Seeing is bee-lieving

Colo. beekeepers hope to educate with hives

Beekeeper Chad Ragland, left, discusses with hive builder Joshua Lloyd the possibility of expanding the enclosed glass hive to accommodate the growing population of Italian honeybees inside The Red Barn Farms and Gardens produce store in Grand Junction. Enlarge photo

Gretel Daugherty/The Daily Sentinel

Beekeeper Chad Ragland, left, discusses with hive builder Joshua Lloyd the possibility of expanding the enclosed glass hive to accommodate the growing population of Italian honeybees inside The Red Barn Farms and Gardens produce store in Grand Junction.

GRAND JUNCTION (AP)

Tarrin George and Levi Miller have created a home for 12,000 Italian honeybees to live inside their Palisade fruit and vegetable stand, and they’re hoping folks from around the region will take an interest in these small but vital agricultural linchpins.

The bees live in an observation hive made of acrylic glass and wood, using clear tubes to transport them from the hive to the outside world, closer to farm crops and far away from customers.

Chad Ragland, owner of Grand Junction-based Apis Hive and Honey Co., mentioned the idea of an observation hive during one of his regular visits to stock the stand with honey, which he harvests from his own hives.

A year later, George and Miller had built a hive at The Red Barn Farms and Gardens, 3419 U.S. Highway 6, and bought a starter set of 12,000 honeybees – about 3 pounds’ worth – from Ragland.

“It really does give people a chance to see bees in their natural environment. They draw the comb out the same way they would in an old tree, and it’s a great way to see the bees doing what they would do naturally,” Ragland said.

George’s fiance, Miller, said he looked at different designs of the low-maintenance top bar hives for about a year before deciding to build his own.

“I looked at about 50 different designs, but I’d never seen one that had a whole wall of Plexiglas,” Miller said. “We put together our own design, and ... it’s worked out pretty great so far.”

George and Miller have witnessed many different reactions from people when they see the hive, but their favorite is that of children.

“They just think it’s the neatest thing,” Miller said. “Most of them are scared at first, but once they realize that (the bees) have to go outside to get out, they get right up in there and start looking.”

George said she hopes the observation hive serves as both entertainment and education about the necessity of healthy honeybees in local agriculture, especially for younger kids, day care facilities and schools.

“I’m hoping to see more people with knowledge of beekeeping, on how agriculture works and how much we rely on the bees for our success and, really, our survival,” George said.

George said the best time to see the bees in action is until the middle of September, when they will harvest the hive and start moving the bees to their winter home.

Someone always is available to answer questions about the hive, and the most observant visitors can score a sweet reward. Anyone who spots the queen bee gets a free honey stick.

“It’s so important for people to learn ... how they can help the bee population,” George said.

“We want them to see it, and we want this to be used as an educational tool.”

About 25,000 to 30,000 bees live in an enclosed hive in The Red Barn Farms and Gardens’ store in Grand Junction. Heather Baskin, left, observes with her son Joss, 6. Enlarge photo

Gretel Daugherty/The Daily Sentinel

About 25,000 to 30,000 bees live in an enclosed hive in The Red Barn Farms and Gardens’ store in Grand Junction. Heather Baskin, left, observes with her son Joss, 6.

Bee owners Tarrin George and Levi Miller say their favorite reaction is that of kids. Izabell Lloyd, 5, of Clifton watches the hive at work in The Red Barn Farms and Gardens’ produce stand in Grand Junction. Enlarge photo

Gretel Daugherty/The Daily Sentinel

Bee owners Tarrin George and Levi Miller say their favorite reaction is that of kids. Izabell Lloyd, 5, of Clifton watches the hive at work in The Red Barn Farms and Gardens’ produce stand in Grand Junction.