Rocky Mountain Bee Supply Saves Beekeepers One at a Time

Hello, Benjamin from Brothers Campfire here!

I have been in the urban agriculture business in one form or another for about twenty years.

A few of my adventures include aquaponics, vertical production, meat processing, insect farming, vermiculture, field foraging, and community and prison garden management.  

Education, space, and financial considerations prevented me from getting started in the beekeeping industry, but I droned on and on about it nonetheless.

In 2015, the entrance reducer flipped in our favor when we purchased the third of an acre we call Willow Manor Urban Farm; preparation was in order. 

Unfortunately, the prior owner had applied insecticides over many years. Dissipation of some of these chemicals can take awhile and this was true at Willow Manor. 

Direct observation of our property indicated we had only seemed to have woodlice, black widows, and pavement ants, all tough-as-nails survivors in the prior owner’s invertebrate apocalypse.

Leaning a bit on the natural side, we set about to speed up the process of biodiversity in our yard by creating water sources, hanging bird feeders, planting pollinators, and spreading cornmeal as a food source for insects and earthworms. We also lasagna-layered thick mats of mulch and lawn clippings over most of the property.  

Over 6 years, Willow Manor steadily began to attract all types of Arthropods and Annelids. First came the pests like flea beetles, aphids, and grasshoppers, then as time progressed, we saw large garden-type spiders, ladybugs, dragonflies, and even a few mantis. When I started to see mason bees and butterflies, our excitement peaked; we were ready, but I didn’t know where to start.

It began on the Nextdoor application. I was doom scrolling sometime in September 2022, when I saw a post for a free nucleus colony. 

I immediately contacted the poster, named Paul, and asked what needed doing.

He instructed me to purchase a 10-frame Langstroth, suggesting that Big R might have one. 

Two-Hundred United States Dollars on a credit card later, Paul came down and installed five frames of bees in exchange for five empty ones. 

Knowing absolutely nothing about bees, I went to Rocky Mountain Bee Supply and met Leonard and Dolly, some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. I spent a good amount of time there and they taught me about Varroa treatment, hive top feeders, pollen patties for different seasons, candy boards, quilt boxes, and bee cozies to feed and overwinter my new six-legged friends.

Cassandra Marlow, an employee of Rocky Mountain Bee Supply introduced herself. We learned that initially, she was not into beekeeping, but her son Jaedon was. She had lost her son Jaedon to a motorcycle accident in April 2022, and she had taken to caring for his bees. 

She gave us a small jar of honey from Jaedon’s hives. We were immensely touched and it still hurts to think about it.

Armed with new knowledge and a handful of supplies, 

I buttoned up my bees for winter and questions flooded my bee-fuddled brain. 

How do I check on my bees in the spring? 

Can I afford a bee suit?

 How do I start a smoker? 

How will I harvest honey? 

Will they attack me? 

I supposed I would figure it out if they made it through the winter. 

April 19th, 2023 ushered in my 40th birthday and I received a beekeeping suit, some tools, and a hand-cranked extractor from my family. I was beyond excited and a little embarrassed. I didn’t even know what I was doing and my family was investing in equipment for me. 

Somewhere around that time, I saw a Nextdoor post from a member named Cassandra Basta stating that 16 beehives needed a temporary home for one week and 50 dollars would be paid for placement. 

Looking into the Nextdoor account, I noticed it was Cassandra from Rocky Mountain Bee Supply. This would be a big opportunity, and I would be able to use the beekeeping suit I received on my birthday. I was more than happy to help Jaedon’s mother.

On April 24, 2023,  I enthusiastically took the day off and was met by a man in a pickup truck with a large trailer who introduced himself as Christian Haines. 

While offloading sixteen beehives with migratory covers, Christian informed me he partnered up with Cassandra in the business of bees and I pulled up his website on my phone. It was a classy affair with all the bells and whistles such as product descriptions, online purchase capability, and a lot of up-close photography.

Spending a couple of hours with Christian, he demonstrated charm, wit, intelligence, and charisma. Impulsive, and a thrill seeker, I noted that he was a bit unattached emotionally and was probably capable of selling paper to wasps with little effort. 

I didn’t trust him and notified my family that there was something about him that was off and to stay inside if he came by when I was not home. I filed those thoughts away and asked if he could show me how to complete a hive inspection and he agreed. Immediately, he was upset with my hive top feeder and pollen pattie and told me I was harming my bees by using it. 

My five frames of bees had expanded to seven frames and he instructed me to place the capped brood on the outside edges of the Langstroth and the frames without a comb in the center. When he placed the top cover on my hive, he squashed a lot of bees. I told him he was rather rough with his treatment of the hive, and he said it was normal. I quickly realized that 

Christian probably did not possess much empathy, but he had a lot more infrastructure than me, and would only be there a week so I listened to what he had to say. 

