Berlin's Bumbling Beekeepers Leave Swarms Without Homes

The Guardian Kate Connolly in Berlin August 9, 2019

Inexperienced hobbyists force bees to search often in vain
for suitable habitat across the city.

Schwarmfängers to the rescue? There are now about 10,000 bee colonies in Berlin, which is causing habitat and food shortages. Photograph: Evan North/Getty Images

Schwarmfängers to the rescue? There are now about 10,000 bee colonies in Berlin, which is causing habitat and food shortages. Photograph: Evan North/Getty Images

Humans are not the only ones in Berlin struggling to find accommodation. A beekeeping boom has led to swarms of bees forming novel new hives using anything from motorbikes to balconies in the German capital.

Germany’s beekeeping association has been forced to dispatch a growing band of swarm-catchers – or schwarmfänger – reachable via telephone hotlines, to deal with a deluge of incidents in which thousands of bees cluster round objects while scout bees go in search of suitable homes, such as a tree hollow, more often than not in vain.

“Many people are concerned about climate change and the dying bee populations and want to do something about it, which is great,” said Benedikt Polaczek, the chair of the Berlin Beekeepers’ Association. But he cautioned that the rise in the city’s bee population meant there was now a lack of adequate habitats and food.

He said: “We now have around 10,000 bee colonies in Berlin alone.”

Nationwide the German Beekeepers’ Association has grown by a quarter in the past six years from 92,000 members in 2013 to more than 120,000 today.

The number of Berlin beekeeping enthusiasts has increased, while offices and hotels are among those putting beehives on their rooftops, and beekeeper courses are oversubscribed. But the accusation levelled at often inexperienced hobbyists is that they do not always understand how to care for the bees.

The Berlin association now has over 50 schwarmfänger volunteers who offer a round-the-clock service to capture the several thousand bees in each swarm that are typically found enveloping everything from car roofs and bicycle frames to traffic lights and balconies.

Jonas Hörning, a bee-loving volunteer who has already saved 100 swarms, said the number of incidents had increased as the number of beekeepers soared.

He said: “The bees like to congregate in house entry ways or in other cavities. Balconies and window sills are also a favourite place.”

Swarm catchers are typically equipped with a breathable box, a sheet or tarpaulin, a bee brush and lemongrass oil to lure the bees into the box. Protective clothing is recommended for all but the most experienced schwarmfänger.

Berlin Kreuzberg, A swarm of bees cluster on a motorcycle. Photograph: Agencja Fotograficzna Caro/Alamy Stock Photo

Berlin Kreuzberg, A swarm of bees cluster on a motorcycle. Photograph: Agencja Fotograficzna Caro/Alamy Stock Photo

Hörning said: “The trick is to catch the majority of the colony together with the queen, and then the rest of the bees will usually follow.”

The method involves moving the cluster into the box while ensuring the queen, usually in the centre, is among them. If the swarm is on a tree branch it could be cut and put into the box with the bees on it, if the swarm is on an object – such as a bicycle or a lamppost – it could be sprayed with a mist of sugar water and then brushed gently into the box.

Colonies that are not caught will usually die, so there is a sense of urgency about the task.

The news magazine Spiegel recently reported that swarm catchers across Germany were in constant demand this year. It is not usually difficult to find new homes for captured bees because of a swarm exchange website where experienced or wold-be beekeepers can register their interest in taking over a rescued swarm.

Polaczek said it was possible to prevent colonies from swarming, by removing all the queen-bee swarm cells. He said: “Some people think they’ve managed it, but if you’ve overlooked just one swarm cell the bees will swarm anyway.”

The swarming season – usually late spring to early summer – is now over for this year. But concerns about the welfare of the bees are more acute than ever. Polaczek said: “There are so many bees they often can’t get enough food.” Some beekeepers are forced to feed their bees with sugar syrup to enable them to get through the winter.

Ideally beekeepers should spend five years in training, according to the association, although very few do. The organisation is critical of the fact that beekeeper starter kits are easily available online encouraging too many people to set up hives on a whim.

