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:


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.

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