123 Beekeeping Mistakes I Have Made

On the podcast this week is a recording of a talk I gave to the Long Beach Beekeepers on Sunday August 5th 2018.

Several times you’ll hear me refer to the “Backwards Beekeepers.” The Backwards Beekeepers were a group in Los Angeles that promoted a radical style of natural beekeeping. The group’s mentor was Kirk Anderson who you can hear on episode 40 of this podcast.

I’d like to thank the Long Beach Beekeepers for inviting me to speak. Unfortunately, I had to cut out the question and answer session because of poor recording quality but I’d like to encourage any of you in the Long Beach area to attend one of their meetings. It’s a great group.

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.

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

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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.