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“Aunt Coco’s Bees” by Nina, age 7

28 Feb

Dreaming and drawing bees is the only solace left a beekeeper during the cold quiet winter months.

When she was 5, Nina visited me in Albuquerque and held a boy bee in her hand for the very first time. It’s the only thing she remembers from her trip and still she dreams of bees.

Drawings by Nina, age 7.

Becoming the bee hero

20 May

The bee hero

Beneath the desire to keep bees there lies an even more secret… even more primal… desire. It’s the archetypal — dare I say, boyhood — desire that leaks out in the fury of a brave dream filled with rescue and danger and buxom lonely maidens.

It’s the dream to become a hero. And in this case, a bee hero.

You’ve seen it in the machismo of a bare-armed swarm rescue. Or the bravado of a bee-wrangler when the cameras are rolling.

I spied it this morning as my husband donned his bee suit on the way to capture yet another bee swarm. In his mind’s eye, he was apparently a massive, bee-eating robot off to save the world as he hummed to himself while suiting up, “Transformers… more than meets the eye. Transformers, robots in disguise.”

Indeed, from mere mortal to giant white bee-snatching robot in the zip of a zipper. Believe me, your children are all now much safer.

How to catch a bee swarm (with photos!)

13 May

Swarm season is raging in Albuquerque! In the past 3 weeks, we’ve captured 7 swarms some of which (she says blushingly) were our own.

If you’ve ever wondered how to catch a swarm or wanted to learn more, here’s a quick photo essay documenting the process.

Step 1: Prepare their new home

First, prep the girls’ new home if you have the luxury of doing so (if not, they can stay in the cardboard box for an hour or so). In our case, we’re combining today’s swarm with a small colony from earlier this spring. We’ll separate the two boxes with a sheet of newspaper allowing the girls to slowly become acquainted. We’ll also provide a top entrance for the new box filled with swarm bees.

Step 2:  Transfer the swarm to a cardboard box

Next, we grabbed two ladders. I’m holding a cardboard box (any box will do) while Alex shakes the bees from the limb into the box. Really, it was that easy. Once most of the bees are inside, we closed the box part way and carried it over to the new hive.
Swarm Capture

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The Pollen Files: Cornflower

27 Apr

Spring in the city is subject to the whimsy of urban gardeners which, in the case of one neighbor, means a yard full of brilliant blue cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus).

Like any of nature’s shamans, a beekeeper can’t help but pause for a peek. In this case, I was rewarded with the strange knowledge that a plant so dedicated to blue bears a ghostly white pollen and apparently one quite appealing to neighborhood honeybees.

Gathering white pollen

How to report a swarm in Albuquerque

20 Apr

This is what a honeybee swarm looks like

April and May are swarm season in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you happen to encounter a swarm in your yard or neighborhood, please give a quick call to local beekeepers who can come pick up the wayward girls.

Help! I need to report a swarm in Albuquerque

Spring Field Day with Albuquerque Beekeepers

18 Apr
TJ's truck Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers
Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers Spring Field Day for Albuquerque Beekeepers

[View the full slideshow]

Despite a 60% chance of thunderstorms threatening to ruin our day like a bad breakfast burrito, our hands-on spring demo was perfect — warm, friendly, and informative. Thanks to the 25+ local beekeepers who donned a veil and came out for the afternoon. And big ole thanks to Steve Cox for sharing his roomy backyard.

Visit our group at

Capturing the impossible swarm

16 Apr

Swarm of bees up in my neighbor's tree

Swarm season is coming on strong in Albuquerque. This week, like an instantaneous bloom, area bees have exploded and spilled into the sky.

For many beeks, this means a free batch of bees to start a new hive. For homeowners it can be frightening.

In my ‘hood, yesterday brought this high-flying swarm perched acrobatically 40 feet up in an old elm tree. Too precarious to snatch, the swarm colony will have to find a home on its own.

We’ve opened up all our empty hives, dabbed ’em with a bit of Honey-B-Healthy, and are waiting patiently in the hopes that the home of their choosing is ours.

UPDATE: It’s three days later and the girls have finally left their perch although we have no idea where they went or if any bees survived the rain and wind that must have made for a harrowing time on the lam.

Albuquerque honeybees living out of a semi

12 Apr

Honeybees swarming from a semi-truck

A truck driver turned on his air conditioner and it didn’t work. He opened the back of his trailer and a huge cloud of bees flew out!

Turns out there was a hive so massive living in the ductwork of an Albuquerque semi-truck, that local beekeepers were able to make 18 separate hives from the giant swarm.

Read the full story at:

Spring with the Albuquerque Open Space bees

8 Apr

Today we checked hives with Albuquerque beekeeper, Jerry Anderson. These bees are located on protected parts of City Open Space lands in the North Valley and West side of the city. The idea is that the girls dutifully gather nectar off these lush and well-watered spots and the good folks at Open Space can sell tasty honey at the visitor’s center.

Only one hive, already weak last fall, failed to make it through the winter. The others were building up well this spring and one — the colony sited under the ancient cottonwood tree — was flourishing like a well-fed princess.

Jerry with his hive, under the old cottonwood tree Checking the hives in spring
Home, sweet home Checking the hives in spring

Thieves in the Night: Transporting a hive by flashlight

5 Apr

Moving the "Jerry hive" into her new home

While others spent their Friday night sipping “Cucumber Saintinis” at Nob Hill Bar & Grill, we were hustling hives.

Like stealthy thieves in the night, we picked up a hive from the North Valley where she’s spent the past couple of years productive beneath cottonwood trees not far from the Rio Grande. A friend needed to give the hive away, so we loaded her up in the back of the 4-Runner wedged so close to the back window, we couldn’t roll it up.

We avoided the frenzy of a Friday night on Route 66 (Just imagine: “Ma’am, I’m gonna need you to pull over. Now what’s that in the back of your car?“) but we couldn’t avoid rather insistent hunger pangs and pulled — hive and all — into the Golden Pride drive-through for a couple of Albuquerque’s best breakfast burritos (I swear by #9, but my man prefers #8).

In a few we were home and transporting the hive by head-strapped flashlight into her new home next to the graffiti mural by Quip. Welcome to the ‘hood, girls!