Yesterday, after I’d fed and watered the chickens, I grabbed a two-gallon bucket and a ladder to pick some apricots for canning. But my morning didn’t go as planned when I spotted a cloud of bees swarming in the very fruit tree I was preparing to climb into. Nothing like a honeybee swarm to make you switch tasks in a hurry.


Honeybees clustered around the queen in a swarm

Honeybees clustered around the queen in a swarm



There’s a centuries-old saying among beekeepers: A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay . . . a swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon . . . a swarm of bees in July ain’t worth a fly. My beekeeper neighbor says simply, “A swarm in July . . . bye bye.” The rhyme echoed in my brain. Even early July? Should I try to save them? I donned my beekeeper suit and gathered together the items I would need for the rescue.


Ironically, in late winter I had hung a swarm catcher in the tree next to the swarm. A swarm catcher makes it easy to hive the bees since they are all inside the bucket-shaped unit with a small hole on one side and a large covered opening on the other. They go inside and you dump the bees into the hive box. I’ve had three swarms this year and not one of them went into the swarm catcher despite me putting attractant (a type of scented oil) in the vial inside the unit. Go figure!


Yesterday’s swarm wasn’t as big as the two I captured in May and June. I’m not even sure if I could save this one, but trying was better than losing them. I decided to help the small population along but putting into their hive some frames of comb and honey.


A swarm at this time of year (approaching the end of swarming season) will require extra food if the bees are to make it through autumn when they kick out the drones and then winter when their food and nectar sources become scarce.


Lavender and sunflowers are beloved by bees

Lavender and sunflowers are beloved by bees



I draw hope from the fact that August in the Bay Area brings blooms to certain species of eucalyptus and also star thistle. My bees also have access to lots of lavender. I have planted several types of it around my farmette.




Giant sunflowers in bloom

Giant sunflowers in bloom in dinner-plate size



The sunflowers in my garden are blooming now and will (thanks to consecutive planting) over the next several weeks. And I’ve got two raised beds designated as bee gardens full of blooming flowers and herbs like borage that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.



It remains to be seen if this July swarm will have any worth at all. I think they’re going to need a lot of help. That means keeping my eyes on them as I take care of my chickens and keep the summer canning going.




If you enjoy reading about the workings of an urban farmette and also appreciate a good, clean mystery, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES.  I also write wellness and spirituality books–SACRED TRAVELS (soon to be updated to include color images), RITUALS FOR LIFE, and MY POCKET MEDITATIONS.


All my books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other traditional and online bookstores everywhere.



All available online and in bookstores everywhere

Meera’s mystery series


More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you

More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus...all it takes is a moment

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus…all it takes is a moment






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A Hive of Homicides or Hive Demise

Author: Meera, June 21, 2017

The title of the third novel in my Henny Penny Farmette series suggests loss of bees and murderous intent. No beekeeper wants to lose a hive, regardless of how it happens–whether some invader wants to kill the bees, go after the honey, or use the hive as a host for proliferation of its own species.




A healthy hive box with lid removed

A healthy hive box with lid removed


I’m not one-hundred percent positive why I lost a hive this year. My best guess was that the demise was due (not to homicide but rather) to a tiny little pest, possibly a beetle that weakened it so that the bees and queen fled leading to the hive’s demise.



My beekeeper neighbor and I spotted a small beetle and treated for it. My best efforts to keep my small bee house and the area around it clean as well as doing frequent hive inspections wasn’t enough. Now, I’m considering moving my remaining hive onto a higher, drier, sunnier location.



Bee garden in June bloom

Bee garden in June bloom



I’ll do it at night which is the correct time to move bees. You just put a little strip of packing foam along the hive entrance, gently move the hive, and place it in the new location. Remove the foam strip so the bees can leave at dawn and make sure there’s a water source nearby.



These honeybees will visit a backyard fountain throughout the day

These honeybees will visit a backyard fountain throughout the day



The bees will likely accept the move if there is water and food in the area. I like planting perennial bee gardens and flowers and bulbs with high nectar value for bloom throughout the year.



Since hives can be compromised by wax moths, hive beetles, and other pests (as well as parasites and diseases), frequent inspections to decipher a problem and treat it before it destroys your hive is imperative.


With supers (smaller hive boxes with ten frames each) on the hive in June, the bees will forage on abundant flowers and produce honey that can be taken off in July. That’s also the time to inspect for mites because these populations tend to swell during summer.






If you’re interested in beekeeping and other farmette topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries. All are available to order online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailer sites as well as traditional bookstores everywhere.



Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

This third novel in the series will be released Sept. 2017









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Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

Author: Meera, April 10, 2016

It’s hummingbird mating season. We’re seeing iridescent males with ruby throats engaged in amazing aerobatic flight patterns to attract females. To draw these birds to our garden, we’ve put in plants  they are known to seek out.





Cosmos, corn, pomegranate, and grapes

Cosmos bloom in many colors ranging from white to pink and red




To attract them, we’ve planted flowers with brightly colored blooms such as purple-spired agastache, red blooming wild columbine, cosmos (pink, white, and red) scarlet ipomopsis (also known as the hummingbird plant), larkspur (Giant Imperial has colors ranging from pink, dark blue, light blue, carmine, rose, salmon, and white), lobelia (various shades), poppies, and salvia (Fairy Queen has a brilliant purple color).


poppies sm web




This morning as I was inspecting the peach tree, a male with a ruby throat perched on a branch right above the branch tip I was holding. I love seeing these little birds who are voracious feeders, consuming daily nearly half their body weight in nectar and feeding from the sugar-water feeders I’ve hung near my kitchen garden window six to eight times an hour.



Many of the above-mentioned plants also attract butterflies. Sow a few of each of these seeds and you’ll have visitors to your garden throughout the spring and summer months (or during each plant’s blooming season).



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A Swarm in July Isn’t Worth a Fly

Author: Meera, August 4, 2013


Capturing a bee swarm sometimes requires two beekeepers

Capturing a bee swarm sometimes requires two beekeepers



There’s an old proverb about bees that goes: A swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, but a swarm in July isn’t worth a fly. You might wonder why.


Well, I asked my beekeeper neighbor that question this morning as we suited up to feed the bees and take some frames of honey. The hives were thriving, bees were active, and the honey production copious. He harvested some, but also left some for the babies that the queen had produced.


There are spring flowers in May and new flowers in June, but by July many of the flowers that the bees love to forage on have flowered and gone to seed. If the queen lays lots of babies, where will the worker bees get enough pollen and nectar to support the entire hive, feed the queen, and supply the babies?


During fall in Northern California, the bees can forage on the eucalyptus blossoms, but then, they must survive through winter. I see bees on my December roses, but there aren’t a lot of flowers blooming in December that have high pollen and nectar loved by the bees.


Swarming in May and June is a sight to behold. Swarming is way the bees of deal with hive/nest overcrowding.  It is how they increase their populations. See,


A savvy beekeeper is ready to capture swarms as soon as the weather warms up in late spring. The bees won’t wait, although it is possible for a seasoned beekeeper to anticipate a swarm and take action to avert it. But it doesn’t always work.


An apiarist must manage his or her colony of hives and anticipate the needs and activities of the bees for the coming season–at this time of year, that means during fall and winter.  Without a lot of food growing to support a new hive of bees from a captured swarm, a swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.












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