So, you want to be a beekeeper? Beekeeping can be therapeutic, especially for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Veterans Homestead Project, a nonprofit focused on training veterans in regenerative agriculture, held a basics of beekeeping workshop Saturday morning at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 403 in Durango.
Carol Tyrrell with the Four Corners Beekeepers Association gave more than 50 attendees of various ages an introduction to taking care of a hive.
“Beekeeping is very involved and there is a lot to learn,” she said. “When you go into a beehive, your world changes. There is so much you can learn just from sitting in front of a hive watching them.”
Saturday’s workshop covered how to care for honey bees, the equipment needed and what species of bees do best in Southwest Colorado.
Tyrrell said a strong honey bee colony has upwards of 80,000 bees in a single hive.
Declines in bee population have been a concern in the U.S. because they play an important role in the ecosystem by pollinating plants.
A honey bee can pollinate 50 to 100 plants in a single trip.
“We need to take this decline seriously,” Tyrrell said. “As long as we keep a healthy environment for our bees, it is healthy for everything else out there.”
Honey bees, much like other living creatures, vary in traits such as temperament and productivity.
Tyrrell said beginner beekeepers should consider buying Carniolan honey bees because they are resilient.
“They don’t need a lot of fuel over the winter,” Tyrrell said. “Last year was horrid because we lost a lot of plants and berries during the frost in June. If we have a cold snap that freezes our blossoms, we have no food.”
She said Italian honey bees also thrive in hot, dry conditions, which is typical of Southwest Colorado.
Tyrrell warned against purchasing honey bees from southern states because they are much more difficult to work with.
“Those bees are contaminated,” she said. “They are much more aggressive, and are not good for beginners.”
People interested in starting a hive can purchase bees from the Four Corners Beekeepers Association. Tyrrell recommends starting with a 3-pound package of bees, which costs about $150.
“A lot of older people and veterans are getting into beekeeping,” she said. “We’ve had interactions with honey bees for more than 10,000 years.”