Beekeepers drawn to new area group
The room was buzzing as nearly four-dozen people gathered recently to discuss starting a beekeepers association in the Grand Valley.
“We were really surprised at how many people showed up,” said Ryan Hudson, who teaches bee management as part of the agriculture classes at Fruita Monument High School.
“Beekeeping is a tough hobby because you’re managing insects,” he said. “So this is a great opportunity to join hobbyists and commercial beekeepers together.”
Gauging interest was the primary goal of Gary McCallister, professor of biology and biological science at Mesa State College, who conducted the meeting at the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension offices.
McCallister has kept bees as a hobby for many years but realized he and others could benefit from a formal organization that could provide education and social support.
“I see this as a positive thing that we can do to support beekeeping,” he said.
People who attended the meeting informally elected five volunteers to serve on an executive committee. They will establish the bylaws and a constitution for what is tentatively being called the Western Colorado Beekeepers Association.
“The bottom line of the meeting was a unanimous vote to start some sort of beekeepers association that would be affiliated with the Colorado State Beekeepers Association. We’re quite excited about that,” McCallister said.
He envisions the organization serving four primary purposes: educating the public about bees; buying insects in bulk as a group; acting as a voice for pollinators politically; and bringing beekeepers together socially.
“Everybody likes to get together and eat honey,” he said.
Bob Hammon, area extension agent of entomology and agronomy for CSU, said the amount of interest in the club surprised him.
“I was stunned. I thought 10 or 15 people would show up,” he said.
As the area’s expert on insects, Hammon said he receives numerous calls each year from the public wanting to know about the health of area bees and how they can start their own hive.
“There’s a lot of news about the decline of the honey bee,” Hammon said, “and I think people find that interesting, and the appeal of producing their own honey is appealing.”
Having an organization in which to point the public helps.
“I see this as a bank of information within the local beekeepers,” he said.
Most importantly, the members will be able to share information about actual hives within the valley, rather than rely on beekeeping information about other areas found on the Internet, Hammon said.
Barbara Youngwirth, a farmer in Delta who is serving on the executive committee, said the group already wrote a “very rough draft” of bylaws and is well on its way to formally establishing the club.
As an amateur beekeeper, Youngwirth is looking forward to having mentors.
“It’s sort of like parenting. It helps so much to have someone with first-hand experience,” she said.