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Got bees? Frank Lallas does, and he’d like to tell you about them. Lallas, one of the founders of the Brighton Bee Club, loves the critters and wants to share that interest, and a ton of information with other honeybee aficionados.
“I’ve been interested in bees for about, oh, a hundred years or so,” Lallas said, from his ranch east of Brighton. “I have books about beekeeping that I bought years and years ago and never read or acted on them. About three years ago, I was looking through them, and said, “You know, I’m going to do that this spring.”
After some research into the topic, Lallas met up with Diane Henneker and Dave Swanson from the Co-op in Brighton. “I said, I’m going to get some bees, and Dianne said, “Oh. I’d like to do that.” So we formed the Brighton Bee Club.”
Teaming with a dozen or so like-minded enthusiasts, Lallas began holding meetings, sharing information and stories to mutual benefit.
“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” Lallas said. “There are some people that are very knowledgeable around here and they have a mentoring program that you are supposed to do, so that the more experienced can mentor the less experienced.”
A volunteer tradition in the hobby, mentoring is a real plus to new keepers. Seeking knowledge, the Brighton club hooked up with their counterparts in the Northern Colorado Beekeepers Association up in Fort Collins.
“Then we decided to start our own little thing here. We are trying to gather more people into it, or people that might be interested in bees by having speakers and such and doing some stuff with the Denver bee club, which is a huge club. They bring in some well-known speakers.”
The Brighton Bee Club brings together
“I have always been fascinated by them,” Lallas said. “They are just fantastic creatures. They operate off of pheromones. That is how they identify their queen, that is how they signal alarms, their behavior and society is actually extremely complex. They are very intelligent.”
Complex animals require some complex knowledge to raise properly, and bees are no exception. Natural threats to the hives such as tracheal and Verona mites and Hive Beetles pose particular risks.
“If a hive starts to flounder and becomes weak, then there is invasive creatures that will come in and finish it,” Lallas said. “Mites are a problem everywhere, around the world. You deal with them as best you can.”
One way to deal with mites is through hybridization of bees to build more tolerant, mite resistant strains. Specialized colonies are available offering a wide variety of traits, but the key to success is learning the nuances of life within the hive.
With the right expertise and some help from Mother Nature, a single hive can produce up to 200 lbs of honey a year, a sweet reward for hard work. Multiply that by a dozen or so hives, and the production quickly adds up beyond hobbyist dabbling to a small-scale production effort. Lallas, currently at nine hives, wants to eventually work up to 20.
“The big thing is the queen,” Lallas said. “When they say ‘queen bee,’ they mean it, she is the queen of the hive. All the bees except the drones are females. When the queen starts laying eggs, her genetics are passed on, but just as importantly, her attitude is passed on. If you have a very aggressive queen, then the hive has a tendency toward aggression.”
For both ease of access and a higher honey counts, queens are chosen accordingly.
“So when you are looking at queens, you want to look at ones that are pretty mild, but good producers,” Lallas said.
Another lesser-known service of the club is their willingness to remove problematic hives from less than desirable locations.
“This year I went and cleaned out a hive that was in an outhouse,” Lallas laughed. “That was interesting, but I got it, and they survived. I was concerned that I didn’t get the queen, but I did.
You vacuum them up with a bee vacuum, then you take the cells and the comb. The honey I extracted and gave away. I must have been stung about ten times.”
For interested potential beekeepers, or just the curious, the club meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month. The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the upstairs meeting room of the Brighton co-op. You may email the club at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find them online at www. brightonbeeclub.org.
Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at