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The Valley Hive Blog

  • Almond Pollination -- A Day in the Life of a Beekeeper

    A Beekeepers' Christmas A Beekeepers' Christmas

    written by Keith Roberts, Head Beekeeper at The Valley Hive

    ALMOND SEASON

    February is the Super Bowl for U.S beekeepers, and California is the perpetual stadium.  More bees are in this state at the moment than anywhere else on the planet.  The almonds provide a very nutritious pollen and they expand in population rather rapidly as they kick their queen into high gear, and it is not unusual for them to run out of space in their two box format.  Today’s mission is to ensure that doesn’t happen, so the truck is piled high with empty boxes just in case.

    STARTING OUT

    I wake at 4:29 a.m., one minute before my alarm.  I turn it off before it has a chance to pierce the silence and I check the weather in Hanford, my destination today.  As I hear the rain plinking outside my bedroom window in Canoga Park, I force myself to believe the weather prophets’ forecast for clear and sunny skies today in the almond orchards. For most people, the weather influences attire.  With the uncharacteristically wet weather of late, being a beekeeper in the almonds can be tricky. Getting stuck in the mud, among stinging insects without cell service is definitely a concern.

    Coffee and lunchbox in hand, I head to The Valley Hive in Chatsworth to pick up the bee truck, affectionately nicknamed “Chelsea”.

    It is still early: 5:15.  My joints creak, and I am reminded that, although in my thirties, I do not feel like a young man anymore. My previous career of delivering packages has added a bit more mileage on the odometer than normal. As the tendinitis in my right hand hisses its presence, I wonder if I will even make it to the average age of the commercial beekeeper.  Sixty years old seems a lifetime away.  As I cinch the loads tight, cold rain permeates the green straps, steel ratchets, and my sore knuckles, and I can’t help but think that all of my experience at this young age is a good thing.

    The GMC 6500 Flatbed has two stacks of 80 medium boxes.  As I step out of my pickup in the rain, I look at the tall stacks and anticipate the jarring terrain and potholes of the 5 freeway before the grapevine. I am no longer content with the load. I loosen the straps, climb onto the truck, and restack the boxes into three rows instead of two to lessen the chance of losing a box on the Grapevine.

    I realize I forgot a lid for one of the boxes, and go to climb off the truck by way of the ball hitch, which provides a convenient step off the back of the trailer.  As I go to brace myself on the hitch, I find nothing but an empty space.  It is gone.  I flash back to leaving the truck at a shop the other night due to the water pump succumbing on Friday on the way out to do what I am doing now, and I conclude immediately that it must have been stolen.

    My anger rises, and I let it pass.  Today is for the bees.  The hitch will be a problem to solve tomorrow.

    I climb into the cabin, turn the key, and the 454 engine roars to life, seemingly eager to battle the distance, road, and elements.

    Snow on The Grapevine Snow on The Grapevine

    ON THE ROAD

    The rain pounds the truck as the grapevine provides snow and beautiful scenery.  I stop to take a quick bathroom break in the wet and cold at a rest stop and check the load.  Everything is holding tight, and I start the truck and head back on the road, thinking about the work ahead.

    The 5 Freeway splits into the 99, and I make the move.  I am in farm country now, and the almond orchards I pass appear to be in full bloom.

    As I take a sip of the black coffee, still scalding, I nearly burn my hand.  The excitement and apprehension of the day take turns rolling over in my gut like an apple coated in barbed wire.  My mind is on thoughts of the bees. They should be healthy; or they might be poisoned by pesticide; perhaps stolen. Colony thefts have skyrocketed in recent years.

    20170226_110212

    ARRIVAL IN THE ALMONDS

    Three hours of driving finds me in Hanford.  The first drop of 20 hives is healthy. Begrudgingly, I take some ridiculous selfies, as requested for our social media accounts.  I place supers on the booming hives and let myself take in the beautiful white and gold blossoms on trees that were the definition of barren a mere week and change ago.

