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The Honey Lab and Visits with Southern Colorado Beekeepers

Originally posted at Top-Bar-Beehives.com:

Honey SignAlong the Rio Grande in southern Colorado lies Alamosa, a small rural city that is excited about honeybees.  Early this month, I connected with Karen Lemke, a backyard beekeeper, community mentor and lover of honeybees.  Not knowing what to expect when I arrived in Alamosa, I was kindly greeted and we, almost instantly, began to talk about top bar beehives and honeybees.  Similar to many others whom I’ve had the opportunity to interview, Karen expressed her concerns about the chemicals being used (both agriculturally and within the City) and the overall health of her colonies.  Having had some loses, she continues to be optimistic and is helping build a healthier community.  Over the years, Karen has worked with the Alamosa City Council to decriminalize beekeepers and honeybee hives and ran for the Mosquito Control District, in hopes of reducing the amount of poisons being sprayed along the roadways, in parks and throughout the greater community.

Beehive wagonAfter our interview, Karen received a text message from Brent Edelen, a sixth generation beekeeper and owner of Grampa’s Gourmet honey.  Excited about the opportunity to meet another beekeeper, we left Karen’s house and went to Brent’s new store called the Honey Lab where he sells his varietal types of honey.  At the store, I sampled various honeys and learned about Brent’s beekeeping experiences which started when he was four.  After years of working with his uncle and other family members, he began his own bee business, providing pollination services and extracting honey.  In 2006, he lost many of his colonies and has since stopped participating in the pollination of California almonds.   Today, Brent is focused on selling varietal honey, bee packages and providing the community with resources through his shop.  Over the next couple of months, the Honey Lab will be hosting a variety of workshops, ranging from lessons on how to make candles to discussions regarding hive management.

As the night came to a close, Karen and I headed back to her house to check on her bees.  With headlamps shining with red light, we opened her three top bar beehives and checked on the queens, who recently came with her packages.  Without much difficulty, we were able to do our work in the dark backyard and closed the hives up without much disturbance.  Unlike the bees who would be busy all night building comb and tending to the queen, I then went to sleep in order to prepare for my morning trip down to Santa Fe.