LACBA Meeting: Monday, August 6, 2018

Our next meeting will be held Monday, August 6, 2018.
Open Board Meeting/Committee Meeting: 6:30PM
General Meeting: 7:00PM Location: 
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
3561 Foothill Blvd.
La Crescenta, CA 91214

Meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association are open to the public. All are welcome!

Meeting Agenda:

Please bring something for the RAFFLE!

1.  Committee Meetings
     A.  Fair
     B.  Randy Oliver
2. Monthly Meeting 7pm
     A.  Welcome, flag salute, introduce the board, sell raffle tickets, index cards for questions, introduce new members, thank yous
     B.  Old Business & Treasurer's Report
     C. New Business - Renew Liability Insurance
     D. Events, Committees & Announcements - Membership, Fair Literature needed, Beekeeping 101, Observation booth at Fair, Cindy with fair info, Randy Oliver Workshops, The Valley Hive Honey Competition
     E.  What are you seeing in your hives?
     F.  What is Flowering in your area?
     G.  Q&A
     H.   Review for next month
     I.  Raffle


General Meeting:  Monday August 6, 2018 Committee Meetings 6:30pm General Meeting 7pm

Beekeeping 101:  August 19, 2018 9am-12pm

LA County Fair Set up:  August 18th & 19th - look for an e-mail coming soon to sign up to volunteer 

Special Workshop with Guest Speaker RANDY OLIVER:  August 25, 2018  @ Cal Poly Pomona

Special Workshop with Guest Speaker RANDY OLIVER:  August 26, 2018  @ The Valley Hive

LA County Fair Bee Booth:  August 31st to September 23rd - look for an e-mail coming soon to sign up to volunteer 

CSBA Convention:  November 13th - 15th Harrah's Southern California

Beekeeping 101
PLEASE NOTE: Beekeeping 101 classes will be held at the 9633 Baden Ave, Chatsworth, CA 91311, (The Valley Hive Apiary/Bee yard location).   Full bee suits with veil, gloves and closed toed shoes will be required.  Watch your e-mail for more details about this class as it gets closer to the date.


For an e-mail to sign up for to work the LA County Fair Bee Booth (Sign Up Required)

An Evite e-mail to attend the Randy Oliver Workshop at Cal Poly Pomona (Reservation Required)

An Evite e-mail to attend the Randy Oliver Workshop at The Valley Hive (Reservation Required)


Have you updated your contact information with us this year?

To get the latest information regarding what is going on in the club, please complete the online membership form now!

Dues can be paid at a monthly meeting, Beekeeping 101, or by mail.

Please update your records. 
We have a new mailing address this year:
PO Box 8051
La Crescenta, CA 91224


Join Us on Instagram:
Follow us and tag us @lacbahive

The purpose of this account and platform is to share flowering plants throughout the month to announce during the 'What's Flowering' portion of the General Meeting each month.

How To Use 'LACBA Hive' Account on Instagram
To follow 'LACBA Hive' account for frequent updates of what is flowering and where:

Create an instagram account for yourself

Click the 'follow' button on the 'LACBAHive'Instagram page.

To contribute 'what's in bloom' from your area, follow these steps:

Create a new post with a photo or video of a flower (you can either import from your library or snap a photo using the instagram app).

Leave the filter on 'normal' in the second step.

Before you post your photo or video on your own Instagram feed, select 'tag people'

Tap anywhere on your photo, then search and select 'lacbahive' 

It's nice to include the location of the flowering plant too

We'll periodically repost photos and videos of flowers that we are tagged in onto our feed.


Newbees Swarmed to LACBA Beekeeping Class 101 February 18, 2018

Newbees Swarmed to the LACBA Beekeeping Class 101 February 18, 2018 at The Valley Hive . This was our first class of the season.  Next class March 18, 2018, 9AM-Noon.  Learn more about our classes at: Beekeeping Class 101

Thank you to Jeremey Jensen for the images!!!


