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City Bees; Urban Ladies are Sweet Thangs!

So finally I was around home a few weeks ago and got a call. A local beek had a bait nuc in San Bruno with a small swarm move in. After two weeks in the box he felt they weren’t thriving and called to ask me if I wanted them?

Hell YES!

He brought them over (4/23) and dropped the box off in the evening and I made the move into my Flowhive brood box the next morning. The five frames in the bait hive had some brood capped and some larvae, but not much in the way of stores. They were quiet to handle which was nice. I didn’t see the Queen, but I figured that if there wasn’t a Queen they had larvae young enough to crown.

Since then I have been watching them, and the level of activity has been pretty low. The baggie feeder on the cover board wasn’t getting much action. One day it was so quiet I couldn’t resist and cracked open the cover just enough to peek and was relieved to see they were still there.

Last weekend they finally emptied the 2 cups out of the feeder and I replaced it. I checked a few days later and it was low and today it was empty. Big increase. Today I geared up and made two feeder bags and went down to the back yard. No wind and about as warm as you can expect. Inspection time!

None of the three flanking new frames have any action on them. BUT the five old frames, that were drawn when they were put in the bait hive, had significant activity. And my tiny swarm seems to have maybe increased by a half. And I saw three frames with nice big brood patches in all stages with nectar/syrup surrounding. The outer two drawn frames have pollen, beebread, and stores.

Only a little drone and no cups!

Even the empty cells were being inspected and cleaned out by the ladies. They all stayed calm and happy even as I was pulling frames. I had my hat on but was working gloveless and no problems ; -)

And I found my queen! She is beautiful! Gold like an Italian but with a solid black tip. And busy? She has been laying like a champion. She was tail down in a cell while I was watching.

We seem to be over the hump! I think that my little swarm of peninsula ladies are going to be happy leaving their suburban digs for the excitement of big city living!

And I have to say I am pretty pleased to have my very own hive, to manage just as I see fit! Love my dad but we rarely see eye to eye on ANYthing!


I love this story too!!

After some thought about the lack of activity on the three outside foundationless frames, and the air space that leaves in the hive, I got busy last night and created a very swanky entrance reducer.

A piece of cardboard about 8"x2" rolled up into a nice bar that stuffed up the entrance perfectly, leaving around 2" clear for the entrance.

Should help this small hive manage a bit better while they are growing into their new pied-à-terre!


We have had a few warm days here in the city and the girls are really settling into the neighbourhood finally. The reduced entrance is now crowded with the foragers climbing in and out and yesterday I watched for an hour while the youngsters practiced taking off and landing. There was at least one busy bee fanning the entrance at all times to keep the pheromones flowing out to guide them home. Made me wonder about entrance size, traffic patterns and if the wings of the bees that get the Nasonov duty take a beating. It looks like they do. I never thought about it before. With everyone pushing past her I don’t see how she doesn’t get her wings clipped and frayed.

I am spotting bright red, deep orange, gold and white pollen coming back on most days. As I walk around the block I can often spot what they are collecting, but it’s a mix of things, not any one in particular. That’s how it will usually be around here. No crops, just lots of little patches all over.


A bit pricy, but if you really want to know where your honey comes from (when you have some to harvest!) you can get it tested here, and they will tell you exactly what is in it:

Honey tested for its pollen content by real experts:
The Palynology Laboratory at Texas A&M University will analyze your honey samples for a cost of $60 per sample, announces Vaughn M. Bryant, Ph.D.professor of anthropology.
Palynology Laboratory, Department of Anthropology,
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4352.
Anthropology Office phone (979) 845-5242. Fax (979) 845-4070.
Dr. Bryant’s email: vbryant@tamu.edu

In case you didn’t know, Palynology is the science of the study of pollen, among other microscopic living particles. I didn’t know, and had to look it up! :blush:


Dawn, as always you are a font of information!

