Wyoming Bees

How can anyone keep bees in Wyoming?

The Idea

Wyoming is a tough place to keep bees. They aren’t native here. And few feral hives survive on their own.

But it’s possible when beekeepers partner with farmers in the irrigated valleys.

The Details

Situation

Native ground. Beautiful, but deadly barren for honeybees.

John Lovell wrote:

…compared to the great region of dry desert land which produces little besides sagebrush, saltbush and cactus. A colony of bees would starve on a million acres of such range. No one has attempted to keep bees in the mountains, as the snowfall is heavier, the winters colder, and the seasons shorter than at lower elevations. While there are many wild flowers it’s doubtful if they would yield a surplus.

Honey Plants of North America, 1926

Wyoming’s climate hasn’t improved since Lovell penned those words almost 100 years ago. The climate is now drier and more extreme than ever.

Agriculture

It’s man and his ingenuity that makes Wyoming beekeeping possible. Mountain runoff water is transported and stored during the spring. This water irrigates crops in the lower basin areas. There, the temperature is warmer, the weather more stable, and a longer growing season exists. These irrigated lands make up a small fraction of the area. But they are vital for keeping bees here. Without this form of agriculture beekeeping is impossible.


View Larger Map

This can be clearly seen on the Satellite map above. Those thin green ribbons are the only areas beekeeping is possible. Notice how they are confined to the creeks that flow out from the mountains. These agricultural valleys are less than a few miles wide. And a few tens of miles long.

The best beekeeping area in the state, the Wind River Basin, is located Center left on the map. I keep bees near Casper. It’s just a little green smudge center right on the map. It’s a really poor area compared to the Wind River Basin. Zoom and pan around for a closer look. It’s the best way to get a feel for Wyoming’s beekeeping environment.

About $300 million worth of ag occurs there. It’s used as a hedge to protect grazing interests from the vagaries of Wyoming’s climate and drought. Almost two thirds, or $200 million dollars worth of hay is produced. And it’s the alfalfa, clover, escaped weeds and water, from these irrigated hay fields, that makes beekeeping possible.

Beyond those thin green ribbons is where most of  Wyoming’s agriculture occurs. Out of $900 million worth of agriculture, almost $600 million are produced there, mostly by grazing livestock.

Now, you know why, if you keep bees in Wyoming, you’re a bee wrangler and not a bee farmer. There isn’t much farming in Wyoming. :-)

Beekeeping Today

Wyoming alfalfa fields.

Wyoming alfalfa fields.

The statistics show Wyoming has about 65 commercial beekeepers, with about 32000 hives. About 2 million pounds of honey are produced per year. A bee farm is defined as anyone with 5 or more hives. In reality, less than a dozen commercial beekeeping families produce all that honey. For there are few hobbyist or sideline beekeepers here. Until I left commercial beekeeping and became a hobbyist, I’d only met several hobbyists. Beekeeping in Wyoming, at about $4 million, is small potatoes compared to the rest of Wyoming’s agriculture. And it’s even smaller when compared to the real beekeeping states, like California and Florida, with their hundreds of thousands of hives.

Today, the typical Wyoming beekeeper has more than two thousand hives. In November, he migrates to California for almond pollination. Then he returns, in March, to make a wholesale crop of honey off the hay fields. Wyoming’s intense solar energy, light soils, hot summer days and cold summer nights combine to produce short, but intense, honey flows during the later part of July. The alfalfa honey is light amber to water white in color. It has a delicate, spicy taste. And it granulates with a creamy consistency. It’s a premium grade table honey.

Close ties were forged between the beekeepers and ranchers, when the government developed the water resources, at the turn of the last century. Each knew how hard agriculture is in Wyoming. They experienced a mutual dependence and both benefited from the association. Landowners wanted bees on their land. And they appreciated honey as payment for the yard rent.

Today, a different situation is emerging. Much of that irrigated family farm land is now owned by billionaire investment bankers who don’t have any agriculture stake in the land. They purchased the land for more than the land could ever produce agriculturally. And many absentee landlords don’t understand the traditions. They don’t care about honeybees. Some have the typical fearful urban reaction to bees. And they don’t want them anywhere near, or on their land. Good bee yard locations, which were always scarce in Wyoming, are now much harder to find.

Beekeeping Tomorrow

Bees working distant alfalfa fields.

Wyoming’s beekeeping is intricately tied to agriculture. Which, itself, is intricately dependent on a limited water supply. The effects of a prolonged, extreme drought and global warming aren’t a positive sign that water intensive crops, like alfalfa, can continue to be grown here. Or of beekeeping, which is based on alfalfa.

Beekeeping, here, runs as a family operated business. Few, in the next generation, want to work so hard, for such a thin profit margin. Wyoming beekeepers are a greying bunch. I’m considered one of the younger guys and I’ve got grey hair. :-)

Like much of agriculture, the family bee farm is on it’s way out. It’s being replaced by corporate farming which includes opportunity costs and insists of a competitive rate of return.

Honey’s production cost, in Wyoming, and in the USA, exceeds the world market price. So profitable wholesale production, is probably a thing of the past.

Pollination is the hope for most Wyoming beekeepers. But it’s a risky proposition. As fuel costs rise and California almond producers insist on the most populous hives, migratory beekeeping is not an easy solution.