LACBA Meeting Monday, October 2, 2017

LACBA MEETING - Monday, October 2, 2017. (Meeting Starts: 7PM, Open Board Meeting 6:30PM). All are Welcome! Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta, CA 91214 (In Shilling Hall). Parking next to the church, overflow parking behind the church.


Urban Beekeeping: What's the Buzz About?

KCET SoCal Connected  Air Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 8:00PM

For the first time in more than a century, the Los Angeles City Council officially legalized urban beekeeping in single family homes in October 2015, catching up with cities like Santa Monica, New York, and Santa Barbara in permitting backyard beekeeping.

But now, what will it take to create a new generation of beekeepers? Can computers and smartphone apps help make the traditional task of beekeeping more inviting?

There's no question that backyard beehives face multiple challenges. One expert, Kelton Temby, calls them the four P's: Pests, pesticides, poor management, and pathogens. He has come up with a high-tech monitor to gauge the health of beehives remotely. What does this technology have to offer aspiring beekeepers?

In this segment of "SoCal Connected," reporter Cara Santa Maria introduces us to beekeepers from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and finds out what backyard beekeeping is doing to support the honey bees of Southern California.

Bees for Sale - Order Now for 2016

Pre-Order your Bee Packages and Nucs by December 31, 2015 and save money. It's never too early to order your bees for 2016. Prices will increase January 1st. Bee Packages and Nucs will be available for pick up mid April. PLEASE NOTE: We do NOT ship our bees!

Our Italian Honey Bees are gentle, easy to work with, and build up abundantly for pollination and honey making. If you are just beginning beekeeping, or already an urban beekeeper, these bees are perfect for you. The known gentle genetics of our Italian Honey Bees make them ideal for Backyard Beekeeping in Los Angeles.

2015 has been our best and busiest year ever for Beekeeping Class 101, and the request for bees has increased. Don't be disappointed and come into bee season bee-less! You can order online HERE.  


Move To Okay Bee Hives In LA Back Yards Is Misguided

Western Farm Press in Farm Press Blog   By Tom Fitchette    September 8, 2015

Sometimes being observant means more than just viewing the large font.

Sometimes it means asking questions.

With all the media attention on honeybees there’s little surprise that Los Angeles may legalize backyard beekeeping, according to published reports. Backyard hobbyists could be allowed to try their hand at beekeeping in Los Angeles if the city county passes an ordinance.

Bad idea.

This isn’t an attack on honeybees. It’s a challenge over the lack of common sense displayed by the city council and those proposing this idea.

Let’s just say there are sure to be a host of unintended consequences that could arise from such a move.

What happens if Africanized bees move in? What will these bees forage on in LA’s urban jungle?

Who’s going to oversee these hives? What will their credentials be?

Who's going to tell the neighbor he can't spray his trees with certain chemicals because there's a hive in the adjacent yard?

The ordinance proposes one hive per 2,500 square feet within the backyards of single-family homes.

Do they realize that bees fly?

Proponents say the backyard beehives will aid agriculture. How? Almond trees and melons are not common vegetation in the City of Angels.

Proponents apparently also argue that this will help slow the decline of bees through colony collapse disorder. Really? How?

If the Los Angeles City Council is truly interested in helping agriculture, I’m sure farmers elsewhere in California would welcome their genuine support as financiers of scientific research.

Here’s a thought: start by donating some money – real money – to Huanglongbing (citrus greening) research and other projects aimed at reducing invasive pests and the diseases they can spread.

Since Los Angeles already has a growing number of confirmed cases of citrus greening that’s a real and timely issue, the city council could get behind if it truly wants to help California agriculture.

Allowing bee colonies to be raised in urban and suburban back yards by hobbyists is not a good idea.

