Fruita agrees to let residents keep hives

From left, Howard Martsolf, his son, Andy, and Andy’s stepdaughter, Isabella Guillen, check on their beehives at Andy’s home in Grand Junction.

Bees in the hive at the Martsolf home in Grand Junction.

Have you heard the buzz in Fruita?

Fruita city councilors recently gave the nod for city residents to keep honeybees.

Beekeeping is allowed in Grand Junction, Palisade and Mesa County, including rural areas near Fruita, but keeping bees had not been previously allowed within Fruita city limits.

Councilors changed the ordinance in response to requests from some residents — one being Andy Martsolf — who wanted to keep a beehive or two in their backyard.

“Research has shown that urban areas are good areas for bees,” Martsolf said. “They’re needed everywhere and the idea of having them in cities is nothing new.”

Martsolf and members of the Western Colorado Beekeepers Association said Fruita appeared to be one of the last holdouts in allowing residents to keep bees.

Fruita resident Lisa Conner said during a meeting that Fruita is an agricultural community and the loss of bees could affect the local economy.

Suzanne Bjorge, vice president of the Western Colorado Beekeepers Association, said that pollination is needed to grow all kinds of food. She said people shouldn’t be worried about getting stung by honeybees, because they’re gentle unless provoked.

“Very few people are allergic to bees,” she said. “They’re not going to see people out and try to sting them. I think people are becoming more aware of the need for bees.”

Martsolf, his father, Howard, and his stepdaughter, Isabella, keep bees and market the honey and products as Bella’s Bees.

“I think it’s a sign that Fruita still values its agriculture roots,” Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney said after the unanimous vote. “We want to make sure that Fruita values bees.”

Martsolf plans to eventually put one hive in his Fruita backyard.

By spring, the Martsolfs will have added a dozen colonies of bees to their collection of about five hives. Their flying pollinators are kept at hives north of town near an apple orchard.

“I’m not really scared of bees,” said Isabella, 11, showing her collection of mostly bees trying to stay warm in the hive. “It keeps me active. I’m lucky because I’m making money.”

Isabella has been busy this winter painting bee boxes in pastel shades of yellow and blue. Bees appreciate the light colors, she said, because they associate darker colors with predators, such as the brown of a bear.

The family likes to move some bee colonies around the Grand Valley and compare how the honey tastes from different environments.

“Honey, like wine, can taste different depending on where the nectar is gathered,” Martsolf said.

Martsolf said he thought Fruita’s ordinance against beekeeping was outdated.

“I think governments pass ordinances and if they’re not challenged to review them it’s off their radar,” he said. “It’s great that they agreed to review it and the fact that sailed through uncontested. I see bees as beneficial. There aren’t very many communities in Colorado that prohibit bees.”


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