Retailing the honey crop, inside Wyoming, is an impossibility. There’s too much honey produced for consumption by the small population.

So, what will beekeeping look like in the future? Traditional commercial operations will be much smaller. Their size will be dictated by the amount of honey that is retailed or value add to. Most commercial beekeeping will disappear. Wyoming will probably become a place for large migratory operators to drop hives, while on their way to somewhere else.

The few side liners, with a niche market, can continue to run. But, I think the future is brightest for the hobbyist. No matter what the water, land, or world market situation, there should always be enough space and enough market for a few hobbyist, each with a few hives and a love for beekeeping.

Interested in more Wyoming beekeeping? Check out:

And to be legal better check out the Wyoming Bee Laws.

75 Responses

  1. Cynthia says:

    When was this written?

    We are thinking of relocating, in the next few years, to the Cheyenne or perhaps east of Glendo Lake State Park

    Is this sustainable in those areas?

    We currently live in Ohio so while the growing zone is listed as the same the amount of vegetation here is actually much different.

    Thank you.

    • -dm says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      I think you might find beekeeping in Wyoming shocking compared to your experience in Ohio. Here’s a reference you might find handy:

      Start in the images section and look at the infrared photos in an area your interested in. You can overlay the IR images with hydrology, etc. to create just about any kind of map you want.

      The red areas are irrigated crop lands which are a necessity for any permanent beeyard and are usually located in ‘bottom land’, such as it is. It’s not a guarantee that bees can survive there as the type of crop and farming methods can make any area unsuitable. Then take a look at the biodiversity maps.

      The gray areas or benches above that, are dry land wheat east of Glendo. And open range grazing everywhere else. Although, in a rare year, yellow sweet clover will bloom on the hills, once it’s done there’s nothing else for the bees to work. And they must be moved or they die.

      A great combination for a beeyard is a spot that’s:

      • Next to a town for early tree bloom.
      • Next to some irrigated alfalfa and escaped weeds for late summer bloom.
      • In a creek bottom for fall rabbitbrush and protection from the winter winds.

      It’s possible to find a small micro climate that would support a hive or two in other areas.

      Here’s another link that shows irrigated land.

      There are a couple of beekeepers at Beesource.com from Cheyenne.

      -dm

  2. Melissa Harrison says:

    Hello Dennis,
    I would like to become a hobby beekeeper. I live in Hoback Junction, just south of Wyoming. Can you help me get started? I have a starter kit from Dadent and Sons and access to nearby ranchlands or I could possibly put the bees on my four acres which lies on the river. Any help, advise or bee hives would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for the information on your site too!
    Best regards, Melissa

    • -dm says:

      Hi Melissa,

      You live in one of the most beautiful locations in Wyoming. Bet I didn’t need to tell you that :-)

      But it’s probably one of the hardest places to keep bees. You’ve got water and the flora. If you have yellow and white sweet clover, some thistle and rabbitbrush that has naturalized in the river bottom, you’ll have a chance to keep a couple of hives on your property.

      The seasons there are incredibly short. Summer nights are cold. And the winters are long and harsh. Keeping bees there are a stretch. But you might have a micro-climate that would support them.

      I worked for a commercial beekeeper who ran bees farther east, and down hill from you, in the irrigated areas around Cora and Pinedale next to the Wind River Mountains. I’ve also known commercial beekeepers who work the northeast slopes of the Wind Rivers from Dubious southeast in the irrigated project areas. And I’ve know a few who work the lower areas of eastern Idaho where it is much hotter and lacks that cool mountain evening breeze.

      I don’t know of anyone who has worked bees much above Dubois or Pinedale. Maybe you will be the first! I’ve noticed the irrigated fields near Hoback. If they have enough clover in them, you might be able to keep a couple of hives there. Alfalfa could be problematic as it requires 90 degree days and cold nights to produce well. It just might not get hot enough, long enough for a good alfalfa flow there.

      You might be able to find more suitable bee pasture near Alpine. It’s at least 500 feet lower than where you are. If you have problems at Hoback, Alpine’s lower elevation might just make the difference. Many of the fields near Alpine are native grass which doesn’t provide much for the bees. But I’ll bet escaped clover and alfalfa exist some there.

      Anyway Melissa, let me know what you think and experience. I’ve always wanted to run a hive or two at the higher elevations.

      -dm

  3. Melissa Harrison says:

    Hi Dennis,
    Thanks for your response. (of course, I meant just south of Jackson). Anyway, I am determined to give this a go. I just checked the elevation at my house and it is 5899 ft., so I am a bit better off than Jackson, Wilson and Teton Village. I put a garden in last year and it did very well, better than I thought it would.

    Anyway, so much to learn! I have the Dadent book, First Lessons in Beekeeping which I have just unpacked with my Dadent starter kit.

    I was thinking of moving the hives for the winter months over to Dubois but having them in this area through September. What do you think? I have read of professionals who move hives, but what about someone like me? Also, where should I get my starter bees do you think? I was thinking from this area would be best versus ordering them on-line from out of state (perhaps Wyoming bees would be more aclimated to the colder climate here). Do you have bees to sell?

