Sugarloaf, Colorado: “The bees might think you are a bear,” speculates five year-old beekeeper Noelle. I am wearing a dark blue mechanic onesy with “Louie” ironed to the front. Noelle lives on Sugarloaf mountain where bears are close neighbors. She is thinking like a mountain bee as she gives me the look over. While I stay sting-free, Noelle’s bee knowledge and intuition humbles me.
Tracy, a mother and engineer hailing from Canada, and Noelle, a bee enthusiast who has already caught a swarm of bees by night, have invited me to their home to learn about their bees. Their cluster of brightly painted hives feels new, young, creative, exciting, ripe for discovery. It’s a haven for a young entrepreneur. Noelle shows me her bee inspired creations: wax lip-balm pink from mica, hive shaped candles, and bright cards. We top it off with a bite of delicious honey comb, it is white gold straight from the hive. Needless to say, the fresh tangy taste still gives me goosebumps.
Years of experience: two years
Hive Types: Langstrom and Top Bar
Location: Sugarloaf Mountain, CO. Elevation 6,200 ft. Lat 40/Long -105
Flowers: Dandelions, Choke Cherries, Horehound, & mountain wildflowers.
Trick of the trade: Squirt bees lightly with lavender-scented water to nudge them out-of-the-way when working with the box frames.
How they got hooked: A next-door neighbor with 10 years of experience introduced them to the hobby.
Beekeeping role model: Julie Finley, a woman who wears a tank top and sandals when working with bees. She has a gentle open-minded way about keeping bees.
How bees have inspired Tracy and Noelle: We have learned to pay close attention to different blooms and watch all pollinators busy at work. My favorite fact is that there are 19,500 species of bees, and there are more species of bees and wasps combined than there are of plants.
Their advice for newcomers: The bee world is captivating, and the honey, wax, and pollination are a bonus. We have over 100,000 honey bees on our property and Noelle has never been stung, except by a lone wasp. Noelle says you should keep bees because they give you yummy honey and are fun to watch!
Their challenges in keeping bees: Trying to understand what our bees are doing, but that’s part of the fun. Even beekeepers of 15 years are taking beginner bee classes and attending BCBA and NCBA (Colorado Beekeeping groups) meetings. Of course, you can be laid back and have a happy hive. One challenge has been balancing time between mothering, working part-time, a co-op garden and our own, new chickens, and of course my husband. I am thankful that Noelle enjoys the same things as I do (when not hot or hungry).
How to buy Farmgirl’s honey: visit Fancy Tiger’s Holiday Handmade craft-fair in Denver (http://fancytiger.com/holidayhandmade.html). Or travel to Sugarloaf mountain, there will be a sign at the end of the road and Noelle is ready to put-up shop and sell you her delicious products.