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ABQ Honeybees – Hay’s Honey Farm, TJ Carr & Megan Mahoney

Originally posted on Top-Bar-Beehives.com:

Hays Honey FarmAs scheduled, I traveled from Santa Fe to Albuquerque on Thursday morning to interview local beekeepers about their experiences, challenges and hopes for the future.  In a small town called Bosque Farms, south of ABQ, I went to Hays’ Honey and Apple Farm to meet with Ken Hays, who has been beekeeping in New Mexico since 1970.  Plagued by allergies and arthritis, Ken received a beehive from a friend and began eating his locally produced honey and practicing bee venom therapy on himself, which immediately cured the problems he was experiencing.  From that point on, he continued to learn more and more about honeybees and has served as the New Mexico Beekeepers Association President for many years, until recently.  With years of experience, Ken is now focused on building up his colonies, selling honey and candles, and hosting many, free, classes throughout the year at his home and bee-yard in Bosque Farms.  As we talked, he told me about the current Queen rearing project that him and Megan Mahoney are working on, which is aimed at creating locally adapted Queens.  During our conversation, he dialed Megan’s number and put her on the phone with me, since he figured that I would enjoy meeting with her while I was in town.  While I had heard of her before, through TJ Carr and the folks up in Denver, she wasn’t originally on my interview list and I felt happy to have been put in touch with her, especially since she was available to get together later that afternoon.

TJ Carr Top Bar BeehiveAs the hour approached noon, I said goodbye to Ken and headed to northeast Alburqurque to meet TJ Carr for lunch.  Arriving at Annie’s Soup Kitchen, I met TJ and we started to discuss honeybees.  In the early 1990’s, TJ had moved to a new home in ABQ and wanted to grow cucumbers and other plants.  After a year or two, he noticed that his plants weren’t being visited by any pollinators and therefore hadn’t produced any fruits.  Although hand pollination with a paint brush helped bring about some cucumbers, he grew tied of that method and ended up talking to Patrick Pynes, my current mentor, who was recommended to TJ as someone who could help him with his problem.  In that initial conversation, Patrick explained the concept of top bar beehives to TJ, which caught his interest.  Almost 23 years later, TJ is still utilizing top bar beehives and has worked on refining his designs, tools and management practices.  Like many others, TJ now participates in many local workshops and beekeeping panels, promoting top bar beehives and chemical-free management practices.

Top Bar Beehives on RoofAfter our lunch, we headed over to TJ’s house where he showed me his beehives and around his permaculture gardens.  Above numerous rows of tomatoes, chiles, eggplants, and beans, three top bar beehives sat on his urban roof-top and one hive sat beside the foot tall corn stalks.  While I was there, TJ opened up and examined one hive, explaining his philosophy and hive design opinions to me while the calm honeybees buzzed around us.  After that, I formally interviewed TJ, capturing some of his stories and experiences on video for others to learn from and then I eventually prepared to leave.

Since I had also made arrangements to meet with Megan Mahoney, I had to say thank you and goodbye to TJ, and then headed to my next stop.  As I drove to west Albuquerque, I reflected on my conversations with TJ and all of the other beekeepers.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve learned a great deal about honeybees from everyone I’ve met and I feel extremely privileged to have been able to meet with so many wonderful people, all of whom have warmly welcomed me into their homes, gardens and bee-yards.

Megan Mahoney HoneybeesWith feelings of gratitude, I then drove into Megan’s driveway and got out of the car.  From behind a building, Megan appeared and welcomed me to her home.  After drinking a glass of water and chatting for a few minutes, Megan asked if I wanted to help her with some hives, which of course was something I was interested in.  In the backyard, we checked on a few hives and  moved one colony into a larger hive, since it had outgrown its original space.  After moving the combs of bees, we then sat outside of her house on the patio, where she told me stories about her first initial beekeeping experiences with Dr. Marla Spivak at the University of Minnesota, her more recent commercial Queen rearing jobs in California and her local Queen breeding work with Ken Hays in ABQ.  Although I had already come to the conclusion that Queen rearing is an important step towards honeybee sustainability, my discussion with Megan further solidified my hopes and dreams for what I plan on doing in my own life. While we can currently import queens, packages and nucs from large bee farms in California and Texas, this dependency is ultimately unsustainable and should be addressed in order to create zone hardy, locally adapted honeybees.  Through Queen rearing, we can begin to raise survivor bees that can handle various, local, climates, foraging sources and other zone specific challenges that are tough on imported colonies.  Because of this perspective, I greatly enjoyed talking with Megan and I hope that I can find a way to work with her in the future on raising locally adapted queens and honeybees in our bioregion in northern Arizona.

Beehive PlantersAs the sun began to set, her partner Adam eventually came home and I was invited to stay for dinner.  Already feeling grateful to have met Megan, and everyone else along the honey trail, I was happy to stay and build upon our friendship.  As we ate watermelon, Kimchi, salad and hamburgers, Julian, their 6-year old neighbor stopped by to get help with his broken toy car and to see what was happening around the neighborhood.  After dinner, we talked some more about honeybees and Adam’s woodworking projects, and eventually brought the night to an end with some hugs and a few goodbyes.