    Thank you,
    Melissa

    • -dm says:

      Hi Melissa,

      I don’t think moving the bees to Dubois would offer any wintering advantage. You should be able to find a sheltered, sunny spot, out of the wind. With enough feed, the bees should overwinter just fine. I’ve overwintered them in Delta Junction, Alaska which is much more severe than where you are at.

      This time of year, get your bees where you can find them. Almost every beehive in the state has just returned from the almonds. And any swarm you find will probably come from them. So, don’t worry about the genetics. Just get some bees and get going. As your season is short, a nuc(bees with brood, queen and comb) would be better than package bees.

      Sorry, I don’t sell bees. Maybe someone in Idaho would have a nuc for you.

      -dm

  4. Matt H says:

    I live in Cody and I’d like to go into a “small” bee keeping business. Is there any way to get certified training for in the bee industry and can you make an honest living with only a few hundred hives per county?

    If I could find the right people, I wouldn’t mind doing this for the rest of my life. I’m 28.

    Thanks

    • -dm says:

      Hi Matt

      No certification program. Most learn the hard way through experience. And the easiest way to experience it, is to work for another commercial beekeeper. You can learn from his mistakes. And then when you get enough experience, you can make your own. :-)

      Commercial beekeeping is hot, hard, heavy, long, dirty, low paying work just like the rest of agriculture. Many economic studies have been done. And experience has shown that it takes a minimum of about 1500 hives for the possibility of a normal lifestyle. That possibility is fraught with risks not normally associated with any other comparable sized business. Most choose to do something else easier and less risky with their time and money.

      I would suggest working for a commercial guy in Cody. There was a small sideline outfit for sale there a few years ago. Check around. The new guy may need some help.

      After that, I’d prepare a business plan and see if the bees will do it for you.

      -dm

      • Matt Hunter says:

        Dennis,

        I am currently making bee houses and since I’ve seen the Orchard bees flying into and around what I have built, I thought maybe I could move it up a notch and try Honey bees…

        I love agriculture. I like growing plants and trying to start trees and small plants from seed and so far I’m decent at it.

        I love watching bees do their job and I want to profit from their gain. I’ll look around and see what I can find up here in and around Cody. I know that on the way up to Billings, Montana there are a lot of white box bee hives, possibly Langstroth hives?

        I am used to low pay living in Wyoming but the long hours in the heat might deter me more than anything.

        Thanks for the info and your help Dennis! I appreciate it.

        Matt

  5. Steve says:

    I was trying to find a list of wyoming, Utah and Nevada beekeepers that hire on help.

    thanks, Steve

    • -dm says:

      Hi Steve

      I don’t know of any list of Wyoming beekeepers. They are an independent bunch to say the least! The best source might be to contact the Wyoming Beekeepers Association. I think it’s still active. But I’m not too sure. Their last few meetings were held jointly in Montana.

      They are a graying bunch and mainly get together to make sure the State doesn’t abandon the bee laws which most insist applies to everyone but themselves. :-)

      They don’t have a presence on the web. But googling will give the contact of the last association president.

      -dm

    • Joe Gallagher says:

      Steve
      All beehives in Wyoming are required to be registered with the State Dept of Ag. You may be able to get a list from them.
      Joe

      • -dm says:

        Hi Joe

        It’s been awhile since I’ve attempted to get any records for the Dept of Ag. When I did, I had to pay for the individual xeroxed copies filed by each beekeepers. It was a mess and expensive.

        I hope the Ag Dept is now in the digital age and could supply a database of yard locations based on gps coordinates. But what are the chances. I think most beekeepers actually prefer to keep their locations rather obscure.

        -dm

  6. Jisung says:

    Hello!

    I am looking to buy premium raw honey from Wyoming. I received honey from WY long time ago that I want to buy again. I do not know what type of honey that was nor the farm it was produced. The honey was almost clear color. Could someone recommend something and the contact information to order the honey? I am looking for top-notch to use for high quality cooking and home-medicine.

    thank you!
    Jisung

    • -dm says:

      Hi Jisung

      The water white, moderately sweet, spicy honey is a raw, unblended, alfalfa honey from one of the basins, probably the Wind River Basin. In my youth, it was the predominate Wyoming honey when alfalfa grew as tall as the fence and was left to bloom while other more demanding crops were tended to. It’s probably still available from hobbyists who extract small batches. But is not the predominate Wyoming honey now.

      Today, Wyoming honey is produced on a much larger scale. Most honey is extracted, heated, filtered and mixed with other honey sources as alfalfa is cut at less than 10% bloom. As a consequence the honey is darker. And that distinctive mild, spicy taste is usually lacking.

      Sorry, I don’t know of a single source. I get some from my bees occasionally. But not this year.

      -dm

  7. Suzanne says:

    Dennis,
    I am so excited about top bar bee hives, and I am about to build my first and get started.. I live in Missoula, Montana, known as the “banana belt” of Montana, we have a little milder climate than other parts of the state. I am wondering about choosing breeds of bees. Of course there are all the things you hear about Italian being so easy to work with. What are your thoughts on Russian, or other breeds. Do you insulate your hives? I saw insulation on the materials list, but haven’t seen how it is applied to the structure of your hives. Thanks for your tips!

