Hello, my name is Les Crowder and I have been entrusted with the leadership of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association for the year 2012. I have been keeping bees in New Mexico for a little more than 35 years. I have seen lots of changes in beekeeping over those years. The people involved, the flowers in the landscape, the climate, and the culture have all shifted.
The biggest change is people like you. If you are reading this you must have some interest in keeping bees. There was a time when there were a few large commercial beekeepers with a few thousand hives each in the wild lands and farmland. They sold honey in barrels. As they have gone out of business many people with a few hives here and there and many more women beekeepers are taking better care of fewer hives. Since it has gotten harder to keep bees we need more beekeepers trying new ideas. We need you with your unique way of thinking to see a solution that we have not yet seen. So welcome to our guild! We are happy to have you observing and experimenting with the relationship between humans and honeybees. Please tell us what you discover so that we can all benefit.
Bees lives and honey production depend on flowers. Millions of flowers make a quart of honey. When I was a teenager in Bernalillo and a young man south of Belen flowers seemed a little more dependable. Purple sage (broom dalea) on the west mesa made a delicious reddish honey every August. Tamarisk made its dark greenish black honey in Socorro every June and July. Those blooms have all but disappeared. Now the catalpa/chitalpa and russian sage in the cities are fairly dependable blooms. Keeping bees makes me aware of the flowers day by day and year by year and it will do the same for you. The day will come when you go out to look at your hive and see hundreds of bees coming with little colored pellets on their back legs and then you set out through the neighborhood and finally discover them loading that particular color on themselves at a certain species of flower. Soon you will discover what color the pollen and honey of that flower is, and you will know what that particular flower’s honey tastes like. Then you can anticipate it every year when that flower blooms. And then you may notice that it changes from year to year and through the decades.
The climate is changing. We seem to have gone through a time of relatively high precipitation and are now seeing more droughts and fires. It is harder to keep bees when there are fewer flowers blooming. On the other hand fireweed is a plant that blooms after a fire if there is sufficient snow and rain in the burned area.
When I started experimenting with a few topbar hives I was one of two in the state and it stayed that way for many years. But sometime within the last ten years many people began keeping bees in topbar hives. Topbar hives are more easily homemade, need a little more tending and don’t require as much heavy lifting. Now we have beekeepers experimenting with all kinds of hives are moving away from miteicides, bee-repellents, and antibiotics. We are getting organic. Yeah! We should know better than anyone else that toxins take the vitality out of life.
A beekeepers association is just a bunch of us getting together to compare and contrast our relationship with our bees. We have in the past been called upon to get laws passed to maintain our right to keep bees and sell pure sweet honey. We are a guild that can mentor and learn from each other. Sometimes we laugh with each other. Sometimes we get mad when our bees are killed by careless use of insecticides. We are important to the food and flower sphere of life in our neighborhood. Individually we make a difference and together we can change the flavor, smell and beauty of this enchanted state. Join us!
Sincerely, Les Crowder