Eagle Ranch Golf Course employees help bee population with onsite apiary
Special to the Daily
Facts about bees
• 1 pound of honey is equal to 2 million flowers and 55,000 miles traveled
• Bees use a special “dance” to tell one another how far and in what direction to find good sources of pollen
• A bee flies at 15 mph
• A bee visits 50 to 100 flowers on one collection trip
EAGLE — When thinking about large-scale environmental concerns, issues such as global warming and deforestation often overshadow the tiny honeybee.
But the rapid decline of the bee population will eventually lead to a problem much bigger than climate change or fewer trees. Bees are an essential part of the natural ecosystem, as they pollinate plants, and without them, the global food supply would plummet.
As of last September, a world without bees is no longer an irrational fear. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared eight species of bees officially endangered. This list includes the rusty patch bumblebee, which was once found in abundance in Colorado.
Now, Eagle Ranch Golf Course is doing what it can to protect the remaining bee population by building and operating its own apiary.
Eagle Ranch started this project through its partnership with the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, which helps golf courses remain eco-friendly and manage surrounding wildlife habitat. Eagle Ranch Golf Course started its apiary in 2014, and it has grown to house nearly 6,000 bees.
Derek Rose, an employee at Eagle Ranch Golf Course, helped start and run the apiary and can now add “beekeeping” to his job description.
“When we started with the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, we were doing small things like building bird houses, which was fine, but we wanted to do something that made a bigger impact,” Rose said. “(Beekeeping) is a great project for us because we have the perfect spot for it.”
Rose explained that the apiary is made up of two hives consisting of a pair of brood boxes, which is where the queen bee lays her eggs in the comb and the worker bees store their honey. When the boxes become full of honey, the beekeepers add honey supers, which act as extra storage.
The course workers at Eagle Ranch Golf Club took it upon themselves to learn the ins and outs of beekeeping and learned most of their skills from books and YouTube videos, along with the help of Apis Hive Co., based in Grand Junction. But, as Rose found, the bees do much of the grunt work, and he said they are “pretty good at taking care of themselves, as long as you provide them a good environment to live in.”
Rose said the main jobs of the course workers tending to the bees are to make sure the queen is staying healthy and laying eggs and to watch that the hive doesn’t acquire any pests, such as lice, or pesticides. They also help insulate the brood boxes come winter so the bees don’t have to do it all themselves.
“So far, our bees have done really well,” Rose said. “The queen has been keeping up, and the workers have been able to find food.”
The hives have done so well, in fact, that Rose predicts he will harvest 100 to 150 pounds of honey this fall, which will be available to buy in the Eagle Ranch Golf Course pro shop.
Eagle Ranch Golf Course’s apiary has been a rewarding project not just for Rose, but also for the local environment. Rose said it’s important for people to understand just how crucial bees are to our lives here in the Vail Valley and to the planet as a whole. Rose said this is the least he can do to aid in the prevention of an environmental catastrophe.
“Go into the produce section of the grocery store and look around; the only reason any of those things are there are because of pollinators like bees,” Rose said. “We want to do anything we can to help an insect that is so beneficial to us. They are essential for our survival.”
The graduates of Vail Mountain School’s class of 2019 will be off to far-flung destinations next fall, set to enter college in one of 16 different states or explore the world on a gap year. One grad is even attending college in Canada.