Dianne’s Creature Feature

A buzzy day with the bees at Bluebird Canyon Farm: in Sept, you may get to meet a Queen 

During the past week, I’ve learned that the idiom “busy bee” is a true statement: bees comprise 80 percent of all pollinators. And most importantly to Laguna Beach, there is a thriving population of bees at Bluebird Canyon Farm (with plans for expansion from 12 to 15 hives). 

As part of the Farm’s weekly Thursday tours, its Bee Expert and Farm and Garden Coordinator Connor Dorais, who holds an Environmental Science degree from Redlands, will explain everything you ever wanted to know about bees.  

And in my case, that was quite a lot.

Bees fit right into the optimal ecological balance that Bluebird Canyon Farm’s Director Scott Tenney extols (and fears is being destroyed). He says that the farm’s goal is to bring back the old Laguna culture of makers, doers, and growers. 

As part of this movement, the farm has established hives, and is working on breeding a Laguna Bee, a genetically diverse honey “maker.”  

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Connor Dorais

Connor Dorais lifts lid off a hive to collect the honey

 “The apiary focuses on producing a hygienic, genetically diverse honeybee variant that is a hybridized cross between local feral varieties and certain domestic European strains,” Connor explains.

Bees are the only insects that produce food eaten by humans, and (as per www.rodalinstitute.org), honey is the only food that includes all the necessary substances to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water.

“A few weeks back,” Connor says, “we gathered 250 pounds of honey and should harvest another 200 pounds at the end of August.” 

He notes that the output is based on rain.

“The worker bees hit the native foliage hard for approximately six to eight weeks in the spring while the nectar flow is at top peak,” he says.

The workers store the nectar in “honey stomachs” and when full, fly back to the hive where they pass the nectar from bee to bee until it turns into honey and is deposited into the honeycomb. 

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Connor Dorais

Bee depositing honey in honeycomb

After hiking up what felt like 100 steps, we arrive at the first hive. Although we don’t go near it, Connor emphasizes the necessity of beekeepers bringing good energy when they approach hives, so as not to rile up a “hot” queen, meaning hot in temperament, not looks, as I first thought (imagining a Bee-yonce).  

“If agitated, she’ll send out her bouncer (guard bees) to check me out thoroughly, sometimes trying to sting me, which in turn, would end their lives,” he says.

To avoid this, he uses a rather Zen approach when collecting honey. “I play calm folk music and use a sage blend of smoke, which disables their ability to communicate fear.” 

Unfortunately, this tour doesn’t include viewing a colony, however, on Sat, Sept 30, from 9 -11 a.m., Connor is introducing a new event called “Meet the Queen,” in which 10-12 participants will have the opportunity to discuss current issues and the history of bees and don beekeepers suits to view a queen.  At a cost of $100, the class will be open to ages 15 and up, and registration should be made online at the website listed below.

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Connor Dorais

Queen Bee surrounded by worker bees

His next statement elicits favorable responses from the women in the tour group.

“It’s a female society,” he says. “The queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day, only female, which become worker bees. These workers do not need mating, and can only lay male eggs.” 

In this flow hive, which allows Connor to harvest honey without opening the hive, thus causing minimal disturbance to the bees, the queen is in the lower unit housed with a queen screen, and the workers are up top. 

“All bees prefer more manageable spaces, a size suited for their population, not just in flow hives,” he says. 

Connor describes in more detail how the highly organized colony, which may contain as many as 60,000 bees, functions. There are workers, drones, and one queen (identifiable by her double-sized abdomen). The worker bees cooperate in nest building, food collection, and brood rearing. 

The drones’ sole responsibility is to fertilize the queen’s eggs. She’ll mate with up to 15 drones, and then store the sperm to use during her egg-bearing lifetime. 

Queens can live three to four years, and workers, depending on the time of year they’re born, live (if born in spring or summer) six to seven weeks, or (if autumn or winter) for four-six months. Drones can live up to four months, but after they mate, they die.

We walk a bit farther to observe two other groups of hives.

In response to a question regarding how the farm keeps the honey organic, he says, “We can only guarantee that what we use directly on our bees is organic. I cannot guarantee what our bees touch when they land in someone else’s yard. It has been documented that bees will at times not return to the hive if negatively affected by substances, typically pesticides, found while foraging.” 

They cannot guarantee the degree to which the honey is pesticide-free, only an approximation based on the farm’s location and what the bees are estimated to be foraging in that area, which is largely undisturbed native brush.

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Connor Dorais

Honeycomb ready for harvesting

Although we normally welcome bees to pollinate in our flowering gardens, lately there have been several reports of bee swarms in residential neighborhoods. Rather than calling an exterminator, Connor offers a service that will go to a home, capture the bees in a Nuc box (a small wooden box), and relocate them. 

These swarms are a result of a queen leaving a hive and taking workers with her, and they need to swarm to survive. This method presents a more humane way to get rid of them, and without the use of poison.

In a fortuitous turn of events, our article on bees coincides with National Honey Bee Day, which is August 19. National Honey Bee Day was first established in 2009 for beekeepers, as a means of promoting honey and encouraging educational programs.

So it seems fitting that my educational tour ended with a taste of Bluebird Canyon Farm’s amazing honey, which came from the hives I’d just seen.  

Thank you, Bluebird Canyon Farms and Connor, for the fascinating insight into bees, and thank you, bees, for making that crazy good honey! 

For further information, go to http://www.bluebirdcanyonfarms.com/

They are located at 1085 Bluebird Canyon Drive. Bluebird Farm’s honey is available at the Farmers Market downtown on Saturdays.

