121 Beekeeping, Fireworks, Solar Power and Extending Wi-Fi with Will of the Weekend Homestead

Will of the Weekend Homestead returns to the Root Simple podcast to talk about how to get into beekeeping without busting the bank, fireworks, rigging up a simple solar power system and extending your wi-fi. During the podcast we discuss:

If you’d like 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. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

118 Eric of Garden Fork on Old Houses, Queen Bees and Ramps

eric2

On this week’s episode of the podcast Eric Rochow of Garden Fork returns to talk about the struggle of owning an old house, raising queen bees and the over harvesting of ramps. During the show Eric mentions:

If you’d like 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. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

What is and is not a “Swarm” of Bees

Root Simple reader Luis wrote with a simple request: a blog post with which to refer neighbors who freak out at the site of bees in their yards. It’s hard for those of us who garden and love nature to wrap our head around this fear, but I thought I’d offer a concise blog post when this issue arises.

What is a swarm?
This is what a swarm of bees looks like:

Image: Mark Osgatharp.

Swarms are the way honeybee colonies reproduce. As with all matters related to the biology of the honeybee, it’s easier to think of a colony as a single super-organism rather than thousands of individuals. Swarming takes place when a colony decides to make a new queen. Once the new queen hatches, the old queen takes off with about half the workers. Typically, they will land somewhere temporarily (such as a tree branch or the underside of a table) while they look for a permanent home. In this state they are not aggressive because they are not protecting babies and honey. Leave them alone and they will move on within a day or so. Very rarely you might spot a swarm in flight from one point to another. In this case the swarm will resemble a dark cloud. Like a resting swarm, a swarm in flight is also harmless.  For more information on swarms see this longer post.

Worker bees pollinating a flower. This is not a “swarm.”

What is not a “swarm”

Let’s say you have a flowering plant or tree and there are hundreds of bees landing on the flowers. They literally may be crawling all over the tree, but they will be working as individuals, not clustering together in a bunch. That is how you know they are not a swarm. Seeing so many bees in one place may be a bit frightening for some, but remember, those bees are working at gathering pollen and nectar (and as a side benefit helping the plants reproduce and make fruit by distributing that pollen). The bees you see hovering and landing on flowers are singularly focused on their work. They have no interest in you. It’s unlikely that they will sting, but it can happen if you brush up against one. Worker bees gathering pollen and nectar in your yard will never work as a group to sting you. Multiple stings from a group of bees will only happen if you disturb the place where they live as a colony.

What does a bee colony look like?
Bee colonies prefer to live in dark enclosed spaces such as a tree cavity, a crack in a wall, an electrical box or in the boxes beekeepers provide for a colony. If you see bees coming in and out of a hole in a wall, tree, etc. during daylight hours you’ve likely found their home. The activity at the entrance to the colony will look a lot like the landing pattern of a busy airport with bees coming and going constantly in an orderly fashion. Inside the colony you’ll find thousands of workers (all female), a queen and few male drones all crammed together in a tight space. If you find a colony leave them alone. If you have a colony somewhere where you don’t want them, please call a beekeeper. Please see my post on how and why you should find a reputable beekeeper.

What if the bees are “Africanized?”
Don’t let anyone try to scare you with Africanized bee hysteria. Read my longer post on this subject.

Wasps and hornets
Not all black and yellow flying insects are honeybees (Apis mellifera). There are also wasps, hornets, bumblebees and 4,000 species of native bees in the United States alone. These are often mistaken for honeybees, but their habits are very different. Collectively the evolutionary family tree that includes these insects are known as HymenopteraThe 150,000 known Hymenoptera have a beneficial roll to play in the web of life. In addition to gathering pollen and nectar many Hymenoptera species, such as wasps, eat other insects. Read Kelly’s blog post on a common Southern California wasp and why you should not freak out about it.

But I’m allergic!
Every human being is “allergic” to bees in that if you get stung you will experience pain, swelling and itchiness. Taking Benydryl immediately will greatly reduce swelling and discomfort. A small percentage of the population is severely allergic to bees and will go into Anaphylaxis and require immediate medical attention. If you get stung by a bee and experience trouble breathing, a weak pulse, or dizziness you should call 911.

The bottom line
Without bees and other pollinating insects we’d all starve. Even if you don’t like bees it’s not like they are going to go away. Nature is beautiful, wondrous and inspiring but she also has her stings. Stop trying to control nature, relax and you’ll enjoy the show.

115 Inventing a New Word: Apisoir



Wine writer Micheal Alberty was thinking of a way to promote the “terroir” of local honey so, naturally, he coined a new word, “apisoir.” Find out what happened when he tried to get this word into Wikipedia as well as the reasons he thinks we should support local honey. You heard it first on Root Simple! During the podcast Michael mentions:

You can reach Michael via his Facebook page and his email is [email protected] Apisoir, apisoir, apisoir!

If you’d like 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. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

How to Remove Bees From a Tree

Tree cavities are the natural living quarters for honey bees. I occasionally get calls asking if I can remove bees from a tree. I usually say no because the process is labor intensive and dangerous if the bees are up high. I tell people to just leave them. If they aren’t bothering anyone who cares?

My neighbor called with a bee problem. She had a bee colony in a tree at ground level next to a patio. I knew that the job wouldn’t’ be too difficult.  Here’s how I moved the bees from her tree to my apiary:

1. First I told her that when I was done removing the bees she needed to contact a certified arborist. A cavity is often a sign of a disease that could suddenly and unexpectedly cause a huge limb to break off.

2. Back in my workshop I made a simple one-way exit cone out of 1/8 inch hardware cloth.

3. I called up my beekeeping friends Max and Kirk to get some brood comb. Brood comb is comb with bee eggs in it. They gave me a frame of brood comb along with the nurse bees that were hanging on it.

4. I made a platform for a medium box, put the brood comb in it and quickly attached the exit cone to the tree with the end of the comb right next to the bee box. The bees leave the tree through the exit comb but can’t get back in. Instead, they take up residence in the box with the the brood comb (they are attracted to the smell of the brood comb). The workers will use the brood comb to make a new queen or sometimes the queen in the tree will migrate out to the new box. The whole process takes six weeks and requires frequent checks to make sure that the bees haven’t figured out another way out of the tree. At the end of the six weeks I came back and took the box back to my apiary.

In the Facebook live video above you can see the trapout just minutes after I attached the one way exit cone. The bees can be a little cranky for the first few days after the trapout begins.

And this is a good opportunity to warn again about bee removal scammers who promise you that they can do a live removal of bees from a tree quickly by “smoking them out” or some other such nonsense. What they are likely doing is spraying the hive with a product called Bee-Quick that commercial beekeeper use to drive bees out of honey supers. Unfortunately, spraying Bee-Quick into a tree and driving the bees out, with no resources, is really no different than exterminating them. The beekeeper you hire for a tree removal should suggest a trap-out or simply leaving them alone. If the tree is being cut down it’s possible that the section with the bees can simply be relocated or if the hole is large enough to reach into, a cutout can be done.

The bees that I took out of the tree back in June are doing well in my backyard:

The 2×4 is my crude way of making the entrance smaller. When a hive is getting established a smaller entrance is easier to defend against other bee colonies in search of free honey. My new “tree bees” seem healthy and are already expanding into a second box.