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Watching over the bees

November 20, 2010

This Colorado State Libraries collection of historic records honors and chronicles the work of Colorado beekeepers. When someone says, "honeybees," we generally think of the sweet treat they produce, but honeybees and their "handlers" contribute to approximately one-third of all the food we eat -- the food from plants pollinated by insects.

Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald. Image courtesy of Theobald.

Beekeepers in Colorado
Special Collections exhibit
Now through Tuesday, Nov. 30
Morgan Library, Room 202

From now through Tuesday, Nov. 30, an exhibit in the Archives and Special Collections reading room in Morgan Library showcases the men and women who have worked to provide a healthful habitat for honeybees in Colorado.

The exhibit is titled: "Ensuring a Bountiful Harvest: Beekeepers in Colorado."

Reading room/exhibit hours

The reading room is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The exhibit will be closed on evenings and weekends. 

Every third bite

When we discuss honeybees as food producers, we usually think of their role in making honey. However, this sweet treat makes up only a tiny portion of the contribution of bees to our food supply.

Since approximately one-third of the food eaten by humans comes from plants pollinated by insects (including fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables), you could say that we should thank honeybees and other pollinators for one out of every three bites of food on our plates.

Honeybees are not native to Colorado; early settlers started bringing hives of bees to the state in the 1860s to assist in pollinating their crops. Two decades later, a state organization for beekeepers was organized.

Only 45,000 colonies left

By 1900, there were nearly 85,000 colonies of honeybees in Colorado, but since that time the number has steadily declined to less than 45,000. Most Colorado beekeepers are hobbyists with only a few colonies of bees. Of the hundred or so professional beekeepers in the state, many supplement their income by transporting their hives to California in the winter to assist in pollinating the almond and fruit trees there.

Two collections at the University

The Agricultural and Natural Resource Archive at Colorado State University currently preserves two collections of historic records relating to Colorado beekeeping. The Records of the Colorado Beekeepers Association and the Records of the Northern Colorado Beekeepers Association document some of the interests and activities of Colorado beekeepers during the twentieth century.

In addition, some of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station bulletins of the early 1900s describe honeybee research here at the College. To look at these historic records, please stop by the Archives or contact agricultural archivist Linda Meyer.

Contact: Linda Meyer
Phone: (970) 491-4692