Palisade swarms with festival

Rebecca Dilbeck, 10, wins first place in the International Honeybee Festival Spelling Bee on Saturday afternoon in Palisade’s Town Plaza. Presenting the prize is Ellen Scott, dressed in proper attire and representing the Palisade Chamber of Commerce.

Hallie Grimsley, 2, pushes a stuffed bee Saturday afternoon during the Honeybee Festival in downtown Palisade..

A honeybee pinwheel spins in the wind during the festival in downtown Palisade.

Bees can annoy, frighten and have the potential to inflict pain if they get ticked off.

But before anyone is tempted to coat a hive in insecticide, organizers and participants in the fifth annual International Honeybee Festival that took place Friday and Saturday in downtown Palisade want to remind people of the insects’ better qualities.

First, honeybees help make honey and produce possible. Richard Skaer, co-owner of Z’s Orchard at 315 33 3/4 Road in Palisade, said his bees and their pollinating abilities help increase production on his fruit trees.

Skaer said he has lost half of the dozen honeybee colonies he started with more than a decade ago, something he said people with bees are dealing with all over the globe.

“We’re losing them, and we don’t quite know why,” he said. “I think they refer to it as ‘bee decline.’ “

Colorado Mesa University assistant biology professor Gary McCallister spoke about beekeeping Saturday at the festival.

He said honeybees are a lot more docile than most people think, and small colonies can be easy to maintain.

Bee losses can be higher for larger, more-complicated commercial beekeeping operations, which McCallister said can lead to the spread of disease and unhealthy conditions among bees and may be contributing to bee population declines.

“We need a thousand beekeepers with one hive instead of one beekeeper with one thousand hives,” McCallister said.

McCallister said there aren’t enough bees in the Grand Valley, considering how much fruit and agricultural production takes place here. While other parts of the state have numerous beekeeping clubs, locally there is just one: the Western Colorado Beekeeper Association, of which McCallister is president.

“The whole point of this (festival) is to promote beekeeping or at least to show the importance of bees so people don’t spray insecticide every time they get stung,” he said.

Bee populations are shrinking worldwide, but Z’s Orchard co-owner Carol Zadrozny said the honeybee festival has consistently grown. The festival began with a small cluster of vendors but now encompasses two blocks.

“It has the potential to be really big because we’re the only honeybee festival on the Western Slope,” she said.

Zadrozny said she hopes people come away from the festival feeling bees are an important part of life, not an annoyance.

“It’s all about agriculture and making this a place for educating our public,” she said.


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