UC IPM on Facebook

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We get a fair amount of “what’s that bug?” type questions around the Root Simple Cosmodrome. Not being an entomologists, we send people to the University of California’s excellent Integrated Pest Management page. Now, UC IPM has a Facebook page. Along with the Garden Professor’s Facebook page, you’ve got pretty much all the social media based gardening information you need.

Saturday Tweets: Bulbs, Bees and Basil

Free Webinar on Making and Using Compost Teas


UC Berkeley Botanical Garden’s compost tea process.

One of the most contentious topics in gardening and agriculture is compost tea. I’m still sorting out what I think of the practice, which is why I’m excited about an upcoming free webinar from the folks at eXtension (sic). Here’s the 411:

About the Webinar

This webinar is aimed at a general audience, gardeners, farmers, and ag professionals. Viewers will learn how to make consistent and safe compost teas for gardening and agricultural use. We will discuss how compost teas are viewed and regulated by the National Organic Program and Environmental Protection Agency. Viewers will leave with an improved understanding of compost teas and how they can be beneficially used.

About the Presenters

Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs is an Associate Professor of Sustainable and Organic Agriculture at Washington State University. Her work aims to improve global health and sustainability through biological and appropriate technologies for agriculture.

Catherine (CeCe) Crosby is a Ph.D. candidate in Soil Science at Washington State University. CeCe has led hundreds of pre-nursing students through chemistry and environmental science courses, and currently is researching the feasibility of composting for new uses in society.

064 One Straw Revolutionary Larry Korn


Larry Korn with Masanobu Fukuoka.

On the podcast this week we interview Larry Korn, author of One-Straw Revolutionary and translator and editor of Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert. We talk about Larry’s experience living on Fukuoka’s farm and we delve deep into Fukuoka’s natural farming philosophy. During the discussion we cover how natural farming is similar to indigenous agriculture and how it’s different than permaculture. We also talk about the mystical experience that changed Fukuoka’s life. Larry’s website is onestrawrevolution.net.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

How to Shave With a Safety Razor

I grew up towards the end of an era that promised jet packs, flying cars and the perfect shave. Of these three fantasies the most absurd was driven by the ever changing technology of men’s shaving products. Along with the myth of shaving progress came ever greater prices for blade cartridges. A few years ago I had enough of the price gouging and bought an old fashioned safety razor.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really know how to use it and thought that the haphazard stubble I’ve put up with (and Kelly has to look at) over the past few years was proof that those expensive modern razor cartridges really are better. That is, until I watched the helpful video above by shaving guru Mantic59. It turns out my technique was all wrong. It’s true that those fancy disposable razor cartridges are easier to use. But an old fashioned razor works just as well if you know what you’re doing. And they are a hell of a lot cheaper.

Maybe someday I’ll man up and try a straight razor, the fixed gear bike of shaving. For now I’m happy with the my safety razor and way too old for a fixie.

How do you shave?

How to Remove Bees from a Wall


I found out through the social networking site Nextdoor, that a neighbor I know had a hive in a wall in the tenant’s portion of the duplex she owns and lives in. Since I’m on crutches for two months I enlisted the aid of John Zapf (a guest on episode 54 of our podcast) and also recruited the intrepid renter of the apartment, Elizabeth, who was more than happy to jump into a suit and help out. John did the bulk of the work while I sat uselessly on a stool and took pictures. This is a method beekeeper Kirk Anderson, our guest on episode 40 of the podcast, showed me how to do. This is not the only way to do it but, I think, one of the better and more humane techniques for removing bees from a structure.

Elizabeth actually witnessed the bees moving into the wall. When she first contacted me and told me this, I requested that we wait to do the removal until the queen had a chance to mate and start laying eggs (at least 28 days). This increases the chances that the hive will survive the move. If the queen is squashed during the removal the workers can create a new queen, but only if they already have a supply of eggs.

Gather your tools

The first step is to make sure all tools and equipment are ready: hammer, crowbar, smoker, bee suits, gloves, knife, sugar water, spray bottle, box and frames, rubber bands, burlap and matches.

Suit up
Bees are usually pretty mellow to work with but cutouts are an exception. After all, you are breaking and entering their home. This hive was small and not defensive at all, but I’ve done large cutouts where the situation was much more intense. For cutouts I like to use head to tail bee suits like these ones sold by Dadant. You need long gloves, too, of course, and you need to wear sturdy shoes, boots preferably. No skin should be accessible to the bees, because they will find it. Make sure everything is tucked in and zipped up before you begin.

While not the “killer bees” hyped up in the press, the fact is that the Africanized bees here in the warmer parts of the US are a bit more defensive than European bees. Even when you’re not doing a cutout, you can’t work with them in shorts and a t-shirt.


John smokes the bees.

