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:


Michael Bush Visits New Mexico

Here it is, my top 9 list of things that I learned from Michael Bush last weekend in New Mexico lecture. He covered Genetics, Raising Queens and Lazy Beekeeping!

10. Genetics. The success of a queen might not have anything to do with the queens genetics. It could be that the hive is the last one on the row and bee drift might be be why the hive is so successful. Hive Drift means the hives on the ends of a row may be stronger due to bees accidentally entering the wrong hive.

9. 8 year old queens? It's best to breed queens from a hive that has survived a winter and a nectar flow. The queen breeder Jay Smith had breeder queens that were 6-7 years old and one queen that lived to be 8 years old!

8. Bees have a gambling problem. The hive has to raise foragers ahead of a flow. The ones that gamble big (raise a ton of brood) win big if there is a heavy nectar flow and lose big if there is no flow and they have too many mouths to feed.

7. How long to make a queen? The books all say queens emerge 16 days after the egg is laid. In fact it could be 14-15 days for a queen to hatch in hot weather or up to 18 days in cold weather.

6. Lazy Beekeeping Rules of Thumb. If you don't know what to do, don't do anything. Stop painting your equipment. Stop fighting your bees.

5. Winter Feeding. If you absolutely have to feed your bees because they will most likely starve otherwise, don't feed sugar syrup, feed sugar. Honey is best, but sugar is the easiest to feed. On a Lang, put down a sheet of newspaper, then pour on a few pounds of sugar and spritz with water to make more appealing. Bees won't touch sugar water in the winter if the feed is below 50 degrees.

4. Moving hives 2 feet or 2 miles? The saying always goes don't move a hive more than 2 feet or less than 2 miles at a time. Michael Bush says break the rule, move the hive where you want it only if there is a really good reason to do so and put a branch in front of the entrance. The bees will still fly to the old location because they go into auto pilot, but then will think, "Wait, remember that really weird branch thing... oh yeah, the hive moved!" Some bees aren't the sharpest tool in the toolbox and will never find the hive.

3. The most important thing to know as a new beekeeper is.... figure out what the bees need, then help them. For instance, if you have wax moths, think about why you have them. Is it because the bees have to much comb to guard and not enough bees? Move some of the comb out of the hive.

2. Thelytoky. In very rare circumstance, laying workers can make a viable queen bee out of unfertilized eggs. I have always heard that when you have laying workers, you are scr#wed, but in some rare cases, the hive can do something magical and make a new queen!

1. Michael Bush can sing really well.

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