Beekeepers open shop in North Delta

Photo by Andrew Kiser/Montrose Daily Press San Juan Bee Supply owners Chris and Gwen Williams talk about the honey sold at their new store in Delta.

Chris Williams, a third-generation beekeeper, hasn't only kept up the family business but has set up the first bee supply store on the Western Slope.

Chris and his wife, Gwen, recently opened San Juan Bee Supply, 1401 U.S. 50 in Delta, to help local beekeepers with their insects. They set up shop and held an open house Friday.

Gwen said she and her husband wanted the business to be a collaborative effort with the community, allowing beekeepers to get supplies there and increase their knowledge of the craft.

Chris stressed how bees are key to the food supply. He said around 80 percent of food consumed has been pollinated by honey bees.

"Bee population is very crucial," said Chris, who also started the San Juan Bee Company in 1996. "On the commercial side, we're losing a million hives a year. Us, commercial guys, have to make up just because of the demand of pollination for food supply."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the loss of bees through colony collapse disorder had a rapid rise in the winter of 2006-07. It was then reported that beekeepers had losses of 30-90 percent.

Colony collapse disorder is when a majority of worker bees in a colony disappear, leaving behind a queen, food supplies and a few nurses that have to care for immature bees and the queen, according to the EPA.

In most recent years, the numbers have declined but are still high. The EPA reported in the winter of 2014-15, the death of bees dropped to 23.1 percent.

Part of beekeeping is to help slow down the decline in population. Chris said true beekeeping isn't just buying new bees every year "and putting them in a box," but keeping them and helping them live for a long time.

"If you can be an educated beekeeper and keep your bees alive, it's better for you," Gwen said. "... If beekeepers have a 50-percent or 20-percent loss, and you look at any other agricultural industry, and if cattle ranchers said they lost 50 percent of their herd, people would fall over. They would say 'You're a terrible cattle rancher.'"

She added their goal is for beekeepers to have 1-percent or less loss.

After noticing there's not a location to find information on bees, Chris and Gwen decided to open up a shop as a way to provide assistance to beekeepers, hobbyist and artisans.

The supply store doesn't just have beekeeping equipment but also sells products by local residents including honey, lotion, lip balm and jewelry.

As a beekeeper for 30 years, Chris said his expertise can help provide answers to tough questions.

"We want the community to know that we're here to support them and to answer their questions," Chris said. "We're a pro shop."

San Juan Bee Supply is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

For more information, call 970-874-5015.

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