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:


This queen bee plays hard to get- Bee Cutout from the floor of a shed

Looks like a fingerprint made out of honey comb

Last night I helped extract a hive of bees living in the floor of a shed in the heights. The weird thing about this extraction is that these bees had already been extracted. This was the second time this colony had been pulled out of the floor in the last 2 weeks. The first time, Les Crowder's fantastic Cutout/Trapping class spent a full day, sawing at the floor and pulling out fist fulls of bees and honey and comb. Because there were so many bees and so many places for the queen to hide, they were never able to find the queen. She was most likely hiding somewhere in the deepest darkest corner between some joists. Long story short, the class captured as many bees as they could, set up the hive with brood and crossed their fingers that the queen was one of the 80,000+ bees that they had scooped out of the floor. In the 2 weeks since the class, the bees had moved back into the shed and were now building comb off of the piece of wood covering the cutout hole and along the wall.

2 week old comb 
The top bar hive with the board with brood hanging from the top

The owner of the shed, Robert, is an aspiring beekeeper and he happily helped in the extraction. The first step to removing the bees was to remove the wood plank hanging over the hole. This board had comb and bees hanging off of an edge so we placed the entire thing over the empty top bar hive off to the side to mess with later. We then draped a sheet over the empty holes in the shed floor to prevent the queen from escaping into the deep, dark depths of the floor. We then discovered the row of new comb along the wall of the shed and we fired up the bee vacuum. We went through one piece of comb at a time looking for the queen, sucking up the bees on each side of the comb and then placing the comb at an angle along the back end of the empty hive.

By this point I noticed that the bees in the hive, that were hanging on the loose board had their rear ends in the air and were fanning the nazanov pheromone, saying this is your home, come on over. I suspected this was a good sign that the queen might actually be in the hive box. We finished cleaning out the brood comb (babies) from the wall, and placing it into the hive box. We angled the brood comb so that the nurse bees could still get to the brood and the babies would have the possibility of being able to grow to maturation. I also left about 15 inches of empty space at the front of the hive so that the bees could start building new comb. They won't use the old comb that we cut out, except to rob it for honey, pollen and hopefully nurse the brood until they are ready to hatch.

Next we moved on to cutting off the comb from the 3' by 4' board that was placed over the hive. Because the comb hanging off of the board was already so close to the hive, I turned off the vacuum and place this comb and all the bees hanging directly into the hive, still looking for the queen bee. I had cut off all the comb and came to a large clump of bees that I suspected was where the queen bee was. In hind sight, I should have picked through this clump and tried to cage her or at least place her directly and safely inside the hive. Instead, after 2.5 sweat covered hours of work, I took the board and and gave it a good jolt to knock the bees into the hive.

Finally, we placed the hive full of brood comb with the entrance close to the entrance where the bees were entering the shed so that we could attract the field force, out collecting pollen and nectar back to the new hive. All that was left was to shake all the bees from the inner chamber of the bee vac into the hive. I then closed up the hive by placing all of the top bars into place.
Bee vac inner chamber full of bees waiting to be introduced to their new home
We still couldn't find that queen bee, but I'm crossing my fingers that the cut out worked.
Home, sweet home
Robert working hard for his bees! Great job, you deserved these lovelies. 


  1. Wow! Jesse this is better than reading science fiction. I love the bee stories! You are a badass.

  2. Thanks Peri. I'm not that badass. I was pretty well covered by my bee suit and duck tape, but these bees were as sweet as apple pie