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:


Massive Beehive Removal from the Neighborhood Tree

I was just enjoying a Tuesday afternoon when I get a call from the tree trimmer Peter who says he has just cut a hollowed out limb from 20 feet up and that there are a mess of bees flying around. I find out that the tree is the one I walk by everyday with my girls to admire the feral hive, so I feel a special attachment to these ladies. 
 Here is the hollowed out limb that took a 20 foot tumble as Peter was trimming out the hollowed out sections of a cottonwood. It's laying in the middle of the road with a riot of bees zooming around, trying to figure out where the heck they are!
 They used to live way up there.
 I pull out my bee vacuum and an empty mini top bar hive.
 Peter the amazing tree dude, doesn't even blink an eye. He shrugs on my extra bee suit and starts to cut the large branch with a chainsaw into sections that I can get my hive tool into and start pulling out the brood (babies) and honey.
 Peter then lends a hand by vacuuming out the bees from the hollowed out branch while I start to pull out the comb and stack it in the back of the top bar hive. I'm trying to make the hive as enticing as possible for the bees. We are looking for the queen at the same time. 1 bee out of 60,000. Once we get her, we can cage her and put her into the new hive. Where the queen goes, the rest of the bees go.

 The inside of the branches are completely coated in propolis and beeswax. After the bees are cleaned out of each section of tree, we bag the limbs so we can get rid of delicious smells of home that will entice the bees away from the hive I am trying to move the bees into.

Bagged Limb. 
Yeah, Peter rocks. If you need someone to trim trees in the Santa Fe area, give this guy a call!!!! 505-310-2050. He is part monkey with his incredible climbing abilities and has a heart of gold.
 Peter then brings down the rest of the branch because half the hive was still in the tree. We still haven't found the queen and didn't want to leave a totally exposed beehive in the tree. He used a hand saw to bring the rest of the branch down and then cut it into workable pieces on the ground with the chainsaw.

 I ran out of room in the mini hive, so started transferring everything to a large sized hive.
 This limb also held a colony of carpenter ants that were scurrying around, trying to move their babies.

 Oi, the queen is in this last piece of branch!!!! We delicately cut the branch (with a chainsaw) to try and get to the queen. I have her in my hands and then... she flies away! I try and track her flight, but she is one of 1000's of bees swirling in the middle of the street.
Se la vie. I dump the vacuum into the beehive and hope that the enticing smell of all the honeycomb and brood (babies) will keep the bees there, even though the queen isn't in the hive. Peter has cut the branch to way beyond the hive, so even without the queen, I'm hoping that the bees will move into the hive because there is nothing left of their old home.
 I set up a "safety zone" with a couple of sawhorses and some orange tape to keep people from getting too close. I have to wait until night falls to move the hive, otherwise I miss all the foragers that are still out in the field and gobs of bees that are disoriented and trying to find home.
Night falls and the bees have moved into the hive! I'm hoping that the queen found the hive after she flew off. In order to move the hive to the South Valley, I tape a wire mesh all over the top of the hive. There are huge clumps of bees hanging out on the roof. I trap them under the mesh so that they don't crawl all over my body and the pickup truck during the big move.

Cutout complete. Without Peter, this would have taken me countless hours and tree cutting skills I can't even begin to fathom. I would still be looking up at that tree limb, 20 feet up, scratching my head.


  1. Hey Jessie! I am sure glad that this one worked out better than mine! Very nice job of capturing the experience, are you a photo journalist in your spare time? Wow.

    1. Thanks for the nice words. It's totally crap shoot every time I do an extraction whether it will work or not, but I suppose that's why they are so darned fun! I never know know who I will meet, how the bees will react, or what's inside the structure until I'm in the middle of the "bee storm". Not even close to a photo journalist, just a lady with a sticky point and shoot camera!

  2. Did you get your queen?

    1. Carl, I don't know if I ever captured the queen, because I wasn't able to physically capture her. That night, all the bees moved into the hive I had given them. I moved the full hive to a farm out of town in the middle of the night. I then went to check on the bees 2 days later and the bees had absconded. Such a shame, all that work to just have the bees fly away! Se la vie.