    Dead Bees in the Almonds Dead Bees in the Almonds

    Further along, I discover colonies with a few hundred dead bees on the ground in front of the landing board.  My heart aches at the sight.  My frustration simmers as the smoker churns on top of a cover.  The hive next to the compromised one shows no sign at all of being exposed to the same toxin, and I wonder what was sprayed.  Year after year, beekeepers are forced to witness their hives being poisoned by the very same folks who demand these six legged pollinators.  Is this ever going to end?

    Happy Bees Happy Bees

    Unaware of the fatalities, the bees seem to be in a fantastic mood.  I wear only a veil -- no gloves or suit today.  They seem almost happy to see me, and I as I carefully place a medium box with 10 frames above their existing box, I imagine they appreciate the expansion of the Langstroth mansions.

    I am alone, so perhaps I am even more attentive to the placement of the tires of my bee truck.  “Stay on the crown, Roberts,” I say to myself, referring to the top most part of the dirt road that tapers off along the sides that would spell a muddy ruin to an otherwise perfect day.  There is not a rain cloud in sight, and the sky is a deep blue; the weather people got it right today.

    Selfie Selfie

    I work the bees, I snap some photos (coerced, mind you), and I take in the beauty.  It is almost uncomfortable to take it in all alone, and I am not sure if my color-blind eyes can adequately comprehend the magnificence of the blooms. The bees provide amazing company, and I do not mind being by myself, typically. But these blossoms are a once in a year event, and perhaps my Super Bowl metaphor isn’t appropriate.  This is Christmas.  Yes.  This is the beekeeper Christmas.  The gift of the almonds that heralds the spring. I understand why the Japanese so appreciate the blooming of the cherry blossoms,

    It really is beautiful.

    The last box is placed on a hive, and I secure a handful of lids and head back on the road.  I have a quarter tank of gas left in the truck and I have a choice; 25 minutes out of the way to the east, or go back the way I came, a straight shot, with fuel 30 minutes in the distance.

    I choose the latter and cruise down the 43.

    UH-OH

    Chelsea The Bee Truck Chelsea The Bee Truck

    I make a left on Pond Road, on my way to the 99.  The fuel gauge still shows a click above empty, and I am 4 minutes away from fuel.

    Suddenly the engine dies, and I use the momentum to safely get myself parked on the shoulder of the road.  I am out of gas.

    “This is all on you, Roberts,” I mutter.  “Real good. Seriously.”

    I call AAA and tell them of my idiocy. I am told someone will be out in about 45 minutes with fuel. As I end the call,  I notice a dozen bees or so resting on the windshield.  The truck had stopped at another almond orchard in full bloom with bee hives next to the road.

    Out of concern for the AAA driver coming to my rescue, I get out of my truck and walk near the hives to assess their temperament.  They ignore me, and I am satisfied that the driver will not be rewarded with bee stings for helping me.

    In 30 minutes a technician is filling my tank with five gallons of dino-juice.  As the fuel is heard raining inside the empty steel tank, the broad shouldered tech looks at me with a bit of concern.

    “So, um, these bees, they aren’t going to sting me right?” He asked.

    “Not unless I want them to,” I chuckle.

    He did not find me funny.

    “I’m allergic,” he asserted.

    “They won’t sting you.  They are nice bees.  I checked.”

    “Thanks.”

    After a handshake and a turn of the key, I was on the road again.  I made it to the Chevron station, filled up the tank to the brim, and headed back home.

    As the sun moves to the west, I focus on navigating through the chaos of the Los Angeles freeway traffic and find some satisfaction in knowing that I am one of thousands of beekeepers travelling to and from the almonds today to work their bees.

    I was wrong earlier.  I wasn’t alone.

    I had company all along.

     

     

     

  • Beekeeping Classes with the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association (LACBA)

    updated 1-3-19

    Beekeeping at The Valley Hive

    The Valley Hive is looking forward to hosting the 2019 Beekeeping 101 Classes for the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association (LACBA). The first class of the season will be on Sunday, February 10th from 9-12pm. All classes will be held on the second Sunday of the month. 

    CLASS SCHEDULE

    Class #1: Sunday., 2/10/19, 9am-noon. Topic: Preparing to Be a Beekeeper; Is Beekeeping Right for You, Things to Consider, Benefits, What Do I Need? (NO BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive's store: 10538 Topanga Cyn Blvd., Chatsworth, CA 91311.

