Get buzzed: Tabernash Honey Co. keeps honey supply local while safeguarding bee population
Bees, by the numbers
Tabernash Honey Company has
12 bee yards
There are 30,000-80,000 bees per hive
Doing the math, that’s a total of about 13,440,000 bees
Colorado’s honeybee death rate was 38 percent in 2016.
More than 30 percent of the world’s food and flowering plants rely on pollinators.
Bees support $18 to $27 billion in crop yields every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On a mid-size plot of land tucked behind the Granby Grand County Airport sit dozens of wooden boxes stacked in rows. A faint but steady buzz fills the air. It’s a cool October day and the thousands of bees that fill each box fly lazily in and out.
The bees have finished with their work for the season. Now, as snow coats the ground, the hives have been packed up and will soon be shipped to California to help pollinate the almond crop in early February.
In the spring, the bees will return to Grand County to begin pollinating and producing honey again.
Such is the cycle for the hives of the Tabernash Honey Co.
“If you just let the bees be bees (…) they really do well,” said Brett Gingery, owner of Tabernash Honey Co. “It’s just fun.”
INTRODUCING TABERNASH HONEY CO.
Gingery started the Tabernash Honey Co. this year as an offshoot of Outlaw Apiaries, which he founded with a partner almost a decade ago. Gingery said he started the Tabernash spin-off to keep the honey as local as possible.
Outlaw Apiaries had hives in both Grand and Routt counties while Tabernash Honey Co. will have its yards solely in Grand County.
“We will be exclusively in Grand County,” he said. “One of the reasons our honey is so thick and sweet, I think, is the low moisture content in the air and we don’t heat it.”
Gingery works with partners Aric Kloss, Reggie Paulk and Rosemary White to sustain Tabernash Honey Co.’s 448 hives, while producing raw honey and beeswax for sale.
The company sells its honey in eight-, 22- and 48-ounce jars, as well as a whopping half-gallon option. Gingery said that production can vary each year, but they sell out every season.
This year the bees produced about 4,000 pounds of honey, but Gingery said some years they have produced as much as 14,000 pounds.
“With as dry as it was (this year), the plants had no nectar,” he explained.
IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORTING LOCAL HONEY
One of the main ways Tabernash Honey differentiates its product is by producing raw honey, which means the honey is not heated and the natural pollen is still in the product. This is important because leaving the honey raw enhances its flavors.
“The difference between a local beekeeper or a raw honey provider is that a lot big honey corporations will heat the honey to a really high temperatures to purify it (…), but it’s really not good for the flavor and if you’re trying to eat honey for allergies, it gets rid of all the pollen,” White said. “We don’t do anything to it, we just jar it.”
White also highlighted the key role bees play in food supply.
As pollinators, the bees not only help with the almond crop in California, but also the cherry, berry, peach and citrus crops on the West Coast. Overall, bees support $18 to $27 billion in crop yields every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Grand County’s bees also support native plant species and pollinate dandelions, clover fields and rabbit brush across the county during the spring and summer.
Supporting a local apiary, or beekeeping operation, also keeps the bees healthy since they are exposed to fewer pesticides.
“Luckily, we’ve been very proactive,” Gingery said. “With everything the bees are facing as far as pesticides and all the other diseases (…), those two things coupled together are hard on them, but for sure pesticides are just atrocious on them.”
Keeping its bees away from pesticides is a focus for Tabernash Honey Co. because pesticides can harm or kill them, according to White. Unfortunately, the challenges of beekeeping have evolved from worrying about being stung to trying to prevent diseases that can kill whole colonies.
While scientists are still studying Colony Collapse Disorder, which is a mysterious phenomenon where the majority of worker bees desert the colony, some federal agencies believe it is possible that pesticides play a role.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, around 30 percent of total hives lost in 2013 were attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder. Luckily, Gingery said his apiary hasn’t been affected as much as the average, losing only 10 to 20 percent of his bees to the disorder.
To keep his bees safe while they are in California, Gingery uses a bee broker who cares for them and keeps them from pesticides or other diseased colonies.
Aside from Colony Collapse Disorder, Tabernash Honey Co. also has to worry about varroa mites, a parasitic mite that exclusively attacks honey bees. White said they treat all of their hives by feeding the bees a medicated sugar patty.
While there are some challenges to beekeeping, Gingery said he initially got into the practice because of its simplicity.
The European honey bees return to Grand County from California around April or May and the hives will be placed in any of Tabernash Honey Co.’s 12 yards. White said they will check each hive to maintain its health.
Sometimes, if a hive is too large, White said they will split it up; other times, if a hive is weak, they will feed the bees syrup to help jump-start honey production. Then they let the bees go to work.
“In the summer, (we visit) every two weeks,” White said. “We like our numbers pretty low so we can take care of them.”
When it comes time to collect the honey and wax, the beekeepers drive the bees to the bottom of the hive using smoke and collect the full frames. Using a hot blade the wax that covers the fresh honey is scraped off and then the frames are placed in a centrifuge to extract the honey.
Once the honey is bottled and the wax is cleaned, it goes out into the market.
Tabernash Honey, currently still labeled as Outlaw Apiaries, can be found at local retailers including Country Ace Hardware and Java Lava Cafe in Granby, Fireside Market & Eatery in Winter Park, Murdoch’s in Fraser and the Granby Farmers Market in the summer. Some businesses also use the honey in their own products, including Lion Head Coffee in Granby and Elevation Pizza in Fraser.
HOW TO HELP
Other than buying local honey, there are a number of different ways to support bee populations, since without them, the world’s food supply would basically vanish.
Colorado recently designated a section of I-76, stretching from Denver to Nebraska, as a pollinator highway, which means the Colorado Department of Transportation will take special precautions to promote a pollinator-friendly environment.
On a smaller scale, White suggested planting native plants, or allowing some weeds, such as dandelions, to grow, as well as building a bee bath, which is just a small basin of water with twigs or rocks for bees to land on and drink.
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