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Looking for top bar hive plans from Bee Culture?

4 Feb

Welcome, Bee Culture readers and fans of TJ Carr’s proposal for a standard top bar hive for beekeepers!

Here are the detailed plans by for a standardized and gorgeous TBH by longtime Albuquerque beekeeper and retired engineer, TJ Carr, and John Bradford.


The standardized Top Bar Hive design by TJ Carr and John Bradford


Hands down, the best beekeeping book for beginners

2 Feb

homegrownhoneybees-coverThis is the book I wish existed when I started beekeeping in 2008. Loaded with photos and step-by-step instructions, it’s one of the few books that will help you survive your first year, especially if you don’t have a mentor.

Homegrown Honey Bees: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping Your First Year


  • Photos, photos, photos! Everything from eggs and larvae to wax festooning to varroa mites to Nasonov fanning gets a gorgeous photo. See examples at the end of this post.
  • Step-by-step instructions are included for a variety of beginner tasks like installing a package, lighting a smoker, and conducting your first hive check. Seasoned beekeepers often forget how scary these first steps can be.
  • A personal storyline. This book follows the author’s experience keeping backyard bees with her family. The good the bad and the ugly details are all included, making for a very forgiving and human narrative.
  • Interviews with local beeks. Backyard beekeepers from San Francisco to Austin to Chicago are highlighted throughout the book. (I’m on page 47. Yay.) The sheer variety of beekeepers presented makes a new beek feel comfortable developing their own unique approach.
  • A natural approach. Most books I used in my first year were very chemical-centric and solely devoted to Langstroth hives. This book primarily covers Langstroth hives but also discusses top bar hives and pays more than just lip-service to a chemical-free approach.

homegrownhoneybees-day1 homegrownhoneybees-checking


Once you have a full year of beekeeping under your belt, you’ll want to move on to more substantial reference books like The Beekeeper’s Handbook or The Practical Beekeeper.

Save Your Wine Corks for the Bees

7 Jul

If you’re like me, you’ve got a drawer full of wine corks imbued with optimistic ideas about cork bathmats or cork trivets and yet they continue to lead an empty existence.

Waste no more.

Whether you’re a beekeeper or a bee lover, you can help your neighborhood honeybees AND recycle a few wine corks all in one superhero swoop. Here’s how:

  1. Take a handful of corks
  2. Toss ’em in a bucket or birdbath filled with clean water
  3. Watch your neighborhood honeybees come drinking
  4. Keep the water replenished regularly

Wine cork drinking bucket for bees at the Lurie Garden, Chicago.

The Beekeepers of Albuquerque, New Mexico

21 Apr

2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers

We’re an eccentric crew.

With over 400 teachers, students, attorneys, engineers, scientists, accountants, fighter pilots and more, the Albuquerque beekeeping scene is endlessly varied. And one of my greatest pleasures is to volunteer as co-chair with Jessie Brown to organize our collective efforts.

Hands down, the highlight of our annual event series is our Spring Field Day. Lucky us, today was another beautiful and bee-filled day in the Rio Grande Valley.

2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers 2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers
2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers 2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers
2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers 2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers
2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers 2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers
2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers 2012 Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers

View a slideshow of the full photo set.

Learn more about beekeeping in Albuquerque.

The Existential Pleasures of Beekeeping

9 Apr

The world is filled with postures of certainty, like a well-honed consumer behavior study or the latest microeconomic manifesto. And that, my friends, is why I keep bees.

I keep bees for the pure moments of surprise, doubt, and confusion that inevitably arise when I least expect them…

  • When the burgeoning hive that towers like a honey-filled monster in my backyard disappears without a trace while I’m in Sweden.
  • When the walkaway split that I created like a reckless cowgirl manages to A) raise a queen; B) mate the queen; C) return the queen before her sisters revolt; and D) grow a new generation in time for winter.
  • When the perfect hive succumbs like a midnight victim to varroa.
  • When the underdog colony I presumed dead in March turns out to be jammed full of bees and blasting into summer.

I keep bees for the magic of utterly unexpected moments filled with challenge and hope; disappointment and glittering joy. I keep bees for all that I could never hope to control.

The Secret World of Beekeepers

13 Oct

Once a month, the initiates gather. From all corners of the ancient Rio Grande valley, we come like seekers on the clandestine path. Once a month, we enter the hallowed chambers…

In other words, here’s what goes down at beekeeping meetings throughout the year for Albuquerque beeks.

October 2011 ABQ Beekeepers meeting October 2011 ABQ Beekeepers meeting October 2011 ABQ Beekeepers meeting
2011 Spring Field Day Continue reading

Dancing Neil: Photo essay on installing a package of bees

20 Apr

Dancing Neil installs a package

If you’re looking for a little guidance on installing your first package of bees, this is a great annotation of the process:

Installing a Package of Russian Bees

Bees need water too

3 Mar

"Bees Need Water Too" by Sasha, age 7

You’d be thirsty too if you’d just hibernated for 4 months.

Now that we’re consistently touching 60° in Albuquerque, my bees are out foraging and not just for pollen. The hunt for water is on! Though it’s only March, they’ve started to mob our water source, in this case a pet waterer (photos below), as they begin raising brood for the season.

How to provide water for bees in the city:

  1. Fill a pet waterer, pond, bucket, or bird bath (as illustrated by my niece Sasha) with fresh clean water.
  2. Provide rocks or floating mulch chips for the bees to land on, so they don’t drown.
  3. Be diligent about keeping the water source replenished, lest the bees move on to another source.

For urban beeks, providing a clean water source for your bees is the best way to ensure they don’t take a fatal dip in your neighbor’s pool or flash mob the dog bowl. Continue reading

Bear Destroys Bee Hive

29 Oct

It was a rough week for these East Mountain honeybees. Located in bear country, their stores of sweet honey turned out to be irresistible Wednesday night.

Photos sent by TJ Carr.

How to Bear-Proof Your Apiary

Get more detailed photos and instructions at

5 Min Ignite Talk on Bees + Beekeeping

22 Sep

Complete with a rather gratuitous and graphic demo of drone bee genitalia explosion at about 2:30. What was I thinking?