    • -dm says:

      Hi Suzanne

      Bee breeds, an interesting subject. Historically bees were classified mainly by color. So in the US bee breeds are mainly marketing hype. In reality, there is a narrow slice of conservative and liberal bees on each end of the distribution, with the large bulk of middle of the road bees in the middle of the distribution. They come in all colors and with the full range of temperaments.

      So, I’d pick a gentle, middle of the road bee from an established queen producer. How the queen is raised and mated are actually more important than almost any other characteristic, especially the breed. And if possible, I’d get bees that have been selected from untreated stock.

      I’ve had recent experience with CF Koehnen and the Zia Queenbee Company. Both have gentle, middle of the road bees and have treated me well.

      Another favorite, although I haven’t had any recent experience with them is BWeaver. They have excellent untreated stock. But it’s not always as gentle as the others. And it’s harder to get a queen from them at certain times of the year

      Russians? Well, I’ve had some experience with them. I bought a couple of the first Russian breeders put out by USDA. They’re a very interesting bee. But not one I’d start out with.

      I do insulate the insides of my tbh covers. My tbhs are taller and wider than most. And I haven’t found the need to insulate them. But if I had a longer, shorter and narrower tbh, like many others I’ve seen on the web, I’d probably want to insulate it.

      Missoula Montana, what a beautiful place.

      Good luck Suzanne. Let me know how things go for you.

      -dm

  8. Jenna says:

    my daughter found a queen bee in her house today that is “pooping babies out like crazy.” it is in a jar right now. She is in Rocksprings Wyoming. Does anyone know a beekeeper looking for a new queen?

    • -dm says:

      Hi Jenna

      I doubt it’s a honeybee queen. But could be wrong.

      -dm

      • Jenna says:

        Any suggestions of what to do with it? She said she found it in her house this a.m. Apparently, there was a much smaller other bee in her house last night also.

  9. Patty says:

    Hi Dennis,
    I am a recent transplant from Topeka, Kansas and I currently live between Basin and Greybull, Wyoming, equal distance from each. My husband and I live on a 500 acre farm on which we grow alfalfa, corn and cows. We are surrounded by other farms that grow alfalfa, sugar beets and there is a good deal of grass hay grown as well. Oh, and the Big Horn River runs past our property, about 1/2 mile from our home. I would like to start honeybees as a hobby, I am interested in a bee that can stand the cold winters. I am also interested in top bar beehives. I read that old refrigerators can be used for these and as ‘luck’ might have it my brother in law has a nice stash of intact refrigerators lying outside. It would be nice to use them for something useful and I thought the insulation in a fridge would be a good way to protect the bees in the wintertime. Any suggestions?

    • -dm says:

      Hi Patty

      My gosh Patty, I think you are in the best place to keep bees in Wyoming!

      I’ve seen pictures of a refrigerator top bar hive from Eastern Europe. And I think they would make a good hive as long as it doesn’t need to be moved. Make sure it’s child proof and go for it.

      The Bryants are commercial beekeepers in Worland and I’ll bet they have a beeyard not too far from your farm. Although they wouldn’t know much about top bar hives, they might be a good source for local information and maybe even some bees.

      Let me know what you think.

      -dm

    • Gareth says:

      Patty,
      I live in Lovell and have two hives in my backyard. The Bighorn Basin is a fantastic location for beekeeping. Not only is there abundant nectar, but in the three years I have had my bees I have not seen a single mite or any other pest. I have been getting about 17-20 gallons of honey out of my two hives for the last three summers. I started with Italians which have since mated with local drones but I would like to try getting a Russian queen. They have been overwitnering very well. Good luck- there isn’t a better hobby anywhere!

      Gareth

      • -dm says:

        Hi Gareth

        Thanks for the note. You’re living in the banana belt and enjoying it which is the most important part.

        -dm

      • Emily Andrews says:

        Gareth,
        We live in the Powell area and my husband has expressed some interest in beekeeping. His birthday is coming up and I would like to give him a “start up kit”. Unfortunately, I have no idea what to get. Could you offer some info?

        • -dm says:

          Hi Emily

          I’m not Gareth. But I’ll reply.

          Before starting beekeeping, it’s usually best to work a hive or two with someone first. The anticipation can be quite different from the reality. And either you love it or hate it. It’s best to find out one’s reaction before plunking down any money.

          If it’s obvious bees are a passion, the extra work and involvement of a top bar hive can be very enjoyable and keep costs to a minimum.

          Not so passionate, but still interested? Conventional equipment, which costs much more, but requires less initial interaction might be the best choice. Here are some company names. They have free catalogs with various kinds of starter kits:

          Western Bee Supply
          Dadant
          Mann Lake

          I think the “American Bee Journal” still sends out a free magazine copy. It can be a great initial resource. Anyway, these kits only cover the equipment. The bees are purchased separately.

          -dm

  10. Leigha says:

    Hi Dennis, I live in Gillette wyoming where can I buy local honey?

    • -dm says:

      Hi Leigha

      There was a side line beekeeper in Gillette who corresponded with me a decade ago. But I haven’t heard from him since. I doubt he’s still in the business. There were a couple of hobby beekeepers in Sundance and Douglas at about the same time. I’m not sure of their status either.

