Kris Holthaus started beekeeping on a small ranch in Howard, CO in 1978. She had all the necessary animals for milk, eggs, and meat, but also wanted her own honey and the bees to produce the crop. In 1981 after selling her ranch she moved her horse and 5 hives of bees to Ft. Collins, CO. At that time she opened a Western and Wildlife Art Gallery & Custom Frame shop in Downtown Ft. Collins. Throughout the years those backyard hives offered surplus honey to her gallery customers. But it wasn’t until selling the gallery in 1995 that she became aware of a new threat to honey bees, Varroa destructor. Beekeeping was to change forever due to the varroa mites and the accompanying virus’s vectored by them.
With the additional discovery of CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder, it became the norm that beekeepers either treated their beehives with chemicals for varroa and/or tracheal mites or by spring their hives would be dead outs. Not wanting to be eating the residue of chemicals in her honey, she choose not to treat. She choose to allow the bees to fight varroa with genetics, and hygienic traits from her strongest hives. In the early days, there were not many hives that made it through those first winters. But each year with continual queen rearing from the strongest survivors, she had more and more hives successfully overwintering and producing bountiful crops of honey.
Today, varroa mites are still a challenge after a decade or longer. What was an early interest has become her passion and specialty. Raising, breeding, and developing a hardy Colorado treatment free survivor queen bee. Additionally, mite treatments have also evolved. Now with additional research and development beekeepers have additional tools to fight colony losses due to varroa mites… New improved organic treatments are readily available and in use throughout the U.S. Earlier losses due to not treating would now be considered a waste. While breeding stock remains untreated, production colonies that have just produced surplus crops are now monitored more closely to alleviate late fall demise due to seasonal peak mite populations. A balanced Integrated Varroa Managment system is the goal.
The honey crop that is the product of her strong hives, is the main focus in the fall. Starting the end of August, a number of weeks are spent extracting the honey crop. This “liquid gold” and associated bee products are available locally on Saturdays at the Larimer County Farmers Market in Downtown Ft. Collins.
Hardy Colorado overwintered colonies tested here in Colorado, not California!