Backyard Beekeeping – Conservo Mellis Urbanus

Our foray into urban beekeeping has begun in full earnest with the arrival, swap and inspection of our Carniolan hives. We do like our girls.

The excitement began in December (2008) when we learned that we were allowed to keep bees within the city limits. Contacts were made (Kurt Rowe & Bethany Ford), and by February we had ordered our first hive bodies, beekeeper tools, and attended our local beekeepers association monthly bee. We were ready – the honey hutch was underway, the “bee-pad” was set, the garden was ready – all we needed were the bees. We located some ready nucs at Indian Summer Honey Farm and arrangements were made to pick up our girls on our trip back from UF Bee College 2009 [my comments on the Bee College can be found elsewhere in this space].

The nucs contained our Carniolans x Italians. We loaded them snuggly in the truck bed, then headed south for the trip home. We could tell they were getting warm, as the boxes vibrated with the rhythm of thousands of bee beating their wings to ventilate the hive. When we got home, we did not immediately transfer them to their hives, but rather placed them where the hives would go, and opened them up to forage and get water. We transferred the hives the following day.

We had already planned a pond near the hive location, and filled it in anticipation of the arrival of our bees. They were very thirsty little bugs – lighting on the oak litter floating in the pond to get a drink. We did note, however, that despite our best efforts to have a visually appealing pond for us and a great place for the bees to drink (without raiding our neighbors’ pools), our bees preferred to get their extra water from the overflow holes of the grow pots in our garden. They can be found sipping religiously as the micro-irrigation comes on, twice a day.

Work has since progressed: the nucs were replaced by new hive bodies and shallow supers. We have spread shell around the base of the “bee-pad” to help deal with the vegetation. The honey hutch has a foundation and stud walls, and the pond has plants. On the advice found in Beekeeping for Dummies and from other beekeepers, we added a “spring” for the bees to light on and drink – it’ll probably attract butterflies later in the spring as well. The spring needed a pump, the upside to which is a means of controlling mosquitoes(Gambuzia will be added when the county has some available for pick-up). At the center of the pond are water lilies. I have not yet seen the honeybees light on the lily pads, but there are carpenter bees in the area that really like the lily’s flowers – just haven’t had the camera handy to catch one feeding (they really stand out against the yellow and white of the lily).

A current view of the hives, looking across the pond –


We left the girls alone for two weeks to make their new home’s their own. We did not open the hives until it was time for our bee inspection – which went smoothly: Hats off to Todd Jameson for being such a great person to deal with.


Todd treated our bees with great care – even when he took his sample. We’ll know in a few weeks whether we have caught any of that Africanized genetics that’s flying around – hopefully not.

During the inspection we noted a few things: (1) in hive #2 the bees had already started drawing out two of the new frames that were added when the nucs were transferred (while there were bees in the shallow supers above the excluder, none of that foundation had been drawn out); (3) there was lots of eggs laid, capped brood, pollen and honey in the deep; (4) we have small hive beetles (not too many, yet – we have observed several small hive beetles flying about in the last few days – see our Bees and Beetles blog entry); and, (5) the queen in hive #1 had most of her green ink “chewed” off, revealing a red ink beneath – so she’s older than we thought. This hive (#1) had a supersedure cell in it. It has been suggested to us that we let nature take its course and have the girls decide whether or not to keep the new queen or the old one. [Look for an update on that issue in a few weeks as we look in on that hive to see how its doing, re-queen, etc.]


About Richard Porter

Richard Porter is the principal photographer at Unusual Exposures Photography and Digital Art ( When he is not shooting, planning or editing, Richard can be found working in his apiary, cavorting with friends, getting dirty in his garden, and enjoying all that life has to offer.
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One Response to Backyard Beekeeping – Conservo Mellis Urbanus

  1. loni says:

    Hey Richard, first time to check out your site – very interesting, very professional, very informative ! Only one thing stands out though – I don\’t remember passion fruit from your youth. Obviously you do tho! Interesting article re green housing. Having lived most of your life here in the Canadian North, I guess it\’s quite a contrast to the humid South, different challenges. Will be checking in on occasion for updates…………………Mom

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