2020 Covid-19, Fall Bears, Fires and Winter

I think we can all agree that 2020 has proven to be the most challenging year many of us have faced. Lets start with the Covid-19 early year kick off. Who knew what to expect as the beginning of this pandemic exploded. Luckily with all the precautions and leadership from Larimer County Extension we were able to complete a Downtown Farmers Market season May – October which allowed continued sales of our chemical free honey products and lavender plants. Although limited to vendors with “essential” products in the spring we saw both the numbers of vendors and products increase throughout the summer. Thanks to you all for your continued support and trust in our products.

We also produced the largest number of 5 frame nucleus colonies and equipment deliveries in May/June that we have ever offered. In spite of the pandemic, many of you were committed to following through to becoming beekeepers and we appreciate your interest and confidence in our bees. Locally adapted, managed for production and hardiness, I know how to provide good bees.

After a great summer, it became very apparent that we were entering another drought cycle. It seems each year residents in Ft. Collins are reminded how serious living in the mountains and foothills of the front range of Colorado can be. August 13, 2020 was the beginning of another record breaking fire west of Ft. Collins. For many months it was impossible to work outside with the bees. Smoke, ash, wind. Finally the Cameron Peak fire is 100% contained after becoming the largest wildfire in CO history.

Due to the drought in the foothills, we saw firsthand the ripple down effects on local wildlife. While currents, berries, fruits, grasses provide area forage in normal years, this fall they were dried up and very scarce. Even water sources. That transferred in my case to area black bears working their way east towards and through the city of Ft. Collins in search of food to ready for winter.

My bee yards have been in the same location since 1981 and I have never been effected by bears. But late in August, 2020, I had my first encounter. A sow with 2 cubs visited 5 evenings. A little sample the first evening. More serious each night after that. That transferred into electric fence installations, trail cams, and no sleep trying to protect these bee colonies. I can testify that bears like the adult bees, larva, wax, honey, pollen and leave the wood in toothpick form. Thanks to the Colorado Division of Wildlife for their help in the electric fencing and their efforts to help prevent additional damage and loss in my apiary.

With most of 2020 behind us we are looking forward to 2021. The bees are now packed up to spend their protected Colorado winter. Additional information on 2021 5 frame nucleus colonies will soon be available.