Bill Fetcher talks about beekeeping in Routt County on Friday afternoon at the Tread of Pioneers Museum during the Brown Bag Lunch Lectures series.

Photo by John F. Russell

Bill Fetcher talks about beekeeping in Routt County on Friday afternoon at the Tread of Pioneers Museum during the Brown Bag Lunch Lectures series.

Fetcher brings buzz to Steamboat lecture series

Beekeeper speaks about lives, organization of insects at museum

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— In the one and a half years since Bill Fetcher took over the hobby of beekeeping from his late father, John, he’s made some resounding discoveries about honeybees.

Bees are much like humans in their organizational skills and workmanlike — or workbeelike — ways. They’re not the sting-seeking insects most people make them out to be. Fetcher said he’s been stung maybe a dozen times since he started.

But maybe more than anything, beekeeping is an intriguing hobby for Fetcher.

“I do enjoy it,” he said. “They are fun to watch. There is some entertainment value to them. In the evening, in the afternoon or when I come home from work, I like to sit with a glass of wine and watch them.”

Fetcher spoke Friday at the Tread of Pioneers Museum as part of the 2010 Brown Bag Lunch Lectures series.

His speech, Beekeeping in Routt County, addressed the history of beekeeping, how it works and how to understand bees.

“I wanted people to get an appreciation for bees and beekeeping,” he said. “Maybe clear up a few misunderstandings and maybe spur some interest in beekeeping as a hobby.”

As a hobbyist, Fetcher has four colonies of bees that he tends to year-round. Each colony has 7,000 bees in the winter and as many as 70,000 to 90,000 bees in the spring. Unlike commercial beekeepers, Fetcher keeps his bees in Steamboat year-round.

Honey season takes place from mid-June through August, with last year being a banner year for Fetcher: He produced 52 gallons of honey.

But maybe most interesting is the life of a bee.

“It’s a division of labor,” Fetcher said.

There is the queen bee, which lives three to four years and is productive for two. There are drone bees, house bees, undertaker bees and bees for just about every other job.

“I wasn’t even thinking about the bees as much as Bill Fetcher,” said Mary Harker, who attended the lecture. “I knew his father was a famous man here. I decided to come, and I’m glad I did. The organization of the bees is incredible. They have the one queen and the drones, and he dies once he mates. Then the worker bees are taking care of, I think I counted 20 things.”

Beekeeping can be a costly hobby. A single hive can cost $300. A shipment of bees costs $170, and a replacement queen bee is $40.

But it’s a hobby of love.

“Bees are like children,” Fetcher said. “You need to keep them warm and dry — fit and medicated.”

The next Brown Bag Lunch Lectures series event is at noon July 23, when Paul Bonnifield presents Congressional Hear­ings from the 1879 Conflict Between the White River Utes and the U.S. Government.

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