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:


NMBKA Website

I have been working late nights on the brand new website for the New Mexico Beekeepers Association at and it's finally done!!!!

We in Albuquerque have been so spoiled by Chantal Forster and her website that she created for the Abq Beeks, but realized that it would be great to have a Statewide version. She helped us set up the "site architecture" and I proceeded to have a crash experimental course in the Ning network. It's up and running now. Check it out! We are pleased as punch about it.


De Ja Swarm

Same tiny little tree in the country club area, 2 different swarms of bees, one week apart. What is it about this tree? I'm guessing the first swarm left some good smells on the tree. Do I have any actual scientific evidence to base this on? Nah. By the way, I love this time of year.


Queen Graft Fail!

Arg, so I went to check the queen graft today with some friends, just imagining all the lovely hives I could requeen, all the potential for baby bees, and found that my queen graft failed... miserably.

Bad idea Jessie
I blame it on extreme lack of time to do things the right way the first time! I suspect that the bees hate duct tape. No, seriously. When I attached the queen cups (a plastic cup that you can move larvae into and the bees will make queens if there is no queen in the hive) to my top bar hanging contraption, I didn't have anything to make them stick. I proceeded to duct tape the crud out of them. I also didn't have anything besides string to hang the bars of queens, so I used string.

Turns out, those feisty lil' bees aborted all the larvae we gave them, chewed through the string, then chewed on the duct tape until all the edges were unraveled and made their own darned supercedure cells (supercedure means making an emergency queen).

Look at all that duct tape! Bad Jessie!!!
Lesson learned for next time: No duct tape, no string and make sure there aren't any young larvae in the rest of the hive to make new queens with.

Mission saved: We used the box that I partitioned into 3 areas and separated the hive into the 3 areas. Each area had queen cells. This hive hive will now be 3 separate hives and the queens can't get to each other. So really, it all worked out in the end. An heir and a spare. 3 spares now!!!!!


Trapy Trappin

I think that honey bees and canale + parapets were invented together. I mean seriously, there is no better house for a bee then in the dark, warm, dry empty space in the wall above a canale in flat roofed houses- aka the parapet in every house in Albuquerque. Also, there is no better entrance to the bee's perfect parapet house then when the roofing material starts pulling away from the side of the canales. It creates a bee-fabulous, 1/2 inch by 4 inch slit that bees LOVE as a perfect house entrance!

So, we are starting a trap out on the top of a 2 story apartment building in the student ghetto. Other beekeepers love to cut out the bees, but I personally enjoy THE TRAP. This means that we create a funnel with wire mesh where the bees can exit, but can't figure out with their tiny bee brains how to get back into the frayed mesh exit. I give them a beehive with brand new larvae and some sacrificial nurse bees to move into. The trapped out bees make a new queen with the larvae, the old queen forever stays in the wall with her dwindling honey supplies. It's quite sad, but works so beautifully well. Then, wax moths move in and eat out all the honey.

It takes awhile, sometimes 6 weeks or longer and you have to plug up the entrance tightly because other bees in the future will LOVE to move in to the perfect bee house... the canale and parapet.

James and some fancy fireman moves

did we forget anything?

The trap, the sacrificial nurse bees and larvae

The troops found the trap exit

Vertigo, 2 stories up. We had to screen the entrance on the outside of the canale

Covered all the vents with mesh


Queen Grafts

A good friend and I were in the beeyards today doing the first queen grafts of the season. The reason I'm grafting is because I have 2 horribly nasty hives... Canada and Switzerland that need to be requeened ASAP. Go figure, the hives I named after the most peaceful countries are my jerk hives. I hope to pass the fantastic genetics of my dream hive, Mexico on to other hives. My big plan this year is to have an heir and a spare at all times, just in case one of my queens dies on me.

1. So here is the process for the down and dirty beeyard grafts I used today. First, we rolled up the windows to the pickup truck, wet a towel and let the truck's cab heat up and get moist.

2. Next, we opened up the dream hive Mexico and found a comb of brood with very young larvae swimming in small pools of royal jelly. Did you know that all bees get fed royal jelly in the beginning? We brushed off the bees and rushed the comb to our hot and moist Toyota Cab. You don't want those tiny nuggets of larvae getting dried out or chilled.

3. Then we took a cool tool with a plunger on one end and started moving the larvae directly into the queen cups. They actually make these things for grafting. You can also use a blade of grass or pull a twig off a tree and use the green pith for this. When transferring larvae, you have to make sure to pick up the lavae and place it in the same way, otherwise the larvae might drown in the royal jelly if it's body is flipped.

4. We then rushed the queen cups to a very strong queenless hive with plenty of pollen and honey stores, placed the queens in the middle of the brood, closed up the hive and said a prayer. I'll check next week to see if any of the grafts "took" (if they are actually making queens with them). I will make sure to move the queens to their new homes before they emerge and sting each other to death.
Empty Queen cups. Yes that is duck tape. 

Picking up a larvae

Eye Check. The future Queen

This truck is hot!


Erda Gardens Swarm Catch

This one one well behaved big mama of a swarm and a textbook perfect swarm catch! One of the hives at Erda Gardens swarmed. I was already planning on going to the farm to help with splitting some hives so the timing couldn't be better. We positioned the hive body as close to the swarm as possible on a stack of tables and saw horses, had a few beats of peace and gave the plum branch a good hard shake! Into the hive the bees fell. We closed it up and thees started fanning to their sisters to come home! What a great rush... Enjoy your Erda Garden's Home and make loads of honey to share with the CSA members.


My 2 Favorite Top Bar Tricks

Here are my 2 fav's for this year. 

1. For a hive stand, I borrowed this idea from Kate Whealen in Santa Fe. You stack a hay bail on top of a wood pallet and then put the hive on top. The pallet keeps flooding away from the hay. The hay can be reused in the garden when it degrades and the hives are the perfect height for working the bees. Sturdy and cheap!

2. For feeders when starting out packages and swarms, I don't know if other people are doing this, but this idea came to me a couple days ago. I cut out a board in the dimension of 4 top bars, cut 2 holes in the top the same dimensions as mason jar lids. I then poke holes in the top of of the quart size mason jars with push pins, fill the jars with sugar water and put the feeders at the back of the hive. The cool thing about this trick is that I can see when the jars need to be filled and the whole thing fits under my corrugated metal lids. I also don't have to open up the hive to refill their sugar water. I haven't noticed a problem with temperature fluctuations emptying the feeders into the hive.