EAGLE COUNTY — Ranchers in Eagle County are a busy lot. Raising cattle is the main endeavor and tasks include fence mending, repairing ranch equipment, tending to newborns in the spring, branding and a host of other activities.
A rancher is multi-capable, a throwback to the days of doing it alone on the frontier. Many ranchers opt for other activities to bankroll their life choice, such as being an outfitter during hunting season or having their horses pull tourists on sleds. Many ranchers allow hunting and fishing pillages on their property for a fee. Raising cattle is not an armchair profession, hence other activities are necessary to subsidize it. Raising bees is such an endeavor.
‘Give me some (local) honey’
Mike Luark and his wife, Anne, are in the bee business at their ranch on Colorado River Road, outside of Dotsero. Earlier this summer, they harvested honey, which can be purchased at the ranch. The ranch is not hard to find, as it is on the banks of the Colorado River, adjacent to the Colorado River Ranch. Honey in this area has a distinctive flavor due to the unique flowers in that locale.
But the Luarks’ bees are still busy, as are Mike and Anne. At this time of the year, Mike is preparing the hives to be transported to California, where they will pollinate in almond groves.
During a recent visit to the ranch, Mike advised me that the bees were disturbed and “not happy.” Because I didn’t have protective clothing, I opted to shoot photographs from my vehicle. Even so, the unhappy bees gave this intruder a buzz or two, and I opted to keep the windows closed.
Earlier this summer, I was stung by one of the Luarks’ bee’s when I got a little too close to a hive, and the bees were rather passive at that time.
Hive, sweet hive
Mike worked each individual boxed hive and its sleeves, smoking the bees into a passive state. He inspected the sleeves, scraped away undesirable elements, made notes and prepped the hives the up-coming trip.
When asked about the bees’ state this time of year, Anne indicated there is enough honey in the hive for the bees to survive the winter. They go into semi-hibernation and rotate within the colony to keep the queen and the rest of the swarm warm, despite cold temperatures.
After the pollination period in California, the bees are transported to the Grand Valley-Palisade area, then back to the Luark ranch to complete the cycle and commence a new season of honey making on the ranch.
An interesting fact is that bees recognize their home hive and its location, so trips to distant places don’t deter them from returning to their place of origin.
Raymond A. Bleesz lives in Edwards.