Boulder Bee Yards
What: A kickstarter campaign for the creation of an "experiential platform" allowing visitors to learn about beekeeping and help improve the outlook of bees in our environment.
For those intrigued by the beekeeping experience, but not yet stung with the need to plunge into it themselves, Caitlin Rose Kenney offers what may be the next best thing.
Kenney, a 25-year-old yoga teacher living in Boulder, is behind a current Kickstarter campaign through which she is hoping to fund her Boulder Bee Yards project, which would give paying visitors a chance to enjoy a supervised immersion — by appointment -— in the beekeeping experience.
Having started keeping bees five or six years back as a hobby under her "mentor" and friend Jane Peterson, Kenney soon found that she was donating her own time to serve a similar role for other people new to the activity.
"She and I started installing backyard beehives for friends of ours, and last year we installed nine of them, and were helping them learn beekeeping skills," Kenney said.
"Last year, I learned pretty quickly that it wasn't a sustainable model for me, because I was driving all over the place trying to keep these hives on-line and healthy," she said.
It's not practical for Kenney to have hives on her own property since she lives in a condo. And, she found that backyard bee experiences are not always a success even for those whose properties would appear more suitable. Of those nine hives installed last year, only six have surviving colonies.
"Most of these were in urban areas, and while it is completely possible to have an urban bee box or colony, there are variables that are out of your control," Kenney said. "They could die off because they could get into your neighbors' dandelions that were sprayed with pesticides. And I was feeling guilty that not all of those hives survived."
That realization sparked the idea of an alternative approach — establish "bee yards" somewhere safe and stable, then invite people, for a fee, to visit the colonies, promoting a connection with honeybees and their unique ecosystems. This year, opening mid-May, she plans bee yards on cooperating friends' private property, one in Fourmile Canyon, another in Coal Creek Canyon. She believes both should be sufficiently removed from any neighbors using chemicals lethal to bees, such as neonicotonoids.
'They are very peaceful by nature'
Kenney likened the beekeeping experience to the practices of yoga or meditation.
"You get really, really present," Kenney said. "You have to focus. These creatures demand a lot of respect and attention. You're 100-percent tuned into how they're feeling, in adjusting to you, and also how you're feeling."
Kenney said being around bees was another way of learning to be more conscious, noting her own nervousness when she was first learning the bees' ways, then seeing that fall away as she grew to appreciate and better understand the colonies' behavior.
"They are very peaceful by nature," she said, and she soon realized, "Wow, they are not harming me, even as I am opening up their homes, seeing their babies, and taking their honey. They are really peaceful and tolerant creatures."
Kenney's Kickstarter campaign set an initial goal of $5,000, and that had already been surpassed with pledges by Thursday of $5,885 from 142 backers. That inspired her to expand her project and stretch her goal, to a total of $9,800 with a funding date of April 19.
The latest addition to her plans calls for a bee yard and chicken run at the Four Mile site, the cedar and stucco materials and labor for the structure to protect both from bears or other predators costing about $4,800. Protection for the bees at the Coal Creek location will be courtesy of a solar-powered electric fence.
But who gets the honey?
Kenney's plan met a mixed reception from north Boulder resident Anne Bliss, who is deeply involved in an effort to turn her Melody-Catalpa neighborhood into a bee-safe neighborhood by securing a pledge from homeowners to disavow use of neonicotonoids and other poisons, and to promote pollinating plants.
"I don't think this is anything earthshaking," Bliss said of Kenney's plans, noting that the Boulder County Beekeepers Association has many resources for helping people familiarize themselves with beekeeping. "But I think anything we can do at this point to make people aware of this problem, then we should be doing it."
Bliss said the emphasis, for those concerned about bees' viability in our urban environment, should be on making neighborhoods more environmentally healthy. Neonicotonoids, she said, have been deemed 7,000 times more toxic than DDT.
"I do think there is a serious problem here, and we are not paying attention," said Bliss, who sees bees as a critical bellweather for our planet's health at large. "Tom Theobald (founding member of the county beekeepers association) calls the bees the canary in the coal mine."
One of the most common questions Kenney said she gets is whether those coming to her bee yards will be able to go home with honey.
"Visitors to the bee yards will get to taste the honey, but I'm not going to be selling the honey," she said.
Visitors will, however, be able to open hive boxes, hold honeycomb up to the sunlight, and connect with a part of the natural world in a way they may likely have never done before.
"I really hope this experience appeals to people who are looking for an unusual, interesting activity as well as people who are seriously considering becoming beekeepers," she said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or email@example.com