Pimp My Apiary

I have beekeeper envy of my friend Earl’s bee yard in Port Costa. He has thirty-plus hives of happy, gentle bees that have acres and acres of unmolested meadows to draw from.


Over Memorial Day Weekend, my other beekeeper pal Aaron and I helped Earl inspect his hives. First Earl schooled us on the proper way to light a smoker. Cedar slices + broken bits of tree branch + balls of green grass = a smoker that goes for an hour or more.

Then we checked his hives to make sure the bee colonies are thriving. We looked for eggs and a queen. Earl is so badass he doesn’t wear any protection.

During a snack break in his “bee trailer” (WANT), he showed us the pollen he’s collecting from just one hive.


There were yellow, purple, grey, red and orange balls of pollen, all from the different plants growing in the area.


Curious, we decided to separate and taste the different colors to see if we could tell which plants produced the pollen.


Here are our tasting notes:

RED – earthy, with a sour, bitter bite. Most likely culprit: Buckeye

YELLOW – grassy, tastes like horse saddle. Plant guess: Mustard

PURPLE – floral, sweetpea. Plant guess: Thistle


At the end of the day, Earl gave Aaron and me a split colony to take back to our garden in San Francisco. We call them “Earl’s Bees” and they are adjusting well to their urban neighbors. (hive on right)


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