      Probably the closest and best source would be Spearfish. Fruitdale is the home of several commercial beekeepers who could probably provide you with some raw, local honey. It’s probably as close as local will get to Gillette. Sorry!

      -dm

    • Margaret Hartman says:

      Leigha,

      Go downtown Gillette to the Gillette Wisconsin Cheese Store. They carry local honey.

  11. Aaron says:

    Hi, Dennis, I currently work for a small commercial beekeeping operation in Idaho but my wife is interested in a teaching position in western Wyoming (where the pay is considerably higher) and we are thinking of relocating to the Pinedale area. Who can I get in contact with regarding beekeeping opportunities in the area?

    • -dm says:

      Hi Aaron

      Sorry Aaron, I’ve lost touch with the commercial bee happenings around Pinedale. Riverton and Lander beekeepers once worked the Farson/Pinedale area. But they have all retired from the business and I just haven’t kept up.

      If the rush to sell “Mountain Land” hasn’t subdivided all those irrigated meadows, I’m sure someone is still running bees there. I’ll bet Larry Krause, at Wind River Honey, would know the situation. You might contact him at 307-856-4239.

      Good Luck -dm

  12. J says:

    Dear Dennis,

    I live on a small farm on the outskirts of Buffalo, surrounded by alfalfa fields. I’ve been told there are a few beekeepers in the area, but have yet to locate any of them. Although we’ve turned almost all of our land into either farmland, rotating grazing pasture or greenhouses, we’re notably short on bees. I have the water and the flora, but would like to start hobby beekeeping to support my crops. Who would I contact to find bees that can handle Wyoming?

    • -dm says:

      Hi J

      The local agriculture extension agent would know who the local beekeepers are. I’ve met a couple of them, but just can’t remember their names.

      Now I’m going to say a few things that are often controversial with beekeepers. I think beekeepers are born to the calling. It requires a certain mentality to prosper with bees. Without that mentality, beekeeping can be a difficult, painful and expensive experience. As a result, most farmers needing bees, turn to commercial beekeepers to provide them. Their focus is often on the crops just when the bees need that attention the most.

      My recommendation: Contact that extension agent and then get in touch with a local commercial guy. Offer him a vacant out of the way spot for a beeyard. He will pay you at least 5 gallons of honey/year/yard. That will provide bees for your crops and take care of your first priority. And he might have an extra veil/suit and let you help him work a yard. That exposure would help you decided if beekeeping would be a good fit.

      Then, if you are still interested in running some bees, talk to the commercial guy. He might be more than willing to part with a hive or two.

      If not, then he might be a source for package bees. Most of the guys in your area migrate to pollinate California almonds and bring back bees in the spring. Set up a top bar hive or two. Initially, don’t invest much money. Just invest your time and see if it’s really what you want to do.

      Let me know how things work out for you.

      -dm

    • Dale Spann says:

      There is a bee keeper in Ranchester , Cliff Reed He will help you. Dale

  13. Bob says:

    My wife nd I live on a family ranch around Rozet. I have been reading up on bee keeping and I am going to get a few hives to start. My question is where to get a my bees? and When to get them?
    Bob

    • -dm says:

      Hi Bob

      Before spending money on bee equipment, I’d find a local beekeeper and spend some time with him. Offering a commercial guy a hand is a good way to get some practical bee experience. And it’s very important to get some actual bee time before investing in equipment.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know any beekeepers in your area. A decade ago, a guy from Gillette would visit me from time to time. But I haven’t seen him in years. There are several commercial outfits out of Fruitdale,SD. But I’ve lost touch with them as well. Your local county extension agent might be able to help. There could be some hobby beekeepers in the area that he might be aware of.

      The equipment can be purchased from one of the bee supply houses. Dadant gets their wooden ware from Western Bee Supply in Polson, Mt.

      Getting bees is problematic in Wyoming. They can be purchased as packages, where bulk bees are sold by weight and shipped in. It’s very expensive with 3lbs of bees and freight about $150 or more.

      Nucs, where the bees are shipped on frames, are even more expensive. They are seldom shipped. But are trucked to a central location by the supplier and picked up there. I know B Weaver has a drop just outside Boulder, Co.

      I think your best bet is to locate the nearest commercial beekeeper and see if you can get some bees from him.

      -dm

  14. Dale Spann says:

    Hi Dennis I have been reading up on raising bees. I live in Sheridan Wy. I am starting a top bar hive and will get my bees in a few days from Don Bryant. Is it necessary to feed pollen along with the surgar water and honey? Also what size holes do you put in a hive . I used a 3/4 bit to drill the holes on one end and put 3 holes in. Thanks Dale Spann

    • -dm says:

      Hi Dale

      Pollen always helps and isn’t wasted in Wyoming. And the holes should be adequate.

      -dm

  15. Gary Edds says:

    HELP I have bees under the flashing by my chiminey been there 2 years, we’ve sprayed but can’t get rid of them. Someone said to contact a local beekeeper and they could help but we are in Casper wy and I can’t find anyone. Does anyone have any info I’d rather have them removed than to kill them.

    • -dm says:

      Hi Gary

      Killing the bees will leave an unattended nest inside your house. Without the bees, it can overheat and melt causing a substantial and expensive mess.