Read at:

Backyard Beekeeping Ordinance: PLUM Committee Moves Ordinance Forward To City Attorney

From: LA City Planning Committee   August 26, 2015
Katie is out on leave and I will be your point of contact regarding Backyard Beekeeping while she's away.
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) of the City Council approved the proposed Backyard Beekeeping Ordinance provisions at their regular meeting on August 25, 2015, and transmitted the Draft Ordinance to the City Attorney's Office with no amendments. The City Attorney's Office will now look over the Ordinance as to form and legality, and then transmit it back to the PLUMCommittee.
Audio of the PLUM meeting on August 24, 2015 is available online (at 2 hours 20 minutes): 
What's Next: 
City Attorney's Office transmits the final ordinance to PLUM, who will then forward it to the full City Council
The next step will be to wait for the City Attorney's Office to review the Ordinance for form and legality and transmit it back to the PLUMCommittee, who will then forward it to the full City Council. While the timeline for these steps is uncertain, the PLUM Committee stated their eagerness to see the Backyard Beekeeping Ordinance move through the process as quickly as possible, which was noted by the City Attorney.
We will notify you when the Ordinance has reached its next milestone. 
Thank You

LA Council Committee Supports Urban Beekeeping Proposal    By Alexander Nguyen  August 25, 2015

A proposal to allow hobbyist beekeepers in Los Angeles to maintain hives in their backyards won the

support of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee on Tuesday.

The panel approved a draft ordinance setting up rules for urban beekeeping, but under council rules, the City Attorney’s Office still needs to prepare a final version.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who chairs the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, said he plans to waive the ordinance out of committee once the final draft of the ordinance is prepared, so it will go directly to a vote by the full 15-member City Council.

Under the draft ordinance, beekeeping would only be allowed in certain areas of a single-family property, essentially restricted to the backyard.

The rules also call for beekeepers to raise walls or hedges that are high enough to keep bees within their hive area and to maintain a water source near the hives so the bees would not need to venture outside of the beekeeper’s backyard to get hydrated.

If the City Council approves the ordinance, Los Angeles would join Santa Monica in legalizing so-called “backyard” or “urban” beekeeping. The hobby also is allowed in other urban areas such as New York City and Denver.

The Los Angeles Planning Department and the City Attorney’s Office created the proposed rules after the City Council ordered a study last February into ways to legalize backyard beekeeping.

The council action came in response to a growing chorus of Angelenos advocating for “urban beekeeping,” including from some residents in the Mar Vista area who said increased beekeeping helps to fight a troubling, downward trend in the bee population that could threaten the health of local agriculture.

Some council members voiced concerns, however, that the bees could pose a danger to residents, with then-Councilman Bernard Parks referring to the National Geographic documentary “Attack of the Killer Bees,” about a dangerous variety of bees that appear to be encroaching into southern United States.

Planning officials who consulted bee experts over the last year wrote in a recent city report that the variety of honey bees used in beekeeping are “non-aggressive,” but may “sting in self-defense of their hive if it is approached.”

The report adds that when the bees leave their hives to collect food — potentially coming in contact with humans — they “do not become defensive or aggressive or have reason to sting.”

The report also noted that Los Angeles already averages about 8 to 10 feral bee hives per each square mile. The addition of backyard honey bees would not cause a shortage of bee food supply in the city due to the area’s steady climate, but if there were a shortage, the feral populations would likely leave the area to find alternative sources of food supply, according to the bee experts consulted by planning officials.

— City News Service

Read at:

Beekeeping Class 101 - August 16, 2015 at Bill's Bees Bee Yard 9AM-Noon

REMINDER: Beekeeping Class 101 - August 16, 2015 at Bill's bees Bee Yard 9AM-Noon. Topic: More Lessons in Hive Management and Keeping Your Bees Alive During the Dearth.  BEE SUITS REQUIRED. You won't want to miss it! /beekeeping-classes-losangeles/

LACBA MEETING: Monday, August 3, 2015

REMINDER: Join us for our monthly LACBA Meeting.  Monday, August 3, 2015.

Doors open: 6:30pm/Starts: 7:00pm.  Come, learn about bees! All are welcome!

