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  • 2 Feb 2019 5:45 PM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    Bill Lewis addressed our January meeting, discussing packaged bees and preparations for spring--which for all practical purposes, in our part of the country, is underway.

    Bill's a local, commercial beekeeper who is getting out of the business. He's now "down to 40 hives." When he spoke to us a little more than a year ago, he had about 600. (To put this in perspective, he mentioned commercial beekeepers with around 15,000 hives.)

    Bill prefers bees with known genetics. While he believes that feral bees are becoming more docile (as mentioned by Cal Poly Pomona's Mark Haag during Q&A after Melody Wallace's November presentation), "you never know when the temperament will turn." Rather than exploit feral populations, Bill likes to establish new hives using both splits from existing hives, and packaged bees. His favorite supplier is Pendell Apiaries, a Northern California outfit which supplies Cordovan Italian bees, with marked queens for the beekeeper's convenience. (Cal Poly Pomona Beekeeping Workshop attendees will recall that the golden Italian bees are the favorite in that apiary, as well.)

    "Not that I'd recommend it"--kids, don't try this at home!--"but I've worked Italian bees without a suit."

    Practical details followed. This is not a complete account, but emphasizes some helpful tips.

    Installing Packaged Bees

    When you open a package of bees, look for the queen cage. You'll see a
    cluster of bees on it. It will be sealed with a cork, or not at all. If it's sealed with a cork, leave that in place.

    Bill Lewis demonstrates queen cage placement. Bill Lewis demonstrates queen cage placement. Photo by Jacob Dickinson

    One side of the queen cage will be wire screen. Sandwich the queen cage between two frames in the hive you are moving the bees into, so that this screen does not face either frame. Other bees must have access to the queen. Now you can shake the rest of the bees into the hive.

    The easiest way to do all this hive manipulation is at dusk, wearing a red headlamp. The bees will tend to stay put, rather than flying around.

    Come back and open the hive again on day two or three after adding the bees. If the queen cage was sealed with a cork, remove it, sliding a finger over the hole to prevent the queen's escape. Then plug the hole with a small marshmallow. This will hold for two to three hours.

    Newly introduced bees will need supplemental feeding. Bill prefers feeder frames to entrance feeders, feeling that "entrance feeders attract too many other things."

    A 2:1 sugar/water syrup (by weight) has better shelf life, but newly introduced packaged bees won't need to find water to dilute a 1:1 sugar syrup mixture. New bees haven't mapped out local resources yet, and may not know where to find the water they need. Bill likes this thinner syrup in spring, too; but the thicker 2:1 mix is good for winter. If there are no problems, a new hive can go through a gallon of syrup in a week.

    In 10-14 days, inspect to verify that the queen has been released from her cage and is laying eggs.

    Testing for Varroa mites is a critical part of follow-through when establishing a new hive. There won't be many at first. If you install your packaged bees in April, test no later than June; and treat by the end of June.


    Because some hives have gotten ungainly--Bill mentioned a five-box hive in our Sanctuary--and there's a lot of eucalyptus in the neighborhood, in bloom right now. Hives can be getting crowded!

    Basic preparation is to have empty frames ready to replace the ones you will remove from parent hives: that is, the hives providing the brood and worker bees you'll use to get your new hive started.

    You may take your brood frames from a single parent hive, or from more than one. In any case, you'll want six frames in a 10-frame box: one or two frames of eggs, and the rest with capped brood, with the worker bees shaken off. Arrange these in the middle of the box, flanked by four frames of honey. Replace all the vacancies with empty frames.

    Next, put a queen excluder on top of the open parent hive. Put your newly assembled box on top of the queen excluder, so that workers are free to come and go. Put on a lid, and do something else for a few hours.

    When you come back , there will be plenty of worker bees in the top box. Remove it from the parent hive, and give it its own lid and bottom board.

    Presto! You have your new hive, be it ever so humble.

    If you keep both hives in the same apiary, and put the child hive in the parent hive's location, many field bees will come to it. Keep an eye on it, because it may need another box in one to three weeks. "You might get a super of honey before you get any new [packaged] bees."

    Back to Known Genetics

    You've got to give Bill credit for consistency on this point, which an explanation of splits brought him back to! If you allow the bees in the new hive to raise their own queen--which they're happy to do, left to their own devices--plan to replace her with a commercially raised queen in April.

    Why? To maintain known genetics!

    And why wait for April? Because commercial raised queens are not available to the likes of you and me until then. Demand created by almond pollination comes first; but this has died down by April.

    There is some fine print: Queens are available from Hawaii all year. However, they cost more to ship, and most of them are already spoken for.