    Class #2: Sunday, 3/10/19, 9am-noon. Topic: Putting together a hive box; placement of your hive; installing a package. (NO BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive's store: 10538 Topanga Cyn Blvd., Chatsworth, CA 91311. (DAYLIGHT SAVINGS DAY!)

    Class #3:  Sunday, 4/14/19, 9am-noon. Topics: How to install a bee package. Inspecting your hive. (BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive’s apiary: 9633 Baden Ave., Chatsworth, CA 91311.

    Class #4:  Sunday, 5/12/19, 9am-noon. Topic: Inspecting your hive. (BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive’s apiary: 9633 Baden Ave., Chatsworth, CA 91311.

    Class #5:  Sunday, 6/09/19,  9am-noon. Topic: Treating for pests. (BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive’s apiary: 9633 Baden Ave., Chatsworth, CA 91311.

    Class #6:  Sunday, 7/14/19, 9am-noon. Topic: Treating for pests. (BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive’s apiary: 9633 Baden Ave., Chatsworth, CA 91311.

    Class #7:  Sunday, 8/11/19, 9am-noon. Topic: Splitting a hive, honey extraction. (BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive’s apiary: 9633 Baden Ave., Chatsworth, CA 91311.

    September:  No Bee Class. We will be volunteering on various dates at the Los Angeles County Fair Bee Booth, sharing our beekeeping knowledge and experience to educate others.

    Class #8: Sunday, 10/13/19, 9am-noon. Topic: Last class of the 2018 season. (BEE SUIT REQUIRED.) Location: The Valley Hive - TBD.

    In Beekeeping Class 101 you learn the basics of beekeeping. This is a great class for beginning beekeepers and an excellent refresher course.

    Our goal: To walk you through an entire season of keeping bees.

    You’ll learn:

    • Care of ourselves and others as we learn responsible beekeeping in an urban environment
    • Protective clothing (bee suit, hat, veil, gloves, etc.)
    • Construction of a hive
    • Safe placement of a hive
    • How to approach a hive
    • Stages of life cycle within a colony
    • General maintenance of a hive
    • Troubleshooting in the hive
    • Diseases, mites, moths, and their treatment
    • What to do if you come in contact with an aggressive hive
    • Bee stings

    Beekeeping References

    Starting Your First Backyard Hive

    Beekeeping Videos:

     

    Stop In For A Visit

    We invite you to stop by anytime during regular business hours, so that we can answer any of your questions or help you with your beekeeping needs.  We are buzzed to be a part of your beekeeping journey!

    The Valley Hive business hours:
    Open daily from 8:30-5pm
    10538 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Chatsworth
    (818) 280-6500

     

  • Finding Bees for Your Hive

    WHERE DO I GET MY BEES?

    After you set up your beehive, the next step is to fill it with bees!  Here we will discuss the different types of Honey Bees, and the various methods used to obtain bees.

    DO ALL BEES PRODUCE HONEY?   felicia bees on a frame

    There are more than 20,000 species of bees in the world. While the U.S. is home to approximately 4,000 types of native bees, Honey Bees (Apis Mellifera) are not native to the United States.  The European Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Linnaeus) was brought to America in the 17th century by the early European settlers. Consequently, the Honey Bees that we use mostly descend from European races of Honey Bees. Honey Bees are the only insects that make food for human consumption. And like a lot of animals and insects that are found all over the world, Honey Bees also differ from one another based on a lot of factors.

    BEE STOCK

    There are many different types of Honey Bee species in the world. Since the 1800’s, beekeepers have been breeding bees with certain characteristics for a particular purpose, whether it be for pollination, honey, or bee production.

    “The term “stock” is defined as a loose combination of traits that characterize a particular group of bees. Such groups can be divided by species, race, region, population, or breeding line in a commercial operation. Many of the current “stocks” in the United States can be grouped at one or more of these levels…” – David Tarpy, 2005. The Different Types of Honey Bees. AG-645, NC State University, Cooperative Extension Servicer

    Bee stock can vary greatly. Any generalities about a particular stock should be treated with caution, since there are always exceptions to the rule. The most common types of Honey Bees available in the U.S. are: The Italian Bee, The Carniolan Bee, The German Bee, The Caucasian Bee, The Buckfast Bee, and The Russian Bee. To learn more about these bees and their attributes, check out the following link:

    http://beesource.com/resources/usda/the-different-types-of-honey-bees/

    WHERE DO I GET THE BEES FOR MY HIVE?

