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:


Yay! Bees! Refrigerator magnet

Free bee botox, aka moving bees at night is no fun

You know I love some bees. I love bees all day and all.... not night. Definitely I do not love some bees at night. We just spent from 9 pm to 2 am moving 2 1/2 hives. First, we pulled the canale trapout. James's firefighter skills were well used as he threw together a whole bunch of fancy knots around a seat belt and lowered the hive 2 stories form the rood to the ground. This was a success. We denied an offer of beer to continue on to Bosque Farms to move 2 hives, and this is where our troubles started.

The reason I had to move these perfectly content hives was GMO corn a block away from the bee hives. What does GMO corn do to bees? I don't know. I don't know if anybody knows. I have heard that GMO corn is poisonous to bugs from a DNA level on. Correct me if I wrong. Every part of the plant is no good for bugs. Here is a wikipedia article on Genetically Modified Food. This is good for corn, but not so good for the bugs. Anyway, the corn was beginning to tassel and even though corn is wind pollinated, that is a lovely bunch of pollen for some bees to feed their bee babies or brood. Farmer Jesse was concerned about the bee's health and that was enough to make me concerned.
Spooky GMO corn
By the way, bees at night are mean, mean, mean, mean, meaaaan. In a smooth night-hive moving operation, you slap some tape over the entrance and move the hive. Tonight, the bees were bearding (or hanging in a ball outside the hive). We tried every trick in the book to get the bees back into their hives. We smoked them, we brushed them, we sang poems, and we endured blind, dive bombing bees. You have to move a hive at night because if you move it during the day, you lose all the work force. At night, the bees have all returned to the hive. During the day, bees are super lovable. At night, they crawl and they don't ask questions, they just sting.

We were finally able to sloppily stick some tape over the entrance and get the hives into my brand new, as of today, Toyota Tacoma.... that I promptly dumped a gallon of cow manure all over the back seat on. Oh well. That's what pickups are for. We get the hives to AMYO Farms on Central and Atrisco and realized that the bees from Canada were escaping through a bottom hole in the hive. It was a mess of bees in the back of the truck and we worked and worked and worked and finally got the hives moved to their new homes. No GMO corn for you bees! You are welcome!

Also, thank you for my free face botox, aka a sting on the tip of my nose that has filled in all my wrinkles, and my eyelids and my cheeks with swelling. You probably won't recognize me tomorrow. I better cut this short before I can't see at all!

Canada bearding


Abigail's Honey Stand

Thanks everybody for coming down to Abigail's honey stand this last weekend! I told her we could go buy something today with her money and she told me she is holding onto it. My kind of lady! We sold out of honey and hope to harvest again in 2 weeks. I'll keep you posted when I have honey on hand again.

 First sale! Thanks Kristen.
Kiddo entrepreneurs.

The goodies. No double dipping that sample stick!


Special times trapping bees off South Broadway

Against all my good senses, I did a bee trapout today off of Broadway and Southern. Against my good senses, because it takes me a minimum of 5 trips to a trapout to rescue the bees, a ton of work, and usually I have to replace the queen once I have captured the hive (The old queen will never leave the original hive). This trapout business is a TON of work. I guess I have a soft spot for these pollinators and I'm also motivated because the neighborhood boys were harassing the hive and the neighbors were worried someone might get hurt. 

Anyway, here is one of the three entrances to the gnarled tree with a hive in it's hollowed out trunk:

Here is the trap I rigged up using a fine screen. The bees can crawl out of the hole at the tip, but can't figure out how to get back in:
 I used a thick layer of caulk to adhere the trap to the exit hole:
 Ta da. The trap is in place, held with thumb tacks.
 Here is my husband removing an old limb so we can put the hive in the crook of the tree. Did I mention it is our 8th wedding anniversary today? We know how to celebrate these special occasions... by sweating like pigs and having bees dive bomb us, while working 10 feet above the ground!

 Here is the main entrance to the hive that I completely sealed shut. I used a mesh fabric so that the bees can still maintain a good temperature inside the hive.
 The hive is in place with 1 full bar of very young brood, or baby bee larvae and as many nurse bees as were hanging onto the bar. I will check into this hive tomorrow to make sure the bees aren't finding any sneaky ways into the tree trunk.
Scored! A little memento I found at the base of the tree, to remind us of our special times trapping bees off South Broadway.


Honey Labels, Naughty Boys and Bee Rings, oh my

Check out the great logo Karen Hepburn designed for me and I had printed downtown (of course) at Albuquerque Downtown Printing. You know I'm a sucker for supporting downtown businesses. I have 1000 of these puppies. All I have to do is start checking hives and hopefully I can practice sticking these labels semi-straight on some full honey jars!

I'm also about to start a bee trapout on a tree off of Broadway this week. I'm sure this is way too late in the year for something like this but I think I am going to join the bees I pull from this mangled Siberian Elm to the Canale trapout in the heights I'm working on. The neighborhood boys have discovered the hive and I think these bees will be much happier at AMYO farms then getting sticks and flaming newspaper thrown at them for months. Naughty Boys!

