I was asked by the president of the Norther Colorado Beekeepers Association in December if I would like to be interviewed for their January newsletter. Last year NCBA started adding a member of the month to their newsletters so we can all get to know one another in Norther Colorado better. I love spreading awareness about beekeeping in Colorado, so I jumped at the opportunity.
Our member of the month is Shelli. She is a powerhouse of creativity and knowledge, including being a fabulous photographer who was gracious enough to share many photos with the club last year for our new event video screen presentation. Let's learn more about our bee colleague and hidden gem, Shelli!
President of NCBA Lisa Boesen
MEMBER OF THE MONTH: Shelli Quattlebaum
Where are you located: I grew up in Berthoud, CO, and participated in the Larimer County 4H program for 6 years. Building V8 engines with my dad, veterinary science, and horse bowl were some of my favorite projects. Tell us a bit about your background (personal, work, etc). My husband and I have lived in Dacono for 15 years with our two daughters. They now participate in 4H in Weld County, my youngest has taken champion several times in the beekeeping project. I started out my career as an oral surgeon assistant. I then taught dental assisting for 2 years in Longmont after having my 2nd daughter. I turned my passion of photographing my kids into a small business in 2007. I then moved on to photographing weddings for 8 years. Now I am enjoying photographing my bees and expanding my apiaries. I also offer apiary photography sessions. Not too many photographers want to submit themselves to bees. Sign me up! How long have you been a beekeeper? 3 years, 2023 will be my 4th season. What type of beekeeping do you practice and why? I run 2 deep brood chamber 10-frame Langstroth hives. Why? Because I'm a glutton for punishment. I definitely underestimated how much everything weighed. Hindsight, I would run 8 frame deeps. How many hives do you have? I ended my season in September with 14 hives. I am now sitting with 10 because of various issues, some being mites, temperature, moisture and other variables out of my control. My mite treatments failed this year on a few hives. Lesson learned. What interested you in beekeeping? I loved the idea of helping my parent’s garden grow. My mother and I set out to start a lavender farm in 2020, not knowing the soil and water would be awful at their new property in Fort Lupton. They were my first apiary location and they still have 2 hives there. My mom and dad help me tend to those hives periodically. I also loved the idea of my youngest doing beekeeping as a 4H project. 2020 was the first year Weld County offered beekeeping as a project. What do you enjoy most about beekeeping? I have ADHD, so if it isn’t interesting and has lots of variables with a little adrenaline added in, I’m not interested for long. With beekeeping, you will never know everything there is to know about bees, and you will learn something new each time you open your hive. Catching swarms isn’t too boring either ;) What has been a challenge? Learning to stand in your beliefs. As a beekeeper, there are 10 answers for one problem. You as a beekeeper need to be responsible and investigate the correct options for you and your bees. Not, what Joe Shmo says from the FB beekeeping page. Even though we all live in Colorado, we have so many different climates to take into consideration. What is happening for a beekeeper in Colorado Springs will not apply to you in Fort Collins or others on the west slope like Palisade. Stay educated. What flowers or trees are in your area that your bees enjoy? My hives are next to an alfalfa field, but I claim my honey as "wildflower" because I know they forage on more than just that. They also have a lot of wild plum trees in May and June to forage on. What do you do with your harvest? I sell my honey and related products online and at local fairs and events. Www.hopsandhoneycolorado.com . Remember to get your cottage food certificate so you can sell legitimately. What is a quick tip or tool that you have found to be beneficial? Give up the smoker. I spent more time messing with the smoker than focusing on my bees. Bees will move away from your gentle breath. Learn to move slow and do not get in your hive without having your intentions set. If your bees are hot and spicy, there is a reason. Investigate. You can hear the sound of a happy hive versus an angry one. Also, give mechanic gloves a try this next year instead of your thick leather gloves. The bees will appreciate your more controlled and graceful movements. You will be apologizing a lot less to your bees. Promise! What would you tell a new beekeeper coming into the science for the first time? Spend time educating yourself before getting bees. Take a beginner class and sign up with a bee club. Get yourself a mentor and be humble. This type of animal husbandry will offer you many humbling moments. Also, do not give up after your first, second or third hives die. This is not an easy hobby or career. How do you keep up your knowledge base? I am a member of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association, Master Beekeeping program. I have completed my apprentice level and moved on to the journeyman level. I will spend the next 2-3 years getting to the master’s level. I will then spend time conducting a master project and delivering my findings to the group. Consider joining the CSBA and challenging yourself. You and your bees will benefit greatly. Anything else you want to add? As you gain experience, you learn to move through your hive with grace and confidence. Keep in mind, it takes 10,000 hours of experience at something before you are considered a professional. So when your first hive dies or you roll your first Queen and kill her, don't be too hard on yourself. This is not an easy hobby to get into and maintain. Give yourself a little grace, too. Bee well, Shelli Quattlebaum