For the animal shall not be measured by man…they are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth. ― Henry Beston

One opening left for Mary Aslin’s Day of Painting and Gustatory Delight on Fri Aug 18

There is one opening left for Mary Aslin’s “A Day of Painting and Gustatory Delight at Bluebird Canyon Farms” this Friday Aug 18 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

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Submitted photo

Renowned artist Mary Aslin

The event begins with a pastel demonstration and guidance by Mary and finishes with a charcuterie platter and wine tasting in a lovely view patio area overlooking the farm.

Contact Mary directly to be included at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New edition of “Laguna Beach the Early Days” by Joseph S Thurston is published

Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd announced at Tuesdays’ City Council meeting that a new edition has been published of his grandfather’s book “Laguna Beach the Early Days.” Joseph S. Thurston’s book was first published 1947. He was 78. 

Only a few copies of the original book are known to exist. Boyd said it pops up occasionally on Ebay, at an exorbitant price. 

The new edition has some added content and some great photographs collected by Michelle Boyd, the last one of Grandfather Thurston giving a young and blond Kelly and a neighbor a ride in a wheelbarrow.  

“Michelle and I worked on the book for two years,” said Boyd. “It is available at Laguna Books. Just so you know, we are not making any money on it.”

The book is priced at $21.99 plus tax. The bookshop will host a book signing by the Boyds on Sept 14.

--Barbara Diamond

There be dragons…well, maybe not, but definitely wild creatures this Thursday at the Sawdust

A lion once came to the Sawdust to check out attendees at wildlife painter Chris Hoy’s Wild Animal Encounter event. Baby wolves, too. Lots of other wild creatures. 

And this week, says Hoy, he expects “At least a kangaroo, and I’m pretty sure a bald eagle too – I’m still finalizing plans. Prepare to be surprised!”

The event will take place this coming Thursday, Aug 17, at the Sawdust Art Festival from 12 - 3 p.m.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Chris Hoy with some of his wildlife paintings

The unpredictability of Hoy’s wildlife event is part of the excitement for Sawdust visitors each time the event takes place. The artist works with David Jackson, a close friend of Jack Hanna’s, to bring creatures of all shapes and sizes, and (it must be said), temperaments to the Festival.

Hoy, who has been participating in Laguna’s art festivals for 40 years now, says he is thankful to Laguna for all the support he’s been given over the years for his artwork and his travel. 

“Never thought I’d be able to make a living selling my paintings,” Hoy says.

Seeing bears as a young man made a huge impression on Hoy and changed the trajectory of his life, he tells Stu News Laguna.

Who knows, maybe a kangaroo (or a bald eagle) will have an impact on your life? Come to the event to find out. 

Read more about Chris at his website www.hoysart.net

Dennis’ Tidbits


August 15, 2017

Did somebody build a breakwater?

Did somebody build a breakwater off our coast? It sure seems like it. Nothing but ankle snappers. Might have to change our town’s spelling to Lagoona. Oh well, at least the water’s still warm at 71-74 degrees countywide.

The latest system, Jova, is now a remnant low SW of Baja’s tip. Her life span lasted only two days as a low end tropical storm with winds of 40 mph as she moved to the west under the tip. Jova was initially an Atlantic system last week, named Franklin that made landfall on the east coast of mainland Mexico as a Cat. 1 hurricane. The system held it together enough to cross Mexico finally popping out into the Pacific side just north of Puerto Vallarta where it was given a new name which was Jova. She came and left the building real quick so yet another case of shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Continuing with the magical August of 1972… Category 4 hurricane Hyacinth, the fifth of a record number of seven hurricanes that month came roaring into our swell window on the morning of the 17th packing winds up to 145 mph while moving quickly to the NW at 18 mph. By late afternoon of the 19th her first waves began to appear around 5 p.m. and the surf increased at a rapid pace and by sunset it was already 4-6 ft. and building with every set. As dawn’s first light there were relentless 10 ft. bombs exploding on Brooks St. second and third reef. It was one of the real epic days all along the OC Coast with some sets up to 15 ft. at Newport Point and 18 ft. at the Wedge. The next day was down to 3-5 ft. as the big stuff was only around for around 24 hours due to Hyacinth’s rapid forward speed. 

The surf went flat for two days then BINGO! A new swell was showing at sunrise. At 6 a.m. it was 3-5 ft. At 10 a.m. it was 6-8 ft. and by that afternoon it was a solid 10 ft.  compliments of Category 3 hurricane Inez which was following almost the exact path of her predecessor except even faster at 20 mph so it was a quick shot. Any faster and her swells would have overtaken their forward motion towards us.

Finally on the 28th, Category 4 JoAnne’s waves arrived but this swell went on through the end of the month as her forward speed was only 8-10 mph so she was in our swell window a lot longer. Conditions were ideal with sunny skies, glassy conditions and water temps in the low 70’s. 

August of 1972 has never been matched to this day for quality weather and surf. August of 1983 and 1992 came close but the ’72 summer was still the best I’ve ever seen. Anyone who was around then I’m sure they won’t argue with that one. 

See y’all on Friday, ALOHA!

Belly dancers bring it to the Sawdust on Aug 20

In these days of gender bending and other related issues, what do men and women all have in common?  Belly dancing…well, there’s a bit of wriggle room in that statement. But it’s true that women love to do it and (sometimes) men love to do it and they (always) love to watch it.

Submitted photo

Laguna Beach’s only belly dancing troupe, JJ & the Habibis

Jheri St. James, principal of JJ & the Habibis Belly Dancing Troupe, says that she’s put together the perfect combination, “Men playing music for dancing women,” St. James says. She’s inviting everyone to enjoy “gender-inclusive fun” at the Sawdust Festival on August 20 at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

There’ll be additional guest performers St. James says, and a parade with live drums at 8 p.m., celebrating 30 years of art expression at the eclectic venue.

For more information, contact Jheri St. James (949) 494-5031, JheriCo.net, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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