By: Ed Colby
I was a little surprised when the quote for “beekeeper” insurance for the Colorado Beekeepers came in at $1,450 for a three-day meeting and “bee college” in June.
We planned to look at some bees at our get-together. The first time I brought up “bee sting,” the agent launched into a spirited description of how a good lawyer could muddy the water sufficiently so that there would be no way an injured party could prove that the offending bee was indeed your bee.
I said go ahead and give me your quote. He asked me a million questions and then took four days to get back to me. At this point we were within 24 hours of our beekeeper rendezvous.
When the policy description arrived, sticker shock set in, and I pretty much decided on the spot that CSBA would not pay $1,450 for insurance for a three-day weekend. But as a matter of due diligence I looked over the policy. I immediately noticed that there was an exclusion for injury caused by animals. My satellite phone service was giving me fits, so I emailed the agent asking if the insurance compay considered bees to be “animals,” which they are. What good is “beekeeper insurance” that excludes coverage for stings?
He didn’t write back. He called instead. He gave me the same pitch he did the time before, but in more detail. He explained that the CSBA policy would provide legal defense for a “stinging incident,” up to $25,000. There was no way a bee-stung plaintiff would get past their battery of attorneys. I said, “OK, but what if the plaintiff did in fact convince a jury that the offending bee was a CSBA bee? Would you cover us?” That would be a “gray area,” he opined.
I didn’t even blow my stack. I’m getting better at that. Instead I told him I had other options for a weekend of insurance. This outfit specializes in “event” insurance. They didn’t offer bee sting insurance, but their policy satisfied the CSBA’s concerns in every other regard, and it was only $150. And hey, we’re all beekeepers, right? We’re not going to rush to hire ia lawyer if we get stung, are we?
We held the bee college pretty much in our front yard, so naturally I got to do all the planning. I got a little agitated at times. Finally the gal Marilyn said, “Look, this is just like finals. You study, you do your best, and then one day you wake up, and it’s finals day, and you either pass or you don’t. You’ll do fine.”
Friday was the kickoff barbecue at the farm, and Marilyn had to drive her school bus on this, the last day of the school year. Flyin’ Barb drove up Thursday night from Colorado Springs to pitch in. Bright and early Friday we picked up tables and chairs from Nanci and Paul’s place. Then Barb commenced to scrub and clean. She never made any wisecracks about the general disarray of Colby Farm, or the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants way Marilyn and I operate. You never met a kinder, more giving person than Flyin’ Barb.
Speaking of flying, as our beekeeper commercial pilot reached for a refill of her wine glass, I remarked, “Guys, watch out if you have to get on a plane this weekend.”
“The rule is ‘Eight hours from bottle to throttle’” Jewels shot back.
I had to find a sub to fill in for a bee researcher rock star who had to cancel at the 11th hour. On Saturday, Utah state bee inspector Stephen Stanko gave solid nuts and bolts presentations on Varroa mites and American foulbrood. Derrick was so impressed, he said, “I’m glad that other guy canceled. Stephen was really good!” And Derrick knows bees. Any time Derrick offers an opinion on bees or beekeeping, you’d better listen.
We had a beekeeper roundtable featuring two commercial beekeepers Paul Limbach and Derrick, and sideliner John Hartley. I got the roundtable idea from the American Beekeeping Federation roundtables at their annual meetings. People get to ask whatever’s on their mind, and I wish I’d budgeted more time for this.
At the field session at Paul’s place, we looked at diseased bee frames, lit smokers, and alcohol washed and sugar-shook for mites.
Then, a banquet! Our caterer Cori can cook! Every course with a honey theme. Mead pairings with just enough honey wine to enjoy, but not enough for the ditch.
I tried to get a good night sleep Saturday night, but it wasn’t over yet! Sunday morning early we cooked breakfast for the Colby Farm yard campers and lit out for the Flat Tops.
Paul provided a list of high altitude flowers that honey bees like and that you maybe never heard of. We found lupine, wild geranium, snowberry and dwarf waterleaf, the bundle of tiny purple florets from which honey bees make water-white honey. At Derrick’s Clark Ridge apiary at 9,500 feet, we tasted that pale, delicate honey.
Paul does not seek attention. Rather, beekeepers are drawn to him. His encyclopedic knowledge of bees, his easygoing manner, and his never-failing inclination to share with others make him easily the most popular member of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association.
So we pulled off the bee college, OK? It ended yesterday, and it took time away from my bees. This evening I did mite tests. Five hives tested zero, zero, one, 10, and finally 30 mites in 300-bee sugar-shake samples. Thirty mites on June 11? Oh, boy! Here we go!
Ed Colby practices beekeeping in Aspen Mountain, Colorado, where he lives with his partner, Marilyn.