GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Tarrin George and Levi Miller have created a home for 12,000 Italian honeybees to live inside their Palisade fruit and vegetable stand, and they're hoping folks from around the Grand Valley will take an interest in these small but vital agricultural linchpins.
The bees live in an observation hive made of acrylic glass and wood, using clear tubes to transport them from the hive to the outside world, closer to farm crops and far away from customers.
Chad Ragland, owner of Grand Junction-based Apis Hive and Honey Co., mentioned the idea of an observation hive during one of his regular visits to stock the stand with honey, which he harvests from his own hives.
A year later, George and Miller had built a hive at The Red Barn Farms and Gardens, 3419 U.S. Highway 6, and bought a starter set of 12,000 honeybees — about 3 pounds worth — from Ragland.
"It really does give people a chance to see bees in their natural environment. They draw the comb out the same way they would in an old tree, and it's a great way to see the bees doing what they would do naturally," Ragland said.
George's fiance, Miller, said he looked at different designs of the low-maintenance top bar hives for about a year before deciding to build his own.
"I looked at about 50 different designs, but I'd never seen one that had a whole wall of Plexiglas," Miller said. "We put together our own design and ... it's worked out pretty great so far."
George and Miller have witnessed many different reactions from people when they see the hive, but their favorite is that of children.
"They just think it's the neatest thing," Miller said. "Most of them are scared at first, but once they realize that (the bees) have to go outside to get out, they get right up in there and start looking."
George said she hopes the observation hive serves as both entertainment and education about the necessity of healthy honeybees in local agriculture, especially for younger kids, day care facilities and schools.
"I'm hoping to see more people with knowledge of beekeeping, on how agriculture works and how much we rely on the bees for our success and, really, our survival," George said.
According to George, the best time to see the bees in action is until the middle of September, when they will harvest the hive and start moving the bees to their winter home.
Someone is always available to answer questions about the hive, and the most observant visitors can score a sweet reward. Anyone who spots the queen bee gets a free honey stick.
"It's so important for people to learn ... how they can help the bee population," George said. "We want them to see it, and we want this to be used as an educational tool."
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