    If you want gentle bees, purchasing your bees through a reputable bee breeder is your best chance.  Although, there are other options for obtaining bees.

    swarm on iron gate 01

    SWARMS

    One way to start a hive is by collecting a swarm.  A swarm is merely a group of bees with a queen that has left their home in search of a new one. Since they don’t have any brood (developing baby bees) or honey to guard, they are generally very gentle.  Before the swarm finds a permanent home, the cluster of bees might take up temporary residence in a bush or low lying branch. Swarms are relatively easy to catch, but some beekeeping knowledge is helpful.

    As a new beekeeper in Southern California, starting out with a package of bees or a nucleus of bees may be a safer way to start a hive. While swarms are gentle, many of the bee colonies in Southern California contain some degree of Africanized genetics. Africanized Bees are more aggressive than their counterpart, the European Honey Bee, and keeping Africanized Honey Bees is not advisable. Oftentimes, when dealing with these bees, they become more aggressive as the colony grows.  So, while the temperament of the swarm may appear gentle, the behavior can change with time.

    CUT-OUTS

    Another way to start a hive, is by doing a cut out. This procedure involves removing and relocating a colony of bees from one location to another. Relocating a hive is an advanced beekeeping technique. Depending on the size of the hive, doing a cut-out can be complex, messy, and time consuming.  Proceed with caution and be sure to assess the temperament of the bees. We recommend that you hire a professional, if this is the route you choose to take.

    IMG_0016 reduced


    PACKAGED BEES

    A package of bees is approximately two or three pounds of bees. The bees arrive in a wooden or plastic box, with a mated queen hanging inside in her own cage. Installing a package is easy.  Watch our YouTube video to see how a package is installed. The Valley Hive sells Italian Bees, which are known for their favorable temperament. They are also excellent honey producers.

    5 frames of bees

    NUC OF BEES

    A Nuc, short for nucleus, is a small colony of bees. Consisting of 5 frames of bees, the queen has already been introduced to the bees and a combination of eggs, larvae, and honey are present. A Nuc contains bees and frames, but the remainder of equipment including the hive body, top cover, bottom board and 5 additional frames, is sold separately. A feeder is also recommended so that the colony can easily build out the first box with the necessary comb needed to store honey and eggs.  The Valley Hive sells nucs as well as the additional equipment you will need.

    NEED HELP?

    The Valley Hive is here to answer all your bee related questions. We invite you to stop by during our regular business hours which can be found on our website. Taking classes through The Los Angeles County Beekeeping Association (LACBA) is a great way to get started. For more information about the classes, check the LACBA website.

     

     

     

  • Bees 2017

     

    BEES 2017

    Reserve your package now on our website!

    The best time to start your beehive is in the Spring. Packaged bees are plentiful at this time, and the bees populations begin to explode. Reserve your bees now to guarantee your order. Packages will be available for PICK UP ONLY in the middle of April. The exact date will be announced soon. Nucs (5 frames of bees) are created from packages Bees, so they are available later in the season.  We recommend that you place your order early, as bees do sell out.   If you have additional questions, please send us an email at info@thevalleyhive.com or give us a buzz at (818) 280-6500. 

     

    PACKAGED BEES:

    IMG_0010

    A package of bees is approximately three pounds of bees. The bees arrive in a wooden  box, with a mated queen hanging inside in her own cage. Installing a package is easy.  Watch our YouTube video to see how a package is installed. The Valley Hive sells Italian Bees, which are known for their favorable temperament. They are also excellent honey producers.

     

    NUCS:

    5 frames of bees

    A Nuc, short for nucleus, is a small colony of bees. Consisting of 5 frames of bees, the queen has already been introduced to the bees and a combination of eggs, larvae, and honey are present. A Nuc contains bees and frames, but the remainder of equipment including the hive body, top cover, bottom board and 5 additional frames, is sold separately. A feeder is also recommended so that the colony can easily build up their first box with the necessary comb needed to store honey and eggs.

