Buzz worthy: Honey Stinger collaborates with CMC on new beehive
After 20 years as a Steamboat Springs-based company specializing in energy foods made from honey, Honey Stinger now has its first local, company-managed beehive.
In partnership with Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs and biology professor Becky Edmiston, the Honey Stinger hive was installed last month in an electrified enclosure on the hillside above the college campus. The location is home to three other hives managed by Edmiston and the college’s student Beekeeping Club that started in 2012.
On a warm afternoon this week, three employees of Honey Stinger suited up in full beekeeper suits to “check on the girls” — the queen bee and her female worker bees. The longer the employees tended their new hive, the farther the Italian honey bees flew about. At the peak of summer, the small site may house 50,000 to 60,000 bees, Edmiston said.
In April, three members of the Honey Stinger crew — Shannon Grasser, Emily Scott and Kate Burleson — completed Edmiston’s four-week, one-credit Beekeeping 1 course, which is part of the CMC Sustainability Studies program. Edmiston said the month-long bee biology class provides an engaging topic for CMC students who perk up for lessons about the interesting biology of bees. For example, only the drone bees are male, and their only job is to mate with the queen bee, after which the drones die.
The Honey Stinger employees are now enthusiastic beekeepers with the official role of educators for the 50 employees at the local company as well as community outreach and customer education efforts about the environmental importance of bees and beekeeping. The professor and the employees will work with the bees every two weeks until the fall when bees retreat inside their hives for the winter.
“It feels great for Honey Stinger to be able to connect with our honey heritage on a local level, and through our passion for bees, contribute to Steamboat environmental sustainability,” said Grasser, Honey Stinger senior director of sales. “We look forward to being able to become beekeeping stewards within the community through action, education and partnerships. Through the process we’ve learned there’s already a great beekeeping community here in the Yampa Valley.”
According to nonprofit organization Pollinator Partnership, bees are a key pollinator species in support of some 180,000 flowering plant species, including some 1,200 crops, which translates to contributing to one in three bites of food eaten by humans.
“Pollinators add $217 billion to the global economy, and honey bees alone are responsible for between $1.2 and $5.4 billion in agricultural productivity in the U.S.,” according to Pollinator Partnership.
The Honey Stinger employees plan to take the CMC Beekeeping II class and are encouraging their colleagues to take the first-level class.
“The employees provide good energy and a fresh perspective and will be a force to help educate about bees,” Edmiston said.
The professor said interest in bees and beekeeping continues to grow in Routt County with an estimated 100 area hobby beekeepers. The CMC Beekeeping Club includes some 20 students, while 187 people are members of the Facebook group Routt County Beekeeping Association, a gathering of beekeeping enthusiasts in Northwest Colorado that started in spring 2016. Outlaw Apiaries in Hayden, one of several honey producers in Northwest Colorado, provided the colony of bees for Honey Stinger.
Honey from the CMC hives is harvested by student club members and sold as a fundraiser to help with club expenses. For her three hives at home, Edmiston gives lots of honey as holiday presents.
The Honey Stinger honey will be used for tastings and education, Grasser said. The local honey will not become part of Honey Stinger products, because the honey cannot be certified organic since the bees fly to various properties around campus. Honey for the company’s line of products comes from an organic operation on an island off of the coast of Brazil, Grasser said.
The professor said mid-May through the end of June is swarm season for local bees, where large natural hives can split in half. Locals who find a new hive of bees in the wrong place on their property can call the Colorado State University Extension office to request rehoming.
A swarm is easy to rehome from a tree or fence post, Edmiston said. Yet, bees that have entered a home or attic are a little harder to work with, but rehoming is still possible.
“It scares people, but bees are actually pretty docile,” said Edmiston, who recommends people not swat at bees, who have compound eyes and can interpret movement as a threat.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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