"Five beekeepers, six opinions"
I decided this year I wanted to keep bees. I've always loved the earth, my garden, my family, and my animals (not necessarily in that order) so I decided that keeping bees was the next logical step in creating our modern homestead.
We live at an altitude of 7,600+ feet above sea level in the Colorado Rockies. Our location makes my gardening more difficult, as we have a quite short growing season. So I was not surprised that keeping bees at this altitude would require a bit of extra work as well. Everyone I spoke with about bee keeping here told their horror stories about bears, snow, wind and how hard it is to keep the hives alive. Well I'm not one to be told I can't do something, so I took up the challenge and decided to learn all I could and try to be a great beekeeper in Conifer, CO.
The first thing I did was look for a local Denver beekeeping supplies store. Thanks to the wonderful Google, I found To Bee Or Not To Bee at the corner of Coal Mine and Wadsworth. I signed up for their "Introduction to Beekeeping" class, grabbed my notebook, and headed down the hill.
To Bee Or Not To Bee is owned by a really nice young couple who were expecting their first child. Upon arriving for my Intro class the mother-to-be went into labor. This necessitated calling in a substitute teacher, Gregg McMahan from Rocky Mountain Bees. Gregg was captivating. His love and knowledge of keeping bees in Colorado made me SURE that beekeeping was the right decision for me.
I went into the class "knowing" I was going to use a "Top Bar Beehive." I'd been doing my research online. I thought the Top Bar looked good and everyone just raved about them! Thought maybe next year I'd even splurge and buy a "Flow Hive" so all I'd have to do is turn a tap and voila! Honey! This was until about two minutes into the class. Gregg asked if any of us knew what kind of hive they were getting.
I have always been an "overachiever" and "teacher's pet" so my hand went right up! "Top Bar" I say. Then we were entertained with the pluses (very few in his opinions) and the minuses (only one but greater than the pluses).
The big "minus" was that the top bar was designed to hang from a tree in Africa. Here, in Colorado, the bees tend to build a huge "blobby" hive, not staying nicely on the top bar, when making their comb. He said I could try, of course, because of the "pluses" of the hive, but as a novice, maybe starting without having to manage the growing hive's shape would be a good decision.
Then Gregg said, "Remember with beekeeping it's, '5 beekeepers...6 opinions'."
So by the end of the hive conversation, I settled on a Langstroth Hive set up.
Let me know, please, about your luck with a Top Bar Hive at altitude. I'm now keeping my eye on that one for next year.
Next blog... notes from "Introduction to Beekeeping"... or at least the notes I thought to take! :)