Behind the veil (smoker?): Meet 3 beekeepers in Albuquerque
Today we have a guest post by Chantal Foster, 30-something web architect and beekeeper living in Albuquerque, NM. She writes regularly about beekeeping at www.mistressbeek.com and co-chairs the Albuquerque Beekeepers group. She has a great blog on beekeeping, and she also makes mead! We wrote about her (and her mead) in the June 2011 (print) issue of the magazine. When I asked her if she’d like to write a guest post, she suggested that she write about people in Albuquerque who keep bees.
Your attorney might just be a beekeeper. Or your plumber, pastor, and that quiet chemical engineer down the street.
It may be surprising to know that Albuquerque, NM is home to over 200 beekeepers. Some tend hives in their downtown backyards, others on their rooftops, and still others under cottonwood trees on ancient ranchos near the Rio Grande.
So sit back, stir a spoon of honey in your tea and let’s meet 3 of Albuquerque’s most active beekeepers.
Megan Mahoney is a 28 year-old professional swarm-catcher, who’s been keeping bees for nearly 10 years. One of the rare full-time bee professionals in town, Megan studied bees under the esteemed Dr. Marla Spivak at University of Minnesota. She co-chairs the Albuquerque Beekeeping Group and manages 40 hives in four different apiaries, including one on her rambling rural property in Albuquerque’s South Valley, located near the acequias that have nurtured communities in New Mexico for hundreds of years. “The more I learn about bees,” Megan says “the less I know and yet I love every minute of it!”
TJ Carr keeps bees on his roof in Albuquerque’s NE Heights neighborhood near the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. As a retired engineer and business owner, TJ is Albuquerque’s resident bee-inventor. Not only does TJ fabricate an extra long and perfectly-angled hive tool for use in top bar hives but he’s also designed the most commonly-used top bar hive design in New Mexico.
You can download TJ’s top bar hive plan here.
But TJ’s interests are not purely technical; he actively mentors dozens of new beekeepers each year, providing hands-on tours of his hives and on-call support for first-year “beeks.” When my first hive died suddenly from mysterious causes, it was TJ who took my tear-filled phone call. In his 15 keeping bees, he’s taken hundreds of similar phone calls and nurtured Albuquerque’s collective hive back to good health.
If you’ve ever ridden the zoo train past the Albuquerque BioPark’s big red barn, Tomás Urrea is the guy in a mesh hat waving at you with a comb of honeybees in his hand. He tends 3 beehives that pollinate the BioPark’s orchard trees. The spring honey from these hives, surrounded by the lush nectar-filled flora of the gardens, is among the best I’ve ever tasted.
Tomás also houses a dozen or so hives on his North Valley land. Back near the adobe sweat lodge but before the orchard, he has top bar bee hives scattered like old logs about the property. Bees stream forth from sunrise to sunset. “The bees put me in a zen state of mind,” says Tomás of the process of inspecting his hives. The low hum, the repetitive pattern of bee bums, and the sweet bakery smell characteristic of a healthy hive all mingle to make it a meditation for some beekeepers, Tomás and myself included.