing Monday at the city's Public Works meeting. The City Council is slated to vote on the matter May 25.


Mexico has swarmed

Inspiration hit me this morning while setting up my notes on all of my hives. I'm naming them each after countries just so I can make notes like: "USA needs to be split," "Japan's queen is aggressive," "Wax moth infestation noted in Brazil,""Ethiopia is robbing from Germany."


TJ Carr's Hive Tool

I just picked up a hand forged hive tool designed by TJ Carr. TJ is a local top bar hive innovator. This tool measures almost 14" long and has razor sharp edges for cutting comb. This beauty should be called Excalibur for it's great weight. It also works wonderfully to pop propolis encrusted bars away from each other.

TJ Carr can be found through the Abq Beeks Website