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:


Bee Rescue, Cottonwood Madonna and Miracles

This morning I received an early morning call from a good friend of mine who said that the Cottonwood tree behind the 300 year old San Felipe church in Old Town Albuquerque blew over last night in the 60 mile per hour winds.... and that there was a hive of bees in one of the tree trunks freezing to death on the asphalt. Here is a history of the tree and the Virgin that I pulled from the book NM Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff:
          "It's a wooden statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the figure is actually whittled into the tree trunk. It was carved more than fifty years ago by Toby Avila, a parish member. Avila was on active duty in the US Navy during the Korean Conflict and vowed that if he returned safely, he would create an image of the Blessed Virgin to show his gratitude.
          Using only a kitchen knife and a flashlight, Avila chipped away the tree trunk for a year before the statue was finished." Avila passed away as soon as the statue was completed.

I pulled out my equipment and drove the few blocks to old town to assess the situation. It looked like a hurricane blew through and there was a softball size of bees freezing to death on the ground.

 The Virgin is carved beautifully into the heart of the tree trunk

My top bar hive sits in front of the wreckage. The bees are in a clump behind the hive.
The virgin survived within the tree trunk

Unbelievably, the tree completely missed the Church and fell around the building.

 Here are the clump of bees that survived the blistering cold all night long, nestled together.

Here is my equipment laid out. I used a vacuum to suck up the bees. I collected all the honeycomb I could gather and piled it into the back of the topbar beehive so the bees could have some food to get them through the freezing temperatures. I then emptied the tupperwear container that I vacuumed all the bees into into the beehive on to the honey reserves.
The are in the inner chamber of my tupperwear, huddled in the far corner.
I dumped the bees into the beehive

And closed it up
The bees are now in my backyard. I hope to combine them with a trapout that has plenty of bees and not much honey. This newly rescued hive has plenty of honey, but not that many bees so it will make the perfect union. Will these bees survive? Doubtful, but miracles are known to happen. The gigantic Cottonwood Virgin tree fell around a church and didn't destroy a thing.
Home Sweet Home. 


  1. This is awesome! Keep us updated concerning the bees' condition. Did you make your bee vacuum?

  2. Wow! Glad you were there for the bees!

  3. I love this story and the should be published!

  4. Thanks everybody . I'll keep you posted on the rescued bees as soon as it warms up a bit to check the hive.

  5. Lucky bees to have Jessie to the rescue!

  6. "Will these bees survive? Doubtful, but miracles are known to happen."... Doubtful??? they survived that horrific gust of wind that destroyed their home of God only knows how long, lived throughout the night and up to the time that your God given hands helped them find new shelter and warmth until they can find their new place when the weather gets warm again. So "Doubtful" is an ending to this beautiful story! I believe the story will go on! That God knew who to send for this job! and that you did the job well! So don't count your blessing short, I know those bees aren't!! God Bless you and thank you for helping many! not only the bees!!