Location:  Mount Olive Lutheran Church
                 3561 Foothill Boulevard
                 La Crescenta, CA 91214

ApiNews March 3, 2015

Pleasanton City Council is scheduled on Tuesday to drop its 89-year-old ban on keeping beehives in residential areas....
Brian Nilson, vice president of the Nebraska State Beekeeping Association, told the Grand Island Animal Advisory Board...
LA-based photographer Blake Little has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Gwyneth Paltrow,...
With the participation of beekeepers in several municipalities in the state and MPs Norma Angélica Lamb Prado,...
The Municipality of San Vicente and the Ministry of Production, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries...
Paper prepared by Henja-Niniane Wehmann, David Gustav, Nicholas H. Kirkerud and C. Giovanni Galizia. Please download...
Paper prepared by Pauline McLoone, Mary Warnock and  Lorna Fyfe1
Interview with Beekeeper Celedonio Sandoval Commune of Paine
Paper prepared by Kathryn L. Hunt and  Lars1
Corresponds to the month of March, 2015. Please download attached document
Aired today


Sarah Red-Laird (Bee Girl) Poses Questions to Beekeepers

Yesterday (Nov. 19) at the California State Beekeepers Association conference, as part of our Next Generation Beekeepers Initiative, I facilitated a panel regarding bridging the gap between "commercial" and "backyard" beekeepers. Now, I'd like to open the floor to you for comment. 

This is a three part question. Answer just one part, two, or all three.

1) What are the differences between the two groups, as well as the similarities? 

2) What DO we do presently to help each other in a POSITIVE way? 

3) What CAN we do in the future to help each other in a POSITIVE way? I'd love to hear specific action items. 

Thank you SO much for participating!!

Bees and the City - The Urban Honey Story

BBC Radio 4   Produced by Sarah Langan  September 29, 2014

As bee populations fall, Sheila Dillon asks if some salvation may be found in the mean streets of our cities. With a report from New York where bee keeping was actually illegal for a long time but where the honey festival now thrives. In London a young brewer tells us how she combined her love of brewing and beekeeping to produce an award winning honey ale. In Copenhagen we hear from a project with hives across the city - each producing its own distinctive taste and flavour, determined by the source of the nectar. Even the offices are alive with the hum of bees as Dan Saladino hears how the venture enlists the help of homeless people and asylum seekers, giving them confidence and and training in all aspects of beekeeping, honey production and sales. Meanwhile in Bristol are trying to find out if urban habitats really can provide a stable environment for our bees to flourish - can our overlooked scruffy verges and car parks contribute to the solution to one of our biggest ecological threats?

Listen and read at:

Beekeeping Class 101: Sunday, August 17, 9-Noon, at Bill's Bees Bee Yard

Beekeeping Class 101: Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Bill's Bees Bee Yard 9AM-Noon. Topic: Keeping Your Bees Healthy and What You Can Learn About Your Bees At the Hive Entrance. BEE SUITS REQUIRED to attend this class. We teach responsible beekeeping for an urban environment. Everyone is Welcome! For details and directions see Beekeeping Class 101.

Beekeeping Class 101: Sunday, July 20, 2014 at Bill's Bees Bee Yard

Beekeeping Class 101: Sunday, July 20, 2014 at Bill's Bees Bee Yard 9AM-Noon.  Topic: Bee Hive Management.  BEE SUITS REQUIRED to attend this class.  For details and directions see Beekeeping Class 101.  We teach responsible beekeeping for an urban environment. Everyone is welcome but if you have not been attending our beekeeping classes you may want to wait until next year's session of  Beekeeping Class 101 which will begin in February 2015. 

Bill Lewis Featured on the Hallmark Channel: Home and Family Show

Hallmark Channel: Home & Family Show    July 15, 2014

Bill Lewis of Bill's Bees will be 'talking about bees' on the Hallmark Channel's Home & Family Show Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 10am9c. The show will be replayed Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at noon. 

President of the California Beekeepers Association Bill Lewis is buzzing about town today with information on how to save honey bees and why we as humans are so dependent on them for our food supply. The bees not only pollinate the plant-based foods we eat, but also pollinate the foods animals eat, which in turn provides us with meat, dairy, and more. It's all about preserving the food chain. Learn more about how parasites, drought, and pesticides impact the bee population and how we can help by planting flowers. Plus, find out how to raise a honey bee colony in your very own backyard.