      I’m in Casper and will contact you offline.

      -dm

  16. Cristina says:

    Hello,
    I am currently in Gillette. I was wondering if you knew if there was a local honey source here. The nearest I could find was in Worland, which you may know can be quite the drive. Any information would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Cristina

    • -dm says:

      Hi Cristina

      There are a few beekeepers in your area and larger commercial operations around Fruitdale, SD. Someone else contacted me and told me about a Gillette supplier. Sorry, I just can’t place the information.

      But try and contact the County extension agent. He would know or could find out.

      -dm

    • Dale Spann says:

      CLIFF REED RANCHESTER SELLS HONEY AND POWDER RIVER APIARIES IN BUFFALO.

  17. Kyla Herbst says:

    Hi Dennis!
    We live in Torrington, WY near the Nebraska border. On our property there is a honey bee colony in the walls of one of our outbuildings. It has been there since before my husband’s family bought the ranch, 10+ years ago. Yesterday a beekeeper from town came out to inspect our bees to see how large the hive, if they could be moved, if there were multiple colonies, etc. (The bees have been expanding their flight radius daily since spring began, and seem frustrated – perhaps due to drought / the lack of pollen? The building is right in the middle of the yard, so we can’t avoid the bees.)
    The beekeeper was extremely excited because our colony is so much larger than he expected. He estimates there are over 150,000 bees in the hive, maybe even more depending on whether all the walls of the building are filled by the colony. He filled every box he had brought with him and still barely made a dent in the population.

    So I guess my question is: How large is a typical feral bee colony? Is this unusual for this area in Wyoming?

    Thanks Dennis!
    Great site, by the way! So glad we found you :-)
    Kyla

    • -dm says:

      Hi Kyla

      I’m somewhat familiar with your area. In the late 60′s, I started working commercial bees out of Lingle. Then I ran that business in the late 70′s. If I remember correctly, we had a Herbst yard near the Nebraska line. Small world?

      Your feral hive was very large. A typical hive is much smaller, generally filling about two of those boxes the beekeeper brought out. Because there aren’t many natural cavities available for the bees, it’s not uncommon for more than one colony to inhabit a location. I once saw a barn down by Yoder that had dozens of colonies living in the walls.

      Feral colonies have the chance to survive in shelter locations in your area. But they have always been uncommon. Thanks for saving them.

      -dm

  18. Danny B says:

    Hi Dennis,
    I live in Casper Wyoming. I work for a tree service called Rodolph Brothers. my partner and I were working in a Lift to cut down three large cottonwood trees by the river. Two live trees were easily removed. I saw a very large cavity on the back side of the third tree. Its dead with zero bark and about 30 to 40feet up is the cavity in the south facing side of the tree. Inside are several thousands of bees and large combs are exposed from the entrance. I need to remove the tree but have made a huge commitment not to destroy the bee population. I am having a crane operator come in to help cut the tree down whole and lower the tree smoothly to the ground in a few weeks. Would anyone be able to remove the bees before or after the removal? I found no apiaries in Casper. Thanks! Danny B 307 262-9737

    • -dm says:

      Hi Danny

      I’ve seen you guys working around town.

      Unfortunately I’m out of town till the end of May. But I’ll help you out after that.

      -dm

  19. Cindy says:

    I have been seriously considering backyard bee keeping. Is it a good idea to start just one hive? I live in Douglas and am interested in the benefits for my garden and surrounding plant life. Is it legal to start a hive inside city limits? Is it possible to sustain a hive inside city limits? Do you have contact information for any of the hobbiests in my area? I appreciate your input and advice.

    • -dm says:

      Hi Cindy

      I don’t know much about city codes or beekeepers in Douglas.

      Starting two hives gives a beekeeper more options if something goes wrong. But two hives could be too much for a small lot.

      It might be a good option to start a couple of hives south of Douglas. Get some experience with them there where mistakes won’t annoy or scare the neighbors. Then you could move one hive to your backyard. And keep one in reserve producing some fine alfalfa honey.

      -dm

  20. Jessi says:

    We are moving to Burlington, Wyoming (to care for my mother who has had a stroke, and doesn’t want to move). We are planting a non GMO, orgranic garden. We would like to start a beehive but confess to knowing absolutely nothing about bees, other than to be alarmed that they are disappearing. Our purpose is 2 fold. We want to plant things hoping to keep the bees safely close to home and thus hopefully not only keep the bees alive, but maybe even keep our non GMO corn from crosspolinating with genetically modified versions our neighbors surely are growing. The second purpose is simply to sustain and support bee population.
    What breed of bees do you suggest for such an undertaking?
    Where would we order our needs on a very thinly stretched budget or how do we find out how to build things ourselves?
    Is there anyone in our area who would be willing to mentor a little on this project?

    Thanks,

    Jessi and fam

    • -dm says:

      Hi Jessi

      Looking at Google Maps, Burlington should be a great place to keep bees. A good local resource(Worland) would be the Bryants. They are a multi-generation commercial beekeeping family.

      Most kinds of bees can be successfully managed in Wyoming. But most non-migratory beekeepers here, prefer a darker, more conservative bee like the Carniolans.