Lock up the pets

When I do a cutout I always make sure that any pets in the homeowner’s yard or next door are inside in case the hive gets really cranky. This includes putting chickens in their coop if there’s a flock nearby. And it should go without saying that any people who want to watch should watch from behind a window!

Always start with smoke

Never skip this step–it’s easy to do when you’re excited and ready to go. Take a moment to smoke the hive and be sure to wait a minute after you do so to be sure the bees have enough time to calm down. I like to burn scraps of old burlap bag in my smoker because it smolders for a long time.


When I do these jobs I tell the homeowner that I’m going to open up their wall, make a mess and I’m not going to repair the damage. If you hire a bee removal service they should put the wall back. Since I only do this as a favor to friends, family or neighbors, and do it for free, I don’t promise repairs. I also don’t do work from ladders–that’s just too difficult for a free gig.

First John set about peeling off the paneling from the porch wall. You have to do this demo work carefully. Sometimes bees will attach comb to a wall surface and when you peel it off, the comb will fall out along with a lot of pissed off bees. John is trained as an architect, has construction experience and he did a remarkable job removing the paneling in such a way that it will be easy to repair.

Seeing an exposed hive is to witness one of the miracles of nature. Everyone I’ve taken along on a cutout has been struck by this moment.


Cutting out

Once the hive is exposed we used smoke to herd the bees off of the comb. Using a knife, John sliced the comb off of where it was attached to the wall. The comb was then transferred to medium sized Langstroth frames and secured with rubber bands (you can use string as well but I like rubber bands better).  Basically, you just need to position the comb within the frame temporarily. The bees will take over once they are in their new home and extend the comb to the edges of the frame, so it’s properly attached. Then they’ll chew the rubber bands or string off and eject that human garbage from the hive.

The rubber-banded frames are then set into the new bee box, either in new permanent hive box, or a temporary “nuke” box.

Regarding the queen

It’s best for everyone if the queen is successfully transferred during this process. She’s hard to spot, so I don’t even try to look for her during the chaos of a cutout. I just pray I don’t kill her accidentally along the way. As I said above, the workers can make a new queen if they have to, but the transition is much smoother if the original queen is present.

You’ll know you’ve got her in a couple of ways. The first is that the workers are attracted to her, so they’ll be drawn to a hive box which has her inside, and will be more likely to stay in that box. A really good sign is that you’ll see workers hanging around the entrance of the hive, fanning it with their wings. This lets the returning workers–and you– know that the queen is in residence.

Rounding up the stragglers

Next comes the tedious task of convincing confused bees–who will insist on hanging out in cavity where the comb used to be– to go into the box. To do this we sprayed the bees with a sugar syrup made with a 50/50 mix of water and white sugar. This keeps the bees busy cleaning themselves so that you can gently brush them into a dust pan and transfer them into their new bee box.

Some people use specially adapted vacuums to suck the bees off the comb and out of cavities. You have to be careful if you do this as it’s easy to injure the bees.


Once the comb and as many stray worker bees as you can coax out of the wall cavity were in the box, we positioned the box with the entrance as close as possible to where the bees were coming in and out of the wall, so that returning bees would find their new home. Then we took a break.

I came back later in the afternoon and “supervised” as Elizabeth brushed more of the confused workers who had returned from the field into the dust pan and then into the bee box. The bees must get on the comb as soon as possible or the hive won’t survive as the comb must be kept between 32º C and  35ºC.


Collecting the box
You have to wait until nightfall to move the box to it’s new location. By dark, the majority of the workers should have returned to the hive from the fields and made their way into their new living quarters.

Before you move the box, lightly smoke the bees, shut up the entrance and carefully transport them. Since John and I both have hatchbacks, I take the extra precaution of placing the bees in a mesh bag specially made for moving beehives (they need air just like we do).

After the move

One the hive is in its new location I decrease the size of the entrance so that the hive has a better chance of fending off robber bees from nearby colonies.

I’ve seen a lot of misconceptions about bee removal on the interwebs. No, you can’t “smoke” them out of a wall. And you should definitely not just try to plug up the entrance to the hive! That’s a great way to encourage a bunch of angry bees to punch their way inside your house.

You should also beware of shady bee removal services. It’s best to get a referral from your local beekeeping association. If you’re in LA, contact Honey Love for a referral. You can also consider just leaving them in place. As long as they aren’t stinging anyone there’s not really any harm in having bees in a wall.

Cutouts are very hard on bees and there’s maybe a 50/50 chance that the hive will survive, but at least it’s better than calling an exterminator and spraying poisons. Exterminators often don’t know what they are doing when it comes to bees and will not properly do any preventative measures to keep another hive from just moving in again. In short, when you’ve got bees call a beekeeper!

Saturday Tweets: Soviet Bus Stops, Sitting and a Life on Tires