Our Montana Apiary Story
Winter is a time to slow down here in Montana. Since my last blog, the snow has flown and settled in our mountains and valleys. Our local ski hill, Discovery Ski Area, has had excellent snowfall. We included downhill skiing and snowboarding in our activities program this year, so our guests have enjoyed the powder and pack for over four frosty months.
Bluebird days at Discovery Ski Area mean that spring is right around the corner! Photo by Kelsey Bruns.
But as our days become longer, the sun will shine a little warmer. The snow will eventually disappear and our bees will be coming out of their winter slumber. Spring means the continuation of one of my favorite facets of our sustainability program.
Wintering the Bees
It turns out our bees are travelers at heart, just like us. Since November an apple orchardist in the Bitterroot Valley has kindly hosted our bees. The bees and I are so grateful for these connections to local farmers.
I visited our bees with my beekeeper friend a few weeks ago. We managed to find a day in March where the sun was shining at about 40 degrees, which allowed us a quick look at the hive population and the food storage weight of the hives. To our delight, the bees are all present and accounted for. They have survived the harshest of Montana winter months, with many negative digit days!
Our bees buzz amongst the apple trees. Hive numbers are great after the winter. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.
This visit was reassuring because I now know that I left enough honey in the hive for the bees to survive for four months without a nectar flow! Now, and until the apple blossoms bloom, we will keep our eye on them for food stores and bring them back to the Rock Creek Valley by May.
Rolling into Spring
Now that winter is coming to a close and we are quickly rolling into spring, I am grateful for a successful first honeybee season here at The Ranch. It would not be possible without the support of The Ranch at Rock Creek team and our local farmers.
Having a winter home for the bees in the Bitterroot Valley and the support of a fellow apiarist has been greatly helpful. It has been imperative for the health of our hives, and I’ve had the opportunity to continue learning from a veteran beekeeper.
Visiting the bees in the Bitterroot Valley orchard. A proud moment to find out our hives have thrived!
So the next time you may find yourself at a local farmer’s market, shake your local farmer’s hand and say, “Thanks!” They support our local economy, and they help our communities to be healthy and happy. A heartfelt “Thank You” (and perhaps a produce purchase) will show them that their hard work is deeply appreciated.
Ranchers Myron Weirich and Apiarist Kelsey Bruns escort the bees back home. Photo by Myron Weirich.
This second year will give our honeybee sustainability program a chance to have even greater impact on the landscape, and it will give our Relais & Châteaux culinary team more chances to work their magic with this uber local crop.
Read Volume I to learn more about how our honeybees homesteaded in the Rock Creek Valley.