Also, check out this dope ring my sister discovered in a store in Oklahoma City. I didn't buy it, but it's memory will live on forever in this blog....


For the Love of Bees- Bee and Farm Tour

Here is a lovely invitation for all of us beekeepers to check out a beautiful farm and home to Les and Heather outside of Penasco this coming weekend. This is where I have taken classes in the past on topbar style beehives from the longtime educator Les Crowder. I always love peeping in on other beekeepers yards to get tips and ideas for my own hives. Don't miss this garden of paradise!

Come one, come all! For the Love of Bees Farm is on the Santa Fe Farmers Market farm tour this Sunday, August 28, from 9am - 3pm. 

Our farm is the proud recipient of a Western SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) grant to develop our farm as a demonstration site for a diverse landscape of pollinator forage species. This is the first year of the three year project period, in which we have planted out a number of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and cover crops in order to study their benefits on our local pollinator community. The farm tour is a wonderful opportunity to see many of these plants in bloom.

We are a certified organic farm using biodynamic methods of planting and we sell vegetables, herbs and flowers at the SF Farmers Market, as well as honey from our topbar beehives. We also raise geese, turkeys and sheep using rotational grazing practices. Numerous beehives are on site.

We are located at 1235 State Hwy 75 which runs through Dixon and Penasco. If you are coming from Dixon, we are the first right after mile marker twelve on Hwy 75. There will be balloons at the entrance. 
Please be aware that the Dixon Fiestas are also happening on Sunday and there is a parade at noon, which will cause significant delays. Taking the high road through Truchas is recommended. If you take the high road, you'll take a left upon reaching Penasco, and head into Rio Lucio and the Picuris Pueblo area. Our driveway will be on the left, just before the twelve mile marker. Again, look for the balloons. 

Parking may be an issue, so consider parking on the road and walking down the driveway. 

Please, no dogs! Thanks, and hope to see you there, Heather & Les


Beekeeping Mtg Tonight. My favorite... State Fair Entries!!!!

Tonight is the beekeeping meeting for Abq Beeks at the NMSU Extension Office on the corner of Menaul and 12th Street. They will be coving harvesting honey for top bars and langstroth style hives. They will also be covering my favorite thing in the whole wide world.... State Fair Entries!!!!! This might be half the reason I keep bees, to have something to enter in the State Fair. I will totally waive my 2nd place ribbon for dark amber honey in your face! 

Anyway, if you are going to the meeting tonight, rsvp at abq beeks so they know how many chairs to set out. I, unfortunately won't be there because I have rented a mini van and my best friend and I are going road tripping to Oklahoma City with our combined 4 kids under the age of 4. Yahoo! 


Mason Bee Bamboo House

Eeeeeeek! I just got an unexpected gift from my friend Sam. This is a Mason Bee Bamboo House and I plan to hang it as soon as I stop typing. I don't know a lot about this type of bee so you probably could get just about as much dirt as I do by doing a wikipedia search on the species. Apparently Mason bees are solitary and don't produce honey or beeswax. The males are stingless and the females rarely sting. Each female is reproductive and the bees are early springtime pollinators.

I imagine the California Carpenter bee could also make a home in this house in the 3/4" holes. I'll see what emerges come springtime.


Kate's Bee Oasis

If reincarnation exists, let me come back as a bee in Kate Whealon's garden. I was honored with being able to tour her amazing Santa Fe Area bee yard a few days ago with my mom and a family friend.

I can't begin to tell you about Kate's huge, bee friendly, water wise, calming and inspiring yard suited to the environment in NM. Sunflowers, Comfry, Blue Mist Spirea, Mullein, and a forest of plants in the mint family welcomed native pollinators and a dozen honey bee hives. Kate is primarily a top bar beekeeper and a big advocate for the BEES.

Here are a few good tips that I picked up from her yard. Check out the bee watering hub. Count the waterers with me 1, 2, 3...8, just in this picture!

Kate is a genius! The two white bowls are heated dog bowls for springtime watering. She gets most of her bubblers, end of season from birding stores like Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe. Bees prefer moving water to stagnant pools.

The bees love this Molcajete bowl. It's porous surface makes a great landing board.

Check out this ingenious hive stand. In the spirit of low tech top bar hives, Kate has a straw bale and a recycled wooden pallet as a hive stand. The wooden pallet keeps the straw dry. Once the straw has disintegrated and becomes unstable, she spreads the hay across her garden.

I could wax poetically all day about the historic farm yard property, but I wanted to concentrate on those small little details on that make a difference between a ho-hum bee yard and an oasis.

Kate Whealon, thanks for opening your home to me!


A Mahoney Apiaries Grand Tour... with a Bonus Gift at the End

A few days ago, I had the treat of going through Langstroth Bee Hives with a wild cowgirl/ entomologist/ tinkerer named Megan Mahoney. She has the awesome responsibility of tending her 50 + hives in New Mexico. Most of the langstroth hives we worked through were a combination of swarm captures, trap outs and bee removals. She keeps a few of her hives close to five points and 20 feet away, you would never guess they were there pollinating the fields around them. She has several other yards that are primarily topbar style hives.

