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To bee or not to bee

In “Looking Back on the Spanish War,” George Orwell’s classic essay on the Spanish Civil War, the author wrote: “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper. …”

Some years back, this paper did a little feature on my wife, Linda. The thrust was that she taught writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder during the week. Then, on the weekends, she rushed home to my arms, and to teach her private piano students at our place in Peach Valley.

To round out the piece, the reporter included a little bit about me. It mentioned that I ski patrolled and kept bees, and that the little darlings had had a great summer, averaging “200 pounds of honey per hive.” The article was flattering and all, but it sort of made me out to be a venerable old master beekeeper, which I’m really not.



The 200 pounds was something of a stretch. It’s true that my Crystal Springs bees had a spectacular season, averaging 100 pounds (33 quarts) of honey per hive. One hive did in fact produce about 200 pounds. I don’t know why that one colony did so well. With six or seven full honey supers stacked on top, the hive towered over the others like a honeybee Empire State Building. I had to stand on cinder blocks to look inside.

My Peach Valley bees didn’t do as well. Overall, though, I had excellent honey production that year, averaging 70 pounds per hive for my two bee yards. It was my best year ever. Naturally I was pretty pleased, and I’m sure I mentioned this repeatedly to Linda, especially the part about the 200-pound hive.



I’m not sure Linda listens carefully to everything I say, but she almost always catches the highlights. Whenever I say, “What did I just say?” I can almost never catch her totally spacing out.

But anyway, she really did tell the reporter that my bees averaged 200 pounds per hive. When I saw this in print, I said, “Why in the world would you ever say such a thing?”

Linda said, “Well, you did say you got 200 pounds from one hive, didn’t you?”

My ski patrol buddy Nic grew up with honeybees and used to work for Silt beekeeper Paul Limbach. Nic’s dad Larry keeps a few bees around Rifle. So those guys know bees, and they know baloney.

In the patrol locker room, Nic said, “Mom and Dad were fascinated with the article about Linda.”

I said, “Oh?”

Then Nic started chuckling the way he does. He said, “So Mom and Dad are in the kitchen, and Mom’s reading the article. She says to Dad, ‘Look, Honey, it says here that Linda Colby teaches at the university in Boulder, but she also plays classical concerts here in the valley.’

“She hands the paper to Dad. He reads awhile and then says, ‘Two hundred pounds per hive? How does anybody get two hundred pounds per hive?’

“He hands back the paper, and Mom says, ‘And look, it says she studied at Indiana University and that she has a doctorate in piano performance.’

“Dad says, ‘I wonder where he keeps his bees. I just don’t see how anybody can average 200 pounds per hive around here.’

“Mom says, ‘Larry, she sounds so interesting. And they live right in Peach Valley.’

“Dad just stares at the paper and doesn’t say anything. Finally he shakes his head and mutters, ‘Two hundred pounds. I just don’t get it.'”

” New Castle optimist Ed Colby thinks conditions are ripe for a real 200-pound harvest this summer. Ed’s e-mail: esc@sopris.net.


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