    Bill Lewis takes a question at our January meeting. Bill Lewis takes a question at our January meeting. Photo by Jacob Dickinson.

  • 18 Nov 2018 10:14 AM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    My radio played "She's Kerosene" by The Interrupters as I got in my car to travel to the club's bee sanctuary.

    It started out like any other morning
    The sky was read, he took it as a warning
    She hit the hive, now the bees are swarming
    Then played the victim 'til the crowd starts forming

    I decided not to take the lyrics too seriously. Hearing a song on the radio that mentions bees while you're on your way to work with bees is a good thing even if the sentiment is not too bee friendly, right?

    Long Beach Beekeepers has the good fortune to have the support of EDCO, the local family-owned waste collection and recycling company. EDCO opens their doors to us to give us a home for our monthly meetings. A club tradition thanks each of EDCO's 25 employees with a gift of honey for the holidays. In the past, club members contributed honey from their personal hives. I was on my way to meet Ray Teurman, sanctuary co-manager, to harvest some liquid gold from club hives for EDCO. 

    Ray working with the South 40 bees at the sanctuary

    Sanctuary hives include a colony from the South 40 Community Garden that was overly defensive when the hive was transferred into replacement equipment in July. For safety concerns, we moved the bees to the sanctuary and split into two hives. On this trip, we found one hive did not survive the split. Robber bees took any honey stores long gone and all that was left was some old comb. I will process the wax for the club. 

    The other hive was thriving. We harvested some honey, being careful to leave enough for the bees to get through the holidays and the beginning of the year. We don't have much of a winter in Southern California, but floral sources are definitely few and far between right now. We also corrected some cross comb, using rubber bands to keep the remaining wax in place. Feral bees like a tidy hive, so they will get rid of the rubber bands once they have a chance to attach the comb to the frames. We also consolidated this hive, removing the top box so that the bees won't have so much real estate to heat. 

    The goal is to move the thriving colony back to the South 40 Community Garden so that we have a second teaching hive. If anyone would like to donate a hive stand for our teaching hives, it would be much appreciated. Ray estimates the bees will be ready to return to the South 40 in about a month. Home for the holidays.

  • 4 Nov 2018 6:26 PM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    Honey update: In mid-October, hive managers Di, Rene and Cordelia harvested seven frames of honey from the South 40 Community Garden hive. Sweet!

    Side note to my experienced beekeepers: What’s your favorite smoker fuel?We were a small but mighty group at the November Beekeeping 101 class at the South 40 Community Garden. The cooler temperature was a bit of a concern, but it 'felt' warm. The sun was shining and the forecast called for a high of 80 degrees. After dawdling a bit to let the sun inch a bit higher in the sky – I mean, after discussing hive safety and reviewing some beekeeping fundamentals – we felt confident opening the hive. The smoker followed the ‘if at first you don’t succeed' adage. We tried again (and again) until that smoker was lit!

    We handed the reins and the hive tool to Jeffrey, a fearless soul and aspiring beekeeper without a hive of his own but plenty of trial and error experience with a feral hive living in a wall. He used his raw talent and moxie to maneuver those frames like a pro. The bees were calm and welcoming. But we had one bit of business before saying goodbye to the bees.

    After extracting as much honey as was humanly possible from the October harvest, the crushed wax was still wet with honey so we turned it over to the bees to finish the job. No need to waste any of the good stuff! We left the honey-coated crushed wax inside the hive so that it was not an open invitation to the neighborhood. Before replacing the top cover we put a box without frames on top of the other bee boxes. We (gently!) placed a few containers of the crushed honeycomb on top of the frames.  We used disposable containers because the bees will likely adhere the containers to the frames with propolis. Di will return in a few days to swap out the clean wax with more crushed wax then again a few days later to remove the was and the extra box so the bees don't have empty space to keep warm when the night turns cool


    Stay tuned regarding the December class. As always, we operate weather permitting. And it’s like rooting against the home team to hope for good weather for class when our gardens need the rain and the bees need our gardens.

  • 4 Nov 2018 9:32 AM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    the taste of fall

    Beginning November 2018 the baked goods at our monthly meetings will feature honey.

    First up: Honey Pumpkin Muffins from the website Food, Folks and Fun.

    The recipe includes pecans. If you are concerned with nut allergies, they could easily be omitted. If you still want the crunch, try substituting pepitas (available at Trader Joe's). 

    Here's a link to the recipe:

    Dick Barnes provided the honey from his Bixby Knolls hive for the pumpkin muffins, but any honey will do. A light honey will infuse less honey flavor than a more robust honey.