It was a real treat to work with a person who is soooo knowledgable about bees. Every question I had been trolling the internet for in the last few weeks, she was able to answer in seconds. Did you know there is no gross receipts tax on raw foods in NM? Did you know that bumble bees sting? Did you know that you can make a bee vacuum with a pvc nozzle that can reach 15 feet? Did you know that you can stop bees from robbing a hive by closing down the hive entrance to a single bee width using sticks? Did you know that while trying to prevent robbing you can have a swarm land on your behind? I didn't know it either before a few days ago. (The swarm landing on Megan's behind and boot was very random and stumped both of us. I guess there is always a first.)

Anyway, at the end of working about 15 hives, we let ourselves into the land next to her family's plot and helped ourselves to a great treat. We were able to fill our empty fuel buckets with dried horse manure. How many people do you know that you can go dig through horse manure with at the end of a days work? 3 cheers for Mehan Mahoney. You are my kind of beekeeper!


Honey! What next?

Honey is in the air. I'm looking at about 200 + pounds of honey to be harvested within the next couple of weeks! I just have to wait until the water content is around 18% and most of the honey comb is capped so my bee's honey can be discovered and eaten in 2000 years. If I harvest too early, the honey will only last a couple months before it ferments.

I can't wait for you taste Brown's Downtown Honey!!!!! Really, it's from Albuquerque and my back yard, and probably from someone you know's back yard.

Now all I have to do is figure out the hoops I have to jump through and the permits I need to pull to sell to you. Arg. I've been dragging my feet for too long. Anyway, within a couple of weeks I'll be pushing glorious honey!!! So, keep my email on speed dial when you need a sugar fix,


Tanging? Myth or just an old beekeeping tall tale?

Over this last weekend I was introduced to the phenomena known as "tanging". This is what some of the old timer beekeepers do to land a swarm. Basically, you bang on a piece of metal repeatedly until the swarm, or a colony of bees with a queen looking for a home, lands. The noise supposedly lands the swarm so you don't have to chase it for miles. Does it work? I have to admit, I saw it work. Within a few minutes of Liz's tanging, the swarm landed on a bush about 300 yards away and was easy to capture.

The odds are that the hive is going to land anyways within 15 minutes, tanging or not. The question is, do you want bang loudly on a piece of metal, chasing after a bunch of bees around town? How crazy do you want to appear to the neighbors? Just sayin'. On the other hand, how badly and to what lengths will you go to get some free bees?

A long time beekeeper, Larry Phillips from Yuma, AZ I met this last weekend filled me in on tanging. He also told me that some beekeepers believe that if you throw handfuls of dirt in the air at the swarm, it will also land them. Larry definitely won't be found banging on a pot or throwing dirt in the air and I think I'm with the Larry camp on this one.

To tang or not. How about you?


In Her Majesty's Chambers... with Zia Queen Bees

Introduction to Queen Honeybee Rearing and Breeding. That was the name of the class I took this fab weekend in Truchas, NM with Zia Queen Bees. After this class, I am reminded how lucky I am to be beekeeping in NM at this exact moment. More important than learning about bees, is learning from people who's ideals are the basis of their operation. Many of New Mexico's teachers come from a philosophy of no chemical hive treatments, an emphasis on genetics and longevity, and a true love for the bees.

I had always wondered what Zia Queen Bee advertised as Survivor Stock Queens and found out this last weekend that they breed queens from queens that have survived a minimum of 2 years. That's impressive in today's bee world. Many beekeepers buy queens from out of state to replace their queens every year. The problem with this practice is that you never have a queen that has proven to be perfect for your environment. A better practice would be to raise queens from the hive in your own backyard because those bees are survivors! I say survivor because of a quote I heard this last week, "20% of your hives will perform great, 40% of your hives will perform abysmally, and 40% of your hives won't survive". Those aren't very good odds of keeping a healthy hive. I should know, having lost 5 queens in a 2 week period of my 16 hives just this season... and we haven't even hit winter yet.

Anyway, I left the class with a determination to start producing my own queens and sharing them with my neighbors and other local beekeepers. I do have to change their langstroth techniques a bit to suit my top bars, but I have some good ideas on ways to make this work. I'm checking my hives this Wednesday to see if I might be able to raise a few queens before I pack up the hives for the winter. Brazil and Guatemala... I'm looking at you, you fantastic queens!

What's that... oooooh, a langstroth hive. Cool.

Melanie, finding a needle in the haystack, or grafting larvae into queen cups

Mark, beekeeping without even a veil. Those bees are sweet as kittens

Super beekeepers, Melanie and Mark

About 19 healthy queen cells ready to be placed in nucs

The only bummer about this weekend is that it was raining too hard for a graduation bee beard. I need to make this happen somehow!