      Beekeeping equipment is expensive. Before spending anything, see if you can shadow a beekeeper. Working bees isn’t hard. But it takes a unique set of genes. And not everyone is cut out for it. Better to find that out on someone else’s nickel.

      -dm

  21. Cynthia says:

    Hi,

    In the past couple of weeks we’ve noticed a lot of bees in our back yard… not really a yard. We live in a townhouse in Jackson. Today my husband and I looked in the crawl space under our house to see if bees might be going in through a little hole at the back of the house. Steve saw a structure, but not clearly. He THINKS it is a honey bee hive in the corner, but he’s not sure. The bees are so fast we can’t see them very well. What exactly are we looking for ? Can we be sure these are honey bees with help from someone like you ? or do we need to call an exterminator. WE don’t want to kill honey bees, but also don’t know who would be willing to go under our house (crawling) to retrieve a nest. Would anyone be willing to do that ? Help ?

    • -dm says:

      Hi Cynthia

      The web is full of honeybee images and wasp images. But here are a few honeybee pointers:
      - honeybees carry little balls of pollen on their rear legs.
      - honeybees build a vertical comb out of beeswax – a waxy white/yellow to brown substance.
      - a honeybee colony will have thousands of bees.

      In contrast wasps:
      -dmon’t forage or harvest pollen.
      - there comb is usually horizontal and paper like – grey.
      - some nests will be made from mud.
      - wasp nests in Jackson will have a few dozens to hundreds of individuals.

      Bumblebees:
      - forage for pollen.
      - build small, horizontal, waxy nests.
      - should be small in Jackson with a few dozen individuals.

      Are the bees causing any problems? If not, I’d just let them be.

      I suspect they are wasps or bumblebees, as honeybees need a sheltered location and lots of honey to survive in Jackson.

      Sorry Cynthia, I’m too far away to get your bees. I would suggest contacting the local agricultural agent. He might know of a local beekeeper.

      -dm

    • Jamie says:

      Cynthia
      I live in Jackson as well and have almost the exact same issue as you, except the bees are living under our deck. Please let me know if you have found anyone to help with your bees. I think mine are bumblebees but on the off chance they are honey bees I would rather have them relocated than killed.
      Thanks Jamie

  22. Ruben Navarro says:

    Once we retire next year, my wife and I are moving to Wheatland, WY. (Platte County – about 80 miles north of Cheyenne, on I-25). Bees are among the hobby type activities we are looking at for our 40 acres. Are you familiar with that area, and could you provide a little starter advice for the area?

    Thank you,
    Ruben Navarro

    • -dm says:

      Hi Ruben

      I’m familiar with it. There are a few beekeepers and a decade ago, a commercial beekeeper who worked out of Wheatland.

      Take a look at Google Maps. Your bees will need water, forage and winter wind protection. If your property is not adjacent to town, in one of the stream drainages, or in the irrigated ag areas, your bees will need to be moved to survive, as the prairie is a poor place for beekeeping.

      Look for a protected area with maximum bio-dmiversity. And look for areas with lots of small plots/fields as the large irrigated circles are often quickly cut at 10% bloom leaving little for the bees to forage on.

      Beekeeping is much easier in the Platte River valley. I worked commercial bees there at Lingle in my youth.

      -dm

  23. Katie Williams says:

    Hi Dennis,
    I live in Alpine. I am interested in beginning two be hives in the spring. I am planning to place them at a local organic farm. It is close to water however I am concerned if they will winter ok with our harsh winters.
    Do you have any advice as to where to buy my bees?
    Thanks,
    Katie Williams

    • -dm says:

      Hi Katie

      I’ve corresponded with a number of people who thought about keeping bees in the Jackson/Alpine area. Yet, I’m not sure if they did or what kind of success they’ve had.

      In Alpine, the season is very short. But I think it’s possible to keep bees there. I’d check with the local extension agent and find out if there are any beekeepers near Alpine. Then, I’d contact them. They might know where you can get bees in Idaho.

      I got my bees from Brian Houtman who migrates from the almonds to Riverton, and then runs packages out of California. But I suspect he uses I80 and delivers to the basins from there. IF you need his contact information, email me and I’ll send it to you.

      -dm

    • Katie,

      Earl Kinslow is the valley’s long time bee man. He and his wife Judy live in Thayne. He has had large numbers of bees here for about 40 years. I had bees when I was a teenager and there are others that have bees in Star Valley now. The challenge will be what to do with the bees in the winter because to keep them here over the winter requires lots of honey and/or sugar water. Earl takes his to CA so they can keep working.

      • -dm says:

        Hi Curtis

        Thanks for the contact. It seems a couple of people a year are interesting in contacting a beekeeper near there.

        -dm

  24. Ann Cline says:

    Hi Dennis, Have you ever had a problem with bee kills following a pesticide spray? What are the procedures/who do I contact when I have a bee kill incident?
    Thank you!

    • -dm says:

      Hi Ann

      Yes, I have. But I’ve just taken the loses as establishing liability is costly, not easy, and the results are often less than satisfactory.

      It’s simply better to work on the front end. Stay informed about any government spraying programs in the area. And talk to the county extension agent.

