Kirko Beeo is one of the Founders of Backwards Beekeepers Los Angeles, and an excellent friend. Backwards Beekeepers consider themselves “Backwards” because they rely on observation and natural practices to keep their bees thriving rather than pesticides, chemicals, or treatments of any kind. Kirk has been keeping bees since 1970 and has mentored and help start up hundreds of beekeepers in both Los Angeles and in New York City (by supporting Meg Paska (Brooklyn Homesteader), Chase Emmons (Brooklyn Grange), Sam Comfort (Anarchy Apiaries) and Tim Oneal (Borough Bees) in NYC.
I first met Kirko at Dee Lusby’s Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference in 2011. We just hit it off, and in 2012 Kirk came up for a week of workshops, potlucks, and Seedy Saturday! We had a blast and I made it a point to see Kirk this Christmas! It was strange to keep bees in the wintery months of December, but in Los Angeles the jasmine was blooming, the lemons were ripening and the day time temperatures were warm enough for tee-shirts. Just the right kind of winter vacation- some bees and some beers for Christmas with the wonderful Kirko Beeo!
Kirk had his work cut out for us, and trust me, I don’t know how he does it without more help! With LA’s weather and nectar flows, Kirk has done as many as 100 swarm removals in past years. So, if you are wondering where all the bees went? They went to Los Angeles! Lol!
One of the first things we went to do was have a look at the progress of a trap-out (the use of a bee-escape) from the top of a second floor pillar (think house from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air- no joke). We found that those bees seemed to be pretty queen loyal, and not very interested in clustering in the bee box, froze over night, and the house entrance was littered with sad, cold bees. We were obviously upset, but Kirko had a great idea. Lets go and get the bees out of the owl house and place them at the entrance and maybe the queen pheromone would allure the escaped bees in to sanctuary.
We unscrewed the lid, cut a hole in the bee box, and set the comb and cluster in the box with a bottle of overturned honey to help the little gals out. Once we drove back to the house, we set the box by the bee trap and immediately the bees began to enter the box with energy and gentleness. Mission Accomplished
We did a general tour of the many, many bee yards that Kirk keeps all over Los Angeles including a beautiful location in Studio City where a prominent architect lives in his unique and fruitful property! There we did an inspection on some colonies and found something unique! Something that Michael Bush calls a “seamless supersedure”. There was a withered winged queen (god only knows how she managed this after her mating flight, because her laying pattern was perfect) and on the frame over, a healthy, robust and young laying queen. They were laying so fluidly that their laying patterns would overlap and there would be 2 eggs in some cells, believed to be one from each queen.
It was remarkable, and I think both of us would have been doing back-flips if we were capable! It was amazing. We were also seeing hive beetles (not my pictures, mine wouldn’t zoom right) in the hives, but nothing destructive to the resiliency of the bees that I could tell. I hate to say it, but those beetles were really small and really cute. Some beekeepers may say that I am crazy to say that, but there is something remarkable to the resiliency and adaptability of things in nature that you cant help but be awestruck!
I think I am going to make the trip to LA an annual one, as not only the company of the other beekeepers down there (like Summer Spanton, beekeeper and designer and others) but for the sheer opportunity to work with bees in the winter time. I hadn’t realized how strong my bee withdrawal had become until we opened our first hive up… it was like my heart re-opening after a hibernation. Our long winters here in Alberta have taught me patience and appreciation for the time of reflection and scheming for the coming season, but man oh man, to just smell the hive one more time, see the girls working, the power of just one little bee to see the universe as simply as the connection of a flower and a bug. I don’t know how I will be able to wait until April now! LOL!
Kirko will be at the July Treatment Free Conference in Forest Grove, OR. Please make it a part of your schedule to come, it is well worth the trip if you can make it!