Let me introduce you to my BEE-utiful beekeeping partner, Aviva. Aviva is Hebrew for spring, so it’s no wonder the bees love her! She and I met in Mr. Robert’s Freshman English class at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento, CA. While we’ve partnered on many things, beekeeping in San Francisco is our latest venture.
Aviva and I have one established hive we keep on a property on the east side of Mt. Sutro. This February, we also decided to place a box in my backyard. We hope to lure a swarm with this box.
Swarms are a product of spring. Warmer weather will lure a virgin queen out of an established hive, and she will abscond with about half of the hive's worker bees. As the queen moves and look for a new home, the worker bees “swarm” around her.
It’s breath-taking to witness a swarm! I first experienced one while working in the “Wild West” end of Golden Gate Park. A cacophony of buzzing lured me to a tree where an intimidating mass of bees filled the air. As if by magic, a tiny teardrop of bees began to grow and swell on a tree branch. It quickly became an illogically large ball of bees that seemed to defy gravity. Then, in the blink of an eye, the phenomenon was gone. The queen and her swarm had moved on to seek a better home.
I’m not confident we will attract a swarm, but we have a couple of things going in our favor. One, I live within a few blocks of Golden Gate Park where I believe many will originate. Two, I’ve purchased some lemongrass essential oil. According to Beethinking, “It mimics the pheromone that scout bees release when looking for a new home and has been said to double your chances at luring a swarm.”
I’d also like to ask for your help. If you live in San Francisco and you see a swarm (RPD lovelies, I am especially looking to you), please let me know ASAP. You can contact me on Instagram @sfgardennotes or message me on facebook. I will drop everything to catch that swarm. Thanks, and I hope to BEE hearing from you soon!
Additional info for beekeeping in San Francisco
San Francisco Beekeepers Association has classes for beginning beekeepers and meets at St. John's Armenian Church, 275 Olympia Way, SF, CA. 94131 at 7:30pm on the second Wednesday of each month.
City Bees has a great honey bees resource page for those who are considering keeping bees in the Bay area or just wanting to learn more about bees. Robert, of City Bees, has been a wonderful adviser and helped keep our Mt. Sutro hive humming along. He's also sells his honey at many local farmers' markets.