I recently did some house keeping with the ladies and wound up removing a large sheet of comb that was sandwiched between a drawn frame and the wall of the brood box. Spacing is always so very delicate an issue. It’s like when you have hive boxes and hive frames and space and bees it is always a goldilocks day; nothing is ‘just right’ and I wind up with too much or too little space somewhere…

It did give me an opportunity to taste some of that honey they have been making all summer. I am here to say that it is some of the rankest honey I have ever tasted! Moral of the story is the xeriscaping in our area is good for keeping the water bills down during the drought, but NOT great for fragrant delicious honey! We all cracked up laughing when we had the tasting. It was BAD!! All this effort and the honey is barely edible.

I am hoping that at other times of the year it will improve. There are dozens of meyer lemon trees in the area and I am going to make a point of harvesting each frame into a different container so that if we get a good batch it won’t be mixed into the rest of the dreck.

The girls have had a busy summer. They settled down and got busy housekeeping, and in June, just before I let on a trip I checked in on them and saw that they had filled up almost all of the five old frames they came with and were drawing nicely on the three new frames. The brood pattern was even and not too much drone at all so I was pretty happy. It looked early to put on another box, partly because June in San Francisco is a pretty cold damp affair and I was worried about a small hive keeping the space warm. I figured that by the time I got home in 3 weeks or so they would be ready for another brood box.

I got back from Italy in July and made the mistake of letting the jet lag slow me down. We landed on Saturday late and on Tuesday morning they had swarmed into my neighbours plum tree, the pesky wenches!

My bad for not getting in there on Sunday. Prolly could have prevented it… And man were they persistent. I caught most of them and set up a nuc next to the hive planning on re-combining them. They were so close to the swarm site they were flying back and forth. It was an awkward places to get to, but I did 3 more collections from the same site. On the last attempt I got my neighbours permission to prune out the limb they were festooning. It was just beyond fun; balancing on a ladder on top of my truck roof with a pruning saw cutting out a limb about 2" in diameter whilst trying to hold everything steady… There was even comb drawn on the branches. Which is crazy. You don’t DO exposed hives in NorCal silly girls!

I stuck the forked branch into the nuc and left them to settle down. They were not easy to handle at all, but I managed to keep people away from them and the only one who was stung was me and the spouse when he was helping. So much for swarms being calm and happy. I think these miscreants had move in permanently and viewed their little plum tree as home sweet home. All told it took almost three weeks to get them back home and settled down and into one hive. I perched the nuc over the hive with a sheet of paper between them and left them to chew thru and get reacquainted. The nuc never showed signs of brood so I was pretty sure I just had worker bees. Right after I accomplished that I was back on the road for a few more weeks, but with the new brood box in place they had nothing but space.

By the time I got back in mid August they were drawing nicely and the second box was around 1/2 full.

In mid September I did another inspection. They were at 3/4 capacity and the cross comb was getting a bit out of hand. I did a full break down, cleaned up the frames and then modified them a bit and went to 9 frames in the brood boxes. That was when I got the lovely sheet of comb honey, all drawn and capped from between the end frame and the wall of the box. I figure I can feed it back to them at the end of winter if they need a boost. It’s sitting in the freezer for the season. God knows that after tasting it, WE won’t be eating it!

When I was done with all my housekeeping I put (at last) my flow hive on top! I was so happy to finally be able to do that!

So fast forward past another long trip to the middle of October. I inspected thru the windows and see propolis stuffed into all the cracks and plenty of ladies head first into the cell, but so far no frames in there full enough to show honey on the ends where I can see it. We are at the end of indian summer here and the season never really stops for us but it does slow down. The ladies are still very active with the days ranging between 60 and 70 degrees.

Because of our unusual climate I plan on running the flows year round. I expect that the two deep brood boxes with 9 frames each will make it very unlikely that Her Highness will mess with brood on the oversized flow frames. If she proves me wrong I will rethink that plan, but for now that’s what I want to try.

One more note, I think that urban bees have a more fashionista bent than most bees do. When they moved from San Bruno up to The City in the spring, they were mostly brunettes or dishwater blondes. I am seeing that are mostly sporting blond bee hives these days. Chic bees ; -D


Citrus honey (lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangerine) is absolutely delicious. Not at all citrusy, but lightly scented and very fragrant. I am sure that you will love it! :wink:

We are half way thru our cold damp mild marine winter here in San Francisco. Lowest temps have been in the low 40’s or maybe 39°. Pollen is continuing to be brought in, but I don’t know how much nectar the ladies are finding.

