Beehive Retrieval

By Dean Cleverdon &

November 2019

The math is simple: No Bees = No Pollination = No Food Although there are other insect pollinators (bumble bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, etc.) none are as efficient or prolific as the honeybee. Bees are an invaluable natural resource and any opportunity to relocate a hive in order to preserve it should be taken. When a colony is found in a location inconvenient to humans, rescue and removal is the way to go. No extermination, please!

There are about 10 wild colonies per square mile in Los Angeles and bees will self-regulate their population depending on available food sources. Obviously food availability in a community garden is extremely attractive to bees. When bees are searching for a new home (especially in spring and summer) they seek out protected locations about 40 liters (1.5 cubic feet) in size with small entrances. Sites in urban environments include water meters, barbecues, trash cans, and chimneys among others. In community gardens colonies can take up residence in storage boxes, bird houses, buckets, and compost bins. Prevention is key!

In early November a wild colony was discovered in a compost bin in Upper Phase 4. As a favor to garden member Christy Wilhelmi, two beekeepers from Honey Love Urban Beekeepers arrived to transfer it to a wooden hive with vertical frames.

N.B. HoneyLove is NOT a rescue service but are educators for new beekeepers. Check out their Rescue Bees page or email them for resources and best practices information.

After laying out their equipment and suiting up, the beekeepers use a smoker to disrupt the bee's sense of smell, especially the alarm pheromones released when the bees feel the hive is being threatened.

Working as an efficient team, each beekeeper has a designated task in the removal process.

One beekeeper carefully cuts pieces of the honeycomb out of the compost bin.

Each honeycomb is closely inspected to see if the queen is present. No queen was found in this piece but the capped off cells indicate a large number of brood.

The other beekeeper secures the honeycomb in wooden frames with rubber bands.

This piece was cut off and discarded as the beekeeper saw signs of Deformed Wing Virus in the honeycomb.

When filled with honeycomb the frames are placed in the wooden beehive box.

Every scrap of viable honeycomb is placed in the new hive because there is no telling where the queen may be. Also, the bees need all the honey they can get in order to keep the hive well nourished.

After the entire honeycomb has been recovered the unused frames are returned to the box.

With the frames in place the beekeepers then scoop bees up by hand and manually move them into their new home.

When as many bees as possible have transferred, the lid is put on the box and the bee door is opened. The beekeepers can determine if the queen is in the box when bees on the outside start wriggling their backsides. When bees do this they are releasing a pheromone communicating to other bees, "Hey, y'all, the queen is here! Come on home." Within a short period of time there are relatively few bees swarming in the air as they make their way into their new hive.

The hive is left in place for several days until all the foragers have returned.

Unfortuantely, the hive cannot remain at Ocean View Farms as Los Angeles Municipal Code only allows beekeeping in single family residences with strict installation and maintenance requirements. After the foragers have been collected the beekeepers will move the box to a new bee-friendly location.

Image courtesy of, ©2019

All other story images: Dean Cleverdon ©2019

Thank you Honey Love Urban Beekeepers — job well done!

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