    QUEENS:

    IMG_0053

    Mated, Italian, California Queens will be available in the Spring.  The queen arrives in a queen cage (above)  with attendants. Queens will be available later in the season. Check our website for updates.

  • Beekeeping Basics

    your first backyard hive

    BEEKEEPING BASICS

    Interested in bees and starting a backyard hive, but you don't know where to begin? Then Join us on Saturday, January 28th and you will find out everything you need to know to set up your first hive! Snacks and FREE admission. Everyone is welcome!

    Check out our Facebook Page for more information!

     

  • Starting your First Backyard Hive

    So...you are thinking about becoming a Backyard Beekeeper and starting your first Backyard Hive.  Perhaps you are a little apprehensive about starting a hobby that involves thousands of stinging insects.  We, at The Valley Hive understand because we, too, are beekeepers who were once in your shoes! In fact, we started The Valley Hive so we could help people just like you! Our primary goal is to help ensure your success as a Backyard Beekeeper.  We are the first and only business of its kind in the San Fernando Valley, offering person to person assistance at our store, located in Chatsworth just south of the 118 freeway.  Come visit our showroom where you can not only see, touch and feel the products we carry, but you can also try on a beesuit and even see an actual functioning glass Observation Beehive. Our knowledgeable staff is eager to help with all of your beekeeping needs, and will make sure that you do not leave until all of your questions have been answered! As we begin the 2017 beekeeping season, we hope that you will take advantage of the checklist below detailing all of the items you will need to get through your first year of beekeeping.

    your first backyard hive

    Remember, we are here to help with your beekeeping needs, and you can also check out our website to learn more about the products and services we offer including  Beekeeping Equipment, Hive Components, and Protective Gear.  Visit us at your earliest convenience, so we can help get you suited up and ready to receive your bees!

  • Second Location at The Village in Woodland Hills is open now

    lounging

    Come visit us and sample our local honey at our cart at The Village in Woodland Hills, located on the corner of Topanga and Victory across from the Topanga Mall. This new, trendy, outdoor space is quickly becoming one of The Valley’s most popular gathering places. Come for the dining, the shopping, or relax in one of the many comfortable lounging areas throughout the property.

    the view

    The Village is pet friendly, and is complete with watering stations and pup treats! Children are often found playing on The Kids Climber, a play-space, that looks more like a work of art with its steel pipes and cables! The Village is the perfect place to spend the day with the family or entertain your out of town guests. You can find us right next to the escalator between The Veggie Grill and Wocano Restaurants. We are open every day during normal mall operating hours. Also, be sure to join us at The Farmers Market every Sunday at The Village between the hours of 9-1pm.

    birthday table
    climbing structure
    bicycle

  • Honey Tasting Event is a Sweet Success

     

    Beekeepers throughout Los Angeles showcased their unique Backyard Honey in celebration of National Honeybee Day!  The judges, 3 beekeepers  with a combined 50 years of  experience, tasted all the entries.  After much deliberation, three winners took home a prize! The West End Tavern in Chatsworth gernerously hosted the event. Beatrice the Bartender, served up an array of  Honey Cocktails that were the talk of the town. We are already looking forward to our next Annual Honey Tasting & Recipe Contest!

     

  • Coffee with the Bees meetup at The Valley Hive on Saturday 8-22 and 9-12

    eating donuts

    Spend Saturday morning having coffee with the Bees! Come join us at The Valley Hive on Saturday morning to chat about bees. There will not be a formal talk just coffee and a chance for beekeepers to get together to talk about things in and outside the hive.

    You do not need to be a beekeeper to attend. Everyone is welcome!!

    Dates are:

    • Saturday September 12th 10am to 11am.

    Feel free to contact us with any questions about the meet up!

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Working Hours
We are open 7 days a week from 8:30am-5:00pm
We have moved! Our new address is 10538 Topanga Cyn Blvd. Chatsworth, CA 91311
(818) 280-6500
 
 
 
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