by Lisa Boesen
Seacil and Mearlyn Benner are our first Spotlight Beekeepers and we want to give them a shout-out for being generous with their time, thoughts, and experience in beekeeping! The Benners live in Ault, Colorado and have been keeping bees for 15 years. The number of hives has been as high as six and they currently manage two hives.
In the beginning, (like many of us!) Mearlyn was a bit scared of becoming a beekeeper. Seacil wanted to become a beekeeper for many years, but she is allergic to bee stings and was nervous about what to do and how to stay safe. After gathering a lot of information including what to do, how to take care of the bees, what equipment they would need, what to feed them, and how to proceed, they began their new journey. Mearlyn remembers, “We did our research, we took classes on beekeeping with a great person named Rebecca, and buying our equipment and set up before the bees came.”
The Benners enjoy watching the bees coming up to the house where the flowers are, planting the flowers that attract bees, watching the bees bring in the nectar and pollen, and, as a bonus, the honey they get in fall. Although she has a suit, Mearlyn prefers not to go down to where the bees are. She enjoys making the sugar patties, syrup, and what else is needed. Seacil enjoys beekeeping so much that where he worked, he talked so much about the bees that a coworker got into beekeeping!
The 15 years of experience has provided opportunities to see a hive swarm and then learn how to prevent it, lose hives to mites and then learn how to control the mites, and then keep the bees throughout the Northern Colorado winter.
Below are some additional helpful answers the Benners shared in the interview:
What are flowers or trees are in your area that your bees enjoy?
We do a lot of research on what kind of flowers, and trees that attract bees. Every year we go through plant and flower catalogs to find different flowers and plants that we do not have. Then we plant them and wait for the flowers and plants to grow. All the flowers and plants we have are good for the bees and makes our home look good also. We plant sunflowers every year, bee balm, clover almond tree, and wildflower that are geared for the bees, we also live next to corn, alfalfa and grass fields.
What do you do with your harvest? We plan a day to get everything sterilized and get the room ready for the harvest. We have a lot of fun doing the harvest. Every year is different with new challenges. In 2018 we got 130 lbs of honey! Last year we harvested 90 lbs (we did not take out as much honey as we left a lot for the bees to have over the winter). We bottle the honey in quarts, pints, and half-pints jars and sell it to family, friends, and to anyone that wants honey. We have a customer who buys the honey because her son has really bad allergies We also give some as Christmas gifts. Our children and grandchildren have come to expect a quart every Christmas. They let us know if the jar is not in their Christmas package.
What is a quick tip or tool that you have found to be beneficial? Watch your hives closely to keep them from swarming and help them stay healthy and happy!
What would you tell a new beekeeper coming into the science for the first time? To enjoy all the aspects of beekeeping. It is a lot of fun!