Honey Bees

It has been an interesting spring at the Painted Pony Resort, a number of groups have visited and another wedding was held on the estate.  This in combination with over 3" of rain this spring kept me very busy.  One result of the good rains, and in combination with the ongoing grassland restoration efforts, was the appearance of many wildflowers on the estate (see previous post).  With lots of wildflowers came the pollinators, honey bees.  Seven locations on the estate have experienced honey bee swarms trying to build new hives, 2 groups at the cabin, 3 groups at the bungalow, and 2 groups in the courtyard of the main house.  Of course bees and guests do not mix well, so efforts to persuade the bees to find other suitable hive locations was at the forefront of efforts over many days.
Most of the new colonies were fairly docile and I could approach with only a hat, getting right up the ladder to their entrances without disturbing them. One new colony though was not as polite and no longer having a resident Beekeeper in Rodeo, I was on my own in dealing with this hive. Realizing that some form of protection was required I began mentally inventorying supplies that were available on the estate to create some form of protection so I could approach the hive.  I realized I had an old flight suit that closed at the wrists and ankles, gloves were no problem, but the head covering stumped me until I realized there was some old screen used to cover the solar collectors to prevent overheating during the summer.  Cutting a large piece and folding it in half the edges were secured with PVC tape (as useful as duct tape on the estate).  Pulling this on over the wide brim of my hat would keep the bees at bay while I worked.  I chose to seal up the new hive entrances during the heat of the day since most bees would be out collecting nectar and pollen so the number of bees inside the new hive would be minimal and provide the best chance for the colonies survival once they moved on.  Initially using caulk to seal the entrances it became clear that the bees would chew through this obstruction so stucco was used to cover the caulk and seal the entrances.  This proved a successful approach and the bees could initially be seen clustering around the sealed entrance.  The next morning only a couple of bees were found around the old entrances, they had moved on to greener pastures or a location on another building I had yet to find.

I would also suggest that there is a chain of evidence in the number of bee colonies this year.  That by starting with the fencing to keep cattle off the estate and by building topsoil restoration barriers to restore and improve the grasslands, this has also allowed the wildflowers to re-emerge protected from grazing.  The expanded wildflower population in turn provides forage for the bees which now find the area attractive resulting in more swarms trying to settle on the estate.

In an effort to support the bees' and their important role in the ecology of the high desert landscape, the Painted Pony Resort is installing a bee box down in the riverbed.  This will provide a permanent location and space for a hive where the colony will have easy access to the wildflowers and other blooming plants, encouraging the continued restoration of the landscape.  It will also be a yummy source of honey for guests visiting the estate.

Home made Rodeo bee bonnet
Addendum:  The New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project is a resource for native bees in New Mexico, while the Honey Bee Health Improvement Project is a resource for honey bees, with many links to other resources that are of interest to anyone interested in promoting bee populations.


  1. that is some "selfie" !!

  2. I should mention that lots of folks have had trouble with bees lately. The Swap 'N Shop, Roger McKasson Gallery, therefore Eddie Rivers next door and friends of mine north of Rodeo. Lance helped Swap 'N Shop and my friend had a call from Lance's mom with name/number of folks in Animas who would happily come for the bees in her shed. She said she had moth balls in the shed and the bees left on their own. She gave the Animas folks some pure Maple syrup for their trouble.

  3. Thank you, I'm not a bee keeper but had to come up with something that would allow me to get close to the one new colony that was not behaving politely so I could deal with them. It seems it is a big year for the bees every where around here. I will remember the moth ball trick that is good to know. The most recent colony at the cabin found its' way inside, through a gap in the molding, and I've been cleaning up lots of dead bees in one bedroom. I have found old bee boxes about a mile south of the estate but last time I checked they were not active, so suitable hive locations are few and far between. I hope that providing a suitable hive box and location the bees will move in there and not the buildings around the estate.

  4. Not sure if the bees would have left anyway or whether it was the mothballs but remember mothballs are hazardous to our health!

  5. I use moth balls in the garages to keep pack rats out of vehicles which works, so I have the stuff on hand. Since these bees were under the porches, and not a confined space, I don't think moth balls would have worked, but in confined spaces it is a testable idea.