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:


Peace in the morning at AMYO farms

I'm slowly moving these hives into more daytime sunlight. The rule is you can't move hives more than 3 feet at a time or the bees can't find their way home easily. I broke this rule by moving these hives 6 feet in the middle of the day so my strong hive Guatemala's field force could start getting distributed among the other weaker hives. It's an experiment. I suspect Guatemala was stealing the other hive's field forces to begin with. Bees aren't necessarily married to a queen. Sure, each hive has a certain smell, but sometimes the guard bees aren't paying enough attention and bees from other hives can move on in. 


Grocery Store Cage Match

I recently made one hive out of 2 tiny hives. "Canada" was a hive about the size of a honeydew melon. "Water meter" hive was the size of a large grapefruit. Together, they equal the size of one beautiful small watermelon with the potential to make oodles of honey and most importantly, survive next winter. I only had to figure out how to join the 2 without them stinging each other to death in one gigantic grocery store cage match.

That is where newspaper comes in handy. Canada was an already established hive. I caught water meter hive an hour before the sun set. I took wet newspaper and closed off one half of Canada by pressing the wet newspaper onto the sides of the hive until there were no holes for the bees to get through. I then put water meter hive in the back of Canada's hive box with a jar of 1:1 sugar water and closed it up for the night. The 2 separate hives could smell each other through the paper, but the only way they could get to each other was to chew a hole in the newspaper. This takes a few days and by the time the hives are able to get to each other, they are familiar with each others smell and usually consider the other family.

Here is the hole the bees chewed in the newspaper to merge the hives.

And then you know the rest... the 2 queens fought to the death and the winner was the new queen of Canada.


"If you are lucky enough to be Irish, then you are lucky enough..."

or "The Irish ignore anything they can't drink or punch". I now introduce the newest hive in the flock, Ireland. I haven't even labeled this hive yet because they are roudy bunch. They were a swarm a friend and I captured from her back yard. First, they stung me through my skinny jeans 10 times, they stung my friend through 3 layers of clothing, they stung me at night while moving the hive, they got in my veil and stung my head.... and, they stung my poor friend's cat!

Here's a drink, or a keg for you.... Ireland


Big City, Tiny Hive- underneath a water meter cover

We just rescued the tiniest, cutest hive from underneath a water meter cover this week from downtown Albuquerque.

Can you spot our entrance hole?  

This next picture is the flip side of the water meter cover. The tiniest hive ever. 

James looking preppy, beekeeping cool and the bee vacuum (The clear tupperwear container on the left). I tweaked with the vacuum and it actually worked on this one! As opposed to the last time, when we kept sucking at those bees and they kept on holding on to each other's legs 'n junk and I vacuumed up maybe 1 bee. The bee vacuum works by sucking the bees into an inner chamber that has lots of breathable mesh sides so they don't overheat. I can remove the inner chamber and put in a new one if there are gobs of bees and they don't fit. There wasn't a power source nearby so were able to borrow an emergency battery operated vacuum from our friend Michael, who is practically his own Home Depot, with all the power tools he owns. 

We sucked up the bees, drove them to Bosque Farms and joined them with a weak beehive, Canada. I joined the 2 hives because I didn't think either of them could raise a big enough workforce to survive next winter. To join the hives, I took a wet piece of newspaper and completely closed off 1/2 of Canada's hive box. I then emptied the water meter bees into the back, empty part of the Canada hive. Within the next 2-3 days the 2 separate hives will chew their way to each other through the newspaper. Guess what happens next? The queen bees fight to the death. This seems to be the way every story I tell ends these days. 


Russia's Czarina is Overthrown!

I peaked at a few of the hives today (I name them after countries) and discovered that Russia's Czarina was overthrown, possibly by cuddle death. This means the bees ball around the reigning queen bee and kill by overheating her. I wasn't there when this happened, but I did notice that she had a horrific brood pattern. Good move peasant bees of Russia. She was a terrible queen. See how patchy the brood pattern is. Almost every hole should be filled in with babies:

Here is Croatia's pretty decent brood pattern (bee babies) in comparison.

Here are the future queen cells. There are close to 15 emergency supercedure cells in this hive. That means the bees made 15 queens, just in case. The first queen bee to hatch will announce that she is coming by piping loudly and then kill all the rest of the queen bees, still in their cocoons or fight in combat. My plan is to abort most of the smaller queen cells so that the first queen bee to emerge won't risk hurting herself in combat. I might use some of these queen cells if any other hives are missing their queen. I'm a little nervous about their genetics because their mother was such a lousy layer of eggs.

Each peanut looking cell is a queen bee, floating in royal jelly. 


Bee trappin'

On my way to work on Saturday a gentleman called about a swarm in front of his house. I couldn't get to it, because I had to go make some actual money and not feed my bee obsession. On Monday, the same gentleman called saying the bees had moved into his walls! Oh no!

Here is the handy trap that I built with a good beekeeping friend and my husband, who always goes unmentioned because it is just a given that he is there. 