I mentioned Rocky Mountain Bee Supply had given me different directions in some areas and

Christian became upset, notifying me that Leonard and Dolly weren’t the nice folks they seemed to be. I learned from Christian that he and Cassandra worked for the supply and had been fired, but he did not give much of an explanation. 

Due to my life experience of working with the criminal element, triangulation came to mind and I decided I not only didn’t trust, but did not like Christian.

Christian stopped by every few days and removed quite a few queens from their hives, stating that they would make new ones. Every so often he would come with cardboard boxes and leave with parts of the hive enclosed.

The week turned into two and he did not pay me. Christian told me he would give me a hive if he could keep them there a bit longer and I agreed. He struck me as a pathological liar and I didn’t believe him, but at this point, I wanted to see what would play out. I did not feel my family was in danger, but he had red flags for sure.

On May 14, 2023, a swarm congregated on our fence line and I called Christian up.  

He was elated at the size of the swarm and I reminded him that he promised me a hive of bees. It was at this time that I saw a dark, angry side of Christian. He gave me the bees but he didn’t seem to like it. 

Sometime in mid-May, 2023, Christian came to my house frantically and asked me to help tape boxes and load five frames each in them. I asked which frames and he said he did not care. He explained to me that any five frames could make a new colony of bees. I counted forty boxes and helped him load his truck. 

Despite the suit, I had been stung about twenty times. 

Christian told me he was leaving and that I could have what was left of the hives.  

I looked about. Queenless, angry bees were everywhere but inside those sixteen stacks of boxes. 

I asked Christian how to make them queen right and he said, “You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.”

It was getting dark, and using the little information I had, began consolidating the frameless boxes of bees into smaller components. Hundreds of angry bees crowd-funded my suit and began congregating on my wrists and veil, stinging me through my suit, and as I was inexperienced they worked their way into unsecured areas. 

Sleepy and sick, I called it a day, placed some wood in my firepit, poured a bunch of gasoline on it, and roasted and smoked the bees off of my suit. 

I hung outside for a long time to keep my family safe. 

Those were some scary bees. 

I went inside and started to Google. I wish I had before. I learned about swarm cells, eggs, larvae, capped brood, pollen, and nectar. I slept like I was drugged that night. 

The next day, I built a fire and re-smoked my suit. I splashed some sugar water on myself. Looking back, it was kinda funny, but working with a bee-stung, swollen body will make you tread carefully and try to make friends. 

I fired up my smoker for the first time. Smoking the hives down and moving methodically, I finished consolidating the hives and tried to find eggs, brood, and swarm cells for each hive. I am not sure how well I did shuffling frames because my eyes were swollen shut. 

It was at this time I realized I had done something wrong in packing those boxes for Christian.  

While I was working, hundreds of bees from a hive landed on my suit all at once, focusing on my veil area. 

I stopped everything, built a fire in my firepit and 20 frames of bees met an early demise.

Christian was now unavailable on his phone, and his website was unavailable. 

I needed help and went to Rocky Mountain Bee Supply, explaining my situation. 

From them, I  learned that Sandra Basta, A.K.A. Cassandra Marlow, and Zachary Finnegan A.K.A. Christian Haines were indeed released from their job assignments for less than noble reasons.

I also heard from a lot of beekeepers that Zachary Finnegan A.K.A. Christian Haines had sold these boxes of bees as year-old, queen right nucleus colonies and ripped off a lot of trusting people when all he was selling were a frightful few bees, super frames of honey and hopefully some brood. 

I estimate that folks were ripped off for between 8 and 10 thousand US dollars. 

Sickened to tears, I considered letting the beekeeping idea go. 

Dolly and an assistant manager from Rocky Mountain Bee Supply reassured me that I had no way of knowing what those two were doing and told me no one would hold it against me.  

They gave me an astounding amount of advice for managing the abandoned beehives and provided me with information on how to link up with other beekeepers. 

They are amazing! 

Just the other day, I purchased bee packages from them and a few queens died. 

Their website and their signage spell out very clearly that all bee sales are final. I asked Leonard and Dolly what to do, and they gave me replacement queens. 

That was very big of them and I appreciate it. 

Rocky Mountain Bee Supply has a motto that states “Saving Honey Bees One Hive At a Time.” 

I believe they save beekeepers one at a time, turning nightmares into childhood dreams. 

I am a forever customer. Thank you, Rocky Mountain Bee Supply

P.S. Before you get all mad at getting called out…

Author: Benjamin

Benjamin Thiel is a community leader, urban farmer, and author of The Ongoing Tale at Brothers Campfire. He might know a guy...

9 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain Bee Supply