  • 4 Nov 2018 7:05 AM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)


    The October Beekeeping 101 class at the South 40 Community Garden was standing room only. Actually, the large number of attendees did not quite fit in the apiary. Newcomers included some folks who inherited a barrel of bees – that’s a barrel in the literal sense – who were there to gain knowledge about managing their hive.

    Pro tip: Talk to an experienced club member and get some help moving hives living in an unconventional space to a proper aviary to be able to better manage the colony. Pest management, honey extraction and other facets of maintaining a hive is no easy feat if the bees are not easily visible and reachable.

    The theme of the day was HONEY! The South 40 hive has quite a bit of the liquid gold in both the top and middle boxes. It made for a less interesting inspection, but a promise of good things to come in the very near future.


  • 4 Nov 2018 1:04 AM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    Geof Spehar discusses his injection-molded hive part designs at the October 2018 meeting. Geof Spehar discusses his injection-molded hive part designs at the October 2018 meeting. Photo by Jacob Dickinson.

    Geof Spehar discusses his injection-molded hive part designs at the October 2018 meeting.
    Photo by Jacob Dickinson.

    During our October 2018 meeting, beekeeper and inventor Geof Spehar presented beehive parts he designed and manufactured.

    Beekeepers are notorious for refining the equipment they use. Several members of our club show the symptoms. (You know who I mean!) However, there are differences between us and Geof. Most of us aren't experienced designers of plastic injection molds, or machinists with the chops to make those molds. Finally, most of us don't have access to an injection molding factory.

    Geof combines these attributes with beekeeping experience, and a beekeeper's powers of observation.

    Injection molding is the process of forcing molten material--in this case, plastic--into a mold. As the material cools, it solidifies in the shape of the mold cavity. Injection-molded products surround us: The Lego block is an example.

    The molds and necessary machinery make injection molding very expensive. On the other hand, making the millionth copy of something is very inexpensive.

    Compare this to making something by nailing a couple of pieces of wood together. The tools are cheap, and you can only go so fast. The millionth copy costs about as much as the first one did.

    Because Geof can design and make his own molds, and has access to existing equipment, his barriers to entry are low.

    It's said that to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In the same way, Geof looks at a mechanical problem and sees an injection-molded solution. He must have shown us about a dozen such solutions, some of them variations on a theme. There are more where those came from.

    There's a consensus that bees don't like plastic. For example, plastic foundation is typically sold with a coating of wax, which helps the bees accept it more quickly. Geof tends to agree with this. However, he's removed swarms from plastic compost bins, and worse places. So do they really care that much?

    In summary, Geof argued with the saying "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." Not exactly! "When you build a better mousetrap, you beat a path to the world's door; because people don't like change."

    When I first approached Geof, as Program Chair, and asked if he'd consider speaking to the Long Beach Beekeepers, I asked about his experience speaking to groups. I had to do some due diligence, after all! And maybe he'd have questions about us, our expectations, any unique hazards, and so on.

    Geof told me he had approximately zero experience doing this. By then, though, it was obvious that I was dealing with a natural-born storyteller. A raconteur. And that's what his seamless talk showed us.

  • 5 Oct 2018 3:25 PM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    Learn to Make Cosmetics and Candles with Beeswax

    Did you know you can make your own cosmetics using all-natural ingredients, including beeswax? Or your own candles?

    Maybe you did! But do you know how? Because that's the part Long Beach Beekeeper Jennifer Duke is ready to show you. You can learn to make cosmetics and candles with beeswax on Saturday, November 17, 2-4pm at our new class, Beyond Honey: Gifts from the Hive.

    During this class, you'll make - and take home! - these items made with beeswax:

    • One 4-ounce lotion scented with essential oils
    • One 2-ounce lotion scented with essential oils
    • Two tubes of lip balm
    • Six birthday candles

    Jennifer will provide refreshments--with honey!

    The class will be held in the Rose Park neighborhood of Long Beach. Address will be emailed to registrants. Your registration fee ($20 for Long Beach Beekeepers members, $25 for non-members) will cover beeswax and other necessary materials. This will be a very hands-on experience, so there's only room for six students. Don't delay! To register, email

  • 5 Jan 2018 3:50 PM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    Some Long Beach Beekeepers may remember that way, way back, Dr. Melody Wallace visited from Cal Poly Pomona and had just gotten to the slide everyone was waiting for--the creepy, scary stuff, like pests, pathogens, and parasites--when we cut her off.

    Dr. Melody Wallace of Cal Poly Pomona takes questions after her presentation on "Management of Varroa Mites in Honey Bees."

    Dr. Melody Wallace of Cal Poly Pomona takes questions after her presentation on &quot;Management of Varroa Mites in Honey Bees.&quot; Photo by Jacob Dickinson.