      -dm

  25. Jimmie Josephson says:

    Hello,
    I am very new to bee keeping and live near Newcastle, WY. I started last year with one hive and would like to expand this year. I am currently in the process of trying to find bees before they all sell out. Last year the only place that I could order from as late in the season as I started was Gardner Apiaries in Georgia. I would like to buy closer to home for the sake of the bees but not coming up with much. Does anyone have an idea where I can get bees closer to Wyoming that will ship them to me?

    • -dm says:

      Hi Jimmie

      I’ll send you contact info for a commercial guy who trucks package bees into Wyoming.

      -dm

  26. Jay Muse says:

    I live about 7 miles East of Hawk Springs. I don’t see many flowering plants here, and the agriculture close by is all wheat. I have a pond that stays full all year long (from our well). I have approximately 60 extra acres of DRY pasture land I could use for planting something bees could feed from…..I guess my question is, is there a plant that is perennial that I could plant in my extra acres that could sustain a couple of hives? Sunflowers? I don’t use that 60 acres for anything, and since I’ve always wanted to keep a few bees, I’m thinking my ’42 2N that can probably handle tilling that many acres. I’ve seen a lot of sunflowers growing closer to Cheyenne on the prairie, which does not seem much different than my land. Is this a good food source for my bees? We have a small garden now….is there something I could plant and extend my garden out to help with my bee’s getting enough food? I’m planning on getting in the late spring 2014. Thanks very much for your help.

    • -dm says:

      Hi Jay

      In the 60′s and 70′s I worked commercial bees out of Lingle, Wy. And we had beeyards in the Hawk Springs area. So, I pulled up Google maps to see if it was anything like I remembered. And it’s pretty much the same with a few more circles than back then.

      We kept bees in the drainage and alfalfa areas around Hawk Springs Reservoir and in the Wyoming and Nebraska alfalfa to the NE of you.

      In your area, in a wet year, very short, but abundant yellow sweet clover would often produce a surprising surplus. But as intense as the flow was, it would quickly dry up. So the bees were always placed where they could get water, the early flow, and work alfalfa later.

      On sandier ground a very intense and surprising flow would occasionally be obtained from cleome. The honey was water white, sweet, mild and would burn going down like a shot of whiskey. Very unusual.

      But keeping bees year round on the upper benches is tough because the bees need more nutritional variability than is commonly available, particularly in the early spring and late fall. I’m not sure what to plant that would fulfill those needs.

      I would suggest you give it a try. Don’t invest too much in it. Maybe try a top bar hive or two.

      If it doesn’t work out at home, try moving them near a confluence of alfalfa and natural drainages.

      Regards -dm

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  28. Christy Kroeker says:

    I live just outside of Casper on the river and am going to start raising bees this spring. We definitely have some flowering plants in the yard and nearby, but I’m wanting to plant more plants and trees in my yard to feed the bees. Do you have any suggestions of plants/trees that can grow here (I have some irrigation) and would be good for the bees. I want to make sure that the bees have plenty of flowers through the whole season. I’m worried that right now the flowers might come and go and not last through the whole season. I’m planning on starting with one top bar hive this year, but increasing to 2-3 once I get some more flowering plants growing to support them. Do you ever mentor? I’d love to shadow a local beekeeper to learn more. Thanks.

    • -dm says:

      Hi Christy

      The bees will need travel a few miles for suitable forage. And they need more forage than could be planted in a typical yard.
      I would suggest planting caragana and russian olive. They are cold, drought and wind tolerant. And they can handle our alkaline water and soil. You could use them in a wind break or hedge.

      Bees need a succession and variety of forage for proper nutrition. And that’s tough to come by with Wyoming’s very limited biodiversity, much of it unsuitable for beekeeping.

      Unfortunately, the Platte River, with it’s controlled flow, is little more than a irrigation canal. The natural flooding and scouring, which once produced larger areas of seasonal plant diversity just doesn’t occur there.

      But bee forage does occur in and around alfalfa fields irrigated with Platte River water. And the few natural creeks that flow north toward the Platte have some spring to midsummer bee forage.

      Shadowing? It’s the best idea ever. I suggest anyone thinking of beekeeping get some practical experience with bees before spending a dime. The actual experience is often much different that what’s anticipated.

      Mentoring? I’ve done a little of that in the past. Back then, I had the extra gear. But today, not so. I’ve got just enough gear for one person. And am just not comfortable taking someone to my beeyard unprotected.

      I don’t mind helping someone with their bees though.

      -dm

  29. Christy Kroeker says:

    What are the chances of catching a honey bee swarm east of Casper along the Platte River? Do I need to buy a package or can I reasonably count on catching a swarm? Do you know how I could find out about available swarms?

    • -dm says:

      Hi Christy

      You might get one, I wouldn’t hold my breath. But more importantly, with our short season, a package can be hived 2 brood cycles before a swarm would emerge.

      It’s always a struggle for any swarm or package to make a broodnest and store enough honey to survive in our short season. But a package is a more sure way to get a hive established.

      A nuc is a better bet than either a swarm or a package. They are cohesive bees. And have a laying queen, comb, brood and food. But there’s a greater risk of picking up pests or diseases that come with the comb.

      -dm

  30. Christy Kroeker says:

    In Casper, Wy is there an ideal time for installing a package of bees?

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