Perched on the stilts is a mini top bar hive with a bar of 1-4 day old brood and some nurse bees. They are a lure for the bees that get out... but can't get back into the original hive. 

This elephant trunk is fine wire mesh rolled up like a sushi hand roll. The tip has a hole about the size of your finger and the mesh has been frayed at the ends so that the bees can get out, but can't figure out how to get back in. This has been glued to the stucco using caulk. 

The entrance to the hive is right by the exit hole of the trap so the bees that have been foraging for pollen and nectar have no other choice but to join the new hive on stilts. If all goes according to plan, the new bees will raise a new queen bee from the larvae that we provided. The new hive will stay for up to a month or whenever new bees stop leaving the wall. The old queen will unfortunately never leave the wall and she will be forever entombed behind the washer and dryer. Wax moths will eat all the comb and honey that remain in the wall. 

And I think we will be payed in tequila. Viva la bee fiesta!


Bees, don't make me shake this pagan goddess at you!

Um, so I am in the middle of capturing a swarm at this moment with my friend, and I discovered that I am willing to do anything to capture these dang, I mean sacred bees... including shaking pagan goddesses at them. Here she is in all her bee goddess glory. She is sitting in the bed of a brand new toyota tacoma that we forgot to roll the windows up in.

Here is the original swarm. Looks like a 4-5 pounder. Amazing!!!! The reason that the pagan goddess is needed is because these little rascals didn't like the hive. They keep swarming out of the box. We have all the bee lures known to mankind in the box. We have sugar water, honey comb, pure honey poured in the box and lemongrass essence sprayed on the hive body. The hive is named Canada and maybe they don't like Canada. Everybody likes Canada. You can't take your guns there.... maybe that's the reason.



Ok, here is the story on my splits for my rock star hive. I don't know if this is the official way to do splits, but I think every beekeeper has there own way to do this. This season, I'm concentrating on making bees and not honey. To do this, I split the hive up... into 4 different hives. Greece turned into Iceland, Monaco and Croatia.

SPLIT 1- just for fun
At the end of March, I opened up my hive (Greece) and discovered that the drones (the fellas) were starting to emerge from their cocoons. Since you can't have babies without the men, I thought this would be a good time to start thinking about splitting this hive. I took 3 combs full of brood (babies) of different ages, all the bees hanging on and 1 comb of honey and put this in a new hive (Croatia). The bees hanging on are mostly nurse bees and they have never left the hive so they don't know where Greece is. They only know Croatia and will stick with their homeland. The bees can make any newly formed larvae (4-5 days old babies) into a queen. It takes 16 days for her majesty to totally form and after 2 weeks of chewing my nails, I peaked in and saw the virgin queen. She had a really short abdomen like a cross between a drone and a worker bee. Today, I looked in the hive and discovered that she has been laying eggs. Hurrah! Success!

SPLIT 2- the swarm breaker
2 weeks after the initial split, I peaked in the hive and noticed swarm cells. This means that even though there is a queen, this hive wants to raise another and make a new colony. Instead of letting them swarm, I made split number 2. I took 3 combs of brood, 1 comb of honey, all the bees hanging on and the queen and put them into a new hive (Iceland). Greece was left without a queen, but has all the workforce in the world and queen cells to raise a new queen.

SPLIT 3- the screw up
This split is way complicated and is a result of a screw up on my part. I'm a notorious second guesser and fiddler. I decided to give Croatia (the first split hive) another comb of brood to increase their workforce after I saw the virgin queen. Big surprise when I discovered that the bees decided to make queen cells on this new comb of brood. I guess it makes sense since the virgin queen wasn't laying eggs. Anyway, not wanting to waste some good queen cells, I decided to make a "mixed orientation" split. I made a new hive (Monaco) by adding the queen cell and brood comb from Croatia with comb from Greece and Iceland. If you mix bees together from 2 different colonies it's like a ferocious cage match, but if you mix bees from a lot of different sources, it's like New York and everybody gets along great.


Virgin Queen Fights to the DEATH

Last week I checked in on a hive that I split a few weeks ago and discovered these 2 chewed open queen cells... and only one virgin queen. That can only mean that the missing queen was ASSASSINATED by her sister! Actually, that's what is supposed to happen. Usually, the first queen to hatch seeks out any other queen cells and stings her royal sisters to death. There can only be one queen.

Can you spot the killer, I mean the virgin queen? She hasn't started laying eggs yet so her abdomen is very short like a cross between a worker (small female bee) and a drone (hunky-chunky male bee). She has a very orange abdomen and barely any striping.

It takes an average of 15 days from hatching for the queen to go on her nuptual flight, become inseminated by up to 15 drones and then start laying eggs. It's been longer than that for this queen because the weather has been cold. I mean, real cold. The avg last frost is April 18th in Albuquerque, and tonight will freeze on April 30th.
Until the new split hive has gained enough resources, I feed the bees a mixture of 1:1 sugar water that has been boiled to kill anything that might grow in this juicy concoction. The sticks give the bees something to hold onto while sucking on sweet nectar.