    Or maybe she brought her presentation to an abrupt halt after foreshadowing the hair-raising material we'd get if we invited her back.

    Let's just say that's what happened.

    In any event, Dr. Wallace did come back, for our November 4 meeting, to thrill and chill with Management of Varroa Mites in Honey Bees.

    The modern beekeeper's nemesis: Varroa destructor.

    Let's remind ourselves how Varroa mites can be a problem. They weaken individual bees by parasitizing them. But there's more! They are vectors for a couple of dozen viruses that affect bees, like deformed wing virus. Thus, managing Varroa in honey bees can be critical.

    My notes are as patchy as the shot brood Varroa mites can cause. (In fairness to the mites, Dr. Wallace told us that viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases can also cause shot brood.) Have I missed something good? Please add your comments! But here's some of what I got:

    Measuring the Infestation

    A reality check: all colonies have mites. It's a question of degree. What I get from this is: Don't lie awake at night feeling like an inadequate beekeeper if you find mites in a hive. What separates adequate beekeepers from inadequate ones is not whether mites can be found in the hive, but how the beekeeper responds!

    How would you measure the problem in the first place? Dr. Wallace reviewed several diagnostic tools:

    • sticky boards
    • drone brood inspection
    • sugar roll
    • alcohol or soapy water wash

    Sticky boards are easy to use and non-invasive, but Dr. Wallace believes them to be very inaccurate.

    Drone brood inspection depends on having plenty of (disposable) drones. If you use this method, 10% infestation is a good treatment threshold.

    The sugar roll is less destructive. I like to think that when bees covered with confectioner's sugar, like little white ghosts, are poured back in the hive, their sisters have a great time cleaning them up. But your mite count can vary, depending on the technique of shaking or rolling the bees. If you're testing several hives and have help, the same person should do the shaking for each hive. This approach will give more consistent results. (Most of us wouldn't think of this, since we work solo and take care of small numbers of hives.) Test about 300 bees: one measuring cup full is close. The treatment threshold is three mites per 100 bees, or 3%. This means nine mites from your one-cup sample.

    You'll get the most accurate results from an alcohol or soapy water "wash." The downside is that this kills the bees in your sample. On the other hand, Dr. Wallace reminded us that 300 is only a fraction of a laying queen's daily production. A healthy hive will replace 300 bees in short order.

    Dealing with the Infestation

    Your mite count is over the treatment threshold. Now what?

    Screened bottom boards are the low-tech approach. If a mite ever loses its grip, then down, down it will plunge, through the screen, to a mysterious, hostile jungle it's not equipped to deal with. But first it has to let go and fall. Dr. Wallace is not convinced these bottom boards have much effect on mites.

    In general, beekeepers use fumigants to combat Varroa mites. Dr. Wallace pointed out that "natural" fumigants have their own hazards, so it's important to read the instructions.

    Formic acid (used in Mite-Away) is popular. It's used occasionally in the Cal Poly Pomona apiary. Oxalic acid is also used, elsewhere, but is illegal in California. Both acids work well for a quick mite kill in the fall.

    Amitraz (found in Apivar) works well, but more slowly.

    Mites have developed resistance to coumaphos and fluvinate. Products containing these (for example, CheckMite and Apistan, respectively) are simply a waste of money.

    It's a good guess that these chemicals build up in beeswax.

    What About our Scutellata Bees?

    Dr. Melody Wallace of Cal Poly Pomona takes questions after her presentation on "Management of Varroa Mites in Honey Bees."

    Dr. Melody Wallace of Cal Poly Pomona takes questions after her presentation on &quot;Management of Varroa Mites in Honey Bees.&quot; Photo by Jacob Dickinson.

    Most of us work with feral bees, which we assume are Scutellata (formerly known as Africanized). Dr. Wallace gave us an excuse to feel smug, when she said that Varroa does not impact them as much. She mentioned several reasons for this:

    • grooming behavior
    • hygienic behavior (e.g. removing infected pupae from the hive)
    • 10-13 hours shorter pupation (compromising pupae as Varroa hosts)
    • more frequent swarms

    Dr. Wallace left us with a thought about mite treatment: If we kill mites too thoroughly, we don't give bees a chance to develop resistance or tolerance.

  • 28 Aug 2017 9:18 AM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    It's almost time for the Mite-a-Thon.


  • 5 Aug 2017 9:17 AM | Bee Administrator (Administrator)

    We are so fortunate to have Boy Scout Troop 105's Malin help us by creating a viewing screen for our teaching hive. He built the viewing wall and topped off his eagle scout project by creating a classroom area with a white board and cork board. Please join us for the Saturday morning meetings, 8am first Saturday of the month.


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