I left them at the end of summer with the two mostly full up deep broods with 9 frames each and the empty flow super above. They propolised the heck out of it pretty quickly, and I have seen them in and out of the cells when I peek thru the observation windows, but I have yet to see any filled cells from the outside. If they have used it it’s only in the center where I can’t see. Very annoying!! When I get a warm day I am going to crack them open and have a look see.

In Sacramento the yard is large enough that the hives sit a distance from the house. Here our tiny handkerchief yard means they literally sit right under the kitchen window and back door. We have had to stuff every crack we could find to keep them out at night. They just will not go to bed and stay there. The buzzing in the recessed cans in the library are enough to drive us batty and I am tired of all the stifled snickers when I get a plastic tub and paper to capture and release the ones who get tired enough to land on the window or floor for a while. I think they may be coming in thru the cat door!!

My neighbour is having this issue a bit also, and got stung one morning when he put his foot in a slipper and one of the girls had crawled in during the night to get warm and stung his toe.

We have a real cold snap coming this week and will see temps in the mid to low 30’s so I am trying to decide how to offer up the sheet of comb I have saved from the summer. I am thinking I may just put it in the attic under the roof and see if they access from there. That way if they are running low they will have a backup pantry.

I will be interested to see when the flow starts in the city this spring.

I looked in on them yesterday morning and saw a few doing the walk of shame home to the hive. Must have been a hot time in the old town that night!

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The Flow Has Begun!

The sun is shining today and we have, for the moment, dried out here in foggy San Francisco. We are up in the high 60’s so I took on some yard work that was needing tending. After I suited up and had pruned my Meyer lemon that grows next to the hive, I got busy to do some housekeeping with the girls.

Hallelujah! They are officially moved into the FlowFrames!!! I am so excited )’(

I knew they would eventually break down and start on them. The two deeps the brood are in were close to bursting at the end of the fall last year. On the occasional sunny warm day we have had recently, the cleansing flights and orientations have been just crazy active. I have no idea how on days like this they manage without an air traffic control tower. The mid air collisions and landing board mishaps would have the FAA shutting the flight patterns down ; -)

So here I am, two years after my daughter send me a link to ‘This cool new bee thing you might like Mama’ I have bees in my FlowFrames. It is so satisfying to write that.

I cleared out the empty comb from on top of the cover board, under the roof. I had given them back a bunch of loose capped comb I had gathered while they were building out the hive originally and insisted on building extra sheets at the end of the last frame. It made a good mid winter feast during the endless rain. It was stripped dry, so what ever they didn’t eat they moved downstairs into the hive.

I had noticed the last time I checked the girls that I had interlopers in front of the FlowFrames between the frames and the front window cover. Over the course of this wet winter the box shrunk and expanded enough that there was a gap between the face of the frame that they were squeezing thru. A few minutes adjusting the set screws at the back of each frame tightened them up so they no longer gaped in the front. I guess in an all wood frame the whole thing shrinks and swells at the sameish rate. The plastic of course does not keep up with the changes in the wood boxes.

I scraped a bit of propolis from the front of the box and the FlowFrames went back in nice and tight. No more bees between the frames and the front cover. It was so fun to see the swarms of bees crawling all OVER the hive. And they had begun filling with nectar the bottom center of the 4 middle frames. There were busy bees propolising in the cells on the outer frames, getting ready to move into them as well.

I had made sure I was wearing my very best readers and I took time to sit and scrutinize the girls. I saw no mites at all. I am not claiming that there might not be a few, but I am pretty good at spotting them onboard, and I didn’t see one. I am just tickled!! And SHB don’t really affect this area, knock on wood!

So two deeps full of brood and stores, a modest amount of HUGE drone, and a zillion little honey bees all working away like a well oiled machine getting those FlowFrames online!

Next up; Capping!