How Novella Got Her Bees Back

Thanks to my new friend Maurice, I got my bees back.

Amidst the tribulations I’ve been having this year–the city crack down on me being the most obvious–I lost my bee hive. I noticed fewer and fewer bees going in and out, and then I had to admit it: they were gone. I did a CSI-type investigation, and it looked like the queen was laying too many drones, or had died. Almost formed queen cells were all over the hive. Trouble was, it probably got too cold for them to hatch out a new queen and have her fly out for her nuptials. There was honey in the hive, but not much. There was also mold–such a wet year!

Sad, it had been a great hive for three solid years, providing better pollination and tons of delish honey, but the least of my worries.

Still, when Maurice called and said he had a huge swarm from one of his beehives, I was psyched to come over and collect it. What was funny was, I could barely remember how to catch a swarm. It had been too many years. How did I hold the bottom box together with the bottom board? Luckily, M is a pro, and we extracted the swarm out of the chain link fence/branch combo. A big, basketball size swarm. M wrapped the box up with his surfboard strap for easy carrying. I got to put them in a better place–further to the south, so I can have more space for my urban farmer’s market (when will that happen again? next year?).

They seem to be adjusting nicely to the new surroundings. As soon as the rains stop, I’ll go in and add another super. I pulled out all my old dead hive’s frames to air them out on a table. I noticed the new bees buzzed over to the frames and started collecting all the old honey and wax to build the new hive. It’s nature’s way of recycling. I’m just glad to help.

Sort of related, I’ll be reading in Seattle, where I first started beekeeping! April 28! It’s a fundraiser for AlleyCat Acres, a Seattle-based urban farming organization. Here are the details…
Where: Washington Hall, 153 – 14th Avenue (at Fir), Seattle, WA

When: April 28, 7pm-10pm


Also, I’ll be at the following places next week doing my dog and pony show:

April 26: UC Berkeley, 12:30, 390 Hearst Mining

April 27: Laney Community College, Noon, 4th floor, T-450.

See ya around….

18 responses to “How Novella Got Her Bees Back

  1. Yippee!!! Glad to hear you have a healthy hive again. I’ve captured 2 swarms in the last month and started 2 new hives. It’s fun and rewarding to do it yourself. The coolest part was a friend was coming over when I caught the last one. She was able to photograph the whole process for me, from placing the ladder to trimming the surrounding branches, boxing the bees, and then finally installing them in their new home.

    Here’s to a happy honey harvest in the fall – let the pollen bloom and the nectar flow!

  2. Thrilled to hear you’re re-beed, and thrilled that I’m coming to hear you speak on the 28th!

  3. Yay bees!I installed my first hive two weeks ago, but I bought mine, because I couldn’t wait. I have new beekeeper’s nerves, though.

    Congratulations on getting new bees!

  4. Yay for the bees. I finally finished reading your whole blog, back to front. Our little town farm – four hens, two Pekin ducklings, and five bantam chicks (and a dog and three cats and two budgies) – is wanting some goats! Fortunately, a young friend just got four – I’m hoping to co-op with him!

    Gardening-wise, things are slow – we have two Black Walnuts in our yard, and they have to come down, but it’s expensive. So in the meantime, raised beds, and gardening along the side of the yard and away from the drip lines are what we have to do.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Here’s to the honey bees, long may pollinate and prosper.

  6. Congrats on the new bees. I am sad to say that we lost our hive this winter too. Let me know if you hear of anymore swarms in our area! I am looking to re-establish our hive too.

  7. I’m surprised I don’t hear more about top-bar beekeeping from the avant garde. Apparently it’s nothing less than THE fix for CCD. Bees had to be pushed back a year on our new homestead, but I’m excited to get going! Check out PJ Chandler’s book “The Barefoot Beekeeper,” or his website, in your copious free time! This is where sustainable beekeeping is headed in my opinion.

  8. Is it the cold and wet that explains the bee disappearance? I’m not a bee keeper and won’t be, but I do cherish my stand of Phacelia tanacetaflolia and the hummmmmmmm in my back yard from all the bees that cherish it on a sunny day. But this year, no. Very little action although the Phacelia beckons wantonly.

  9. Novella, you probably already heard this from 50 people but San Francisco legalized urban farming (and selling the products) this week:

    Fingers crossed that Oakland will follow suit soon.

  10. Maurice from OBUGS? That guy is AMAZING, I swear he can do anything ๐Ÿ™‚

    Glad to hear you are back in the bee business!! Gotta be good for keeping spirits up. Thanks for keeping us posted too, always makes me happy when you post.

  11. Unrelated question: How is your Swiss Chard doing this Spring?

    Over here in San Jose, the aphids are kicking my butt (at least I think they’re aphids — small wingless black bugs the size of a sesame seed that colonize on the stalk and underneath the leaves). So far, Ladybugs and insect soap have done little to turn back the black tide; best remedy is washing them off with a garden hose set on “jet.”

    Novella, are you seeing the same thing on your Chard in Oakland and, if so, do you have any suggestions?

  12. ghosttownfarm

    hey paul;
    i have a few chard plants that are being eaten by aphids, but their favorite is the fava beans. i just let them have what they want, and plant more than i need. i’ve noticed tons of lady bugs coming to eat the aphids, but i don’t think they can eat ’em all.
    devora: yup, m from obugs. he’s rad!
    topbar fella: i keep meaning to try top bar–have fun!

  13. Novella,
    I caught a swarm a little over a week ago! My first. I’m so stoked about it. I put them in a TBH that we made that day, and they seem to be going strong. My year old Lang seems to be less lively. I’m waiting for steady sun so that I can give it the once over. I hope it hasn’t swarmed.

    Aphids are getting at my favas too. And other than some tomato seedlings from friends and the farmer’s market,the rest of my crops have yet to make it out of the seed packet. This weather is making me crazy.

  14. Got a random question that I need help with. I want to start learning about biodiesel and the steps to take to make it at home. I just checked out the public library and their resources, and of course, there is an abundant wealth of information out there. Novella, or anybody else who knows something about this, can you recommend a good book to start with that was helpful to you. Thanks guys!

  15. Loved hearing you speak last night. You are such an inspiration as I embark on my suburban farming venture. Right now I just have plants and 4 month- old chicks, but bees and goats are next. I was excited to hear you mention your Nigerian Dwarf goats- that’s what I’ve decided on. Oh, and you also inspired me to recycle my neighbors big planting pots that she had out for the garbage. They’ll be perfect for my greenhouse tomatoes! I wanted to stop yesterday afternoon but my 12 yr old daughter was horrified at the thought.

  16. you inspired my love for bees with farm city. thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Good luck with your new bees, we just got some more this year after one of our hives failed. It’s always good to know a few bee keepers out there, then you can ask for their extra colonies. Our friends use that lemon grass extract to attract the swarms into traps, you might want to keep that in mind if your hive ever divides. I don’t know what it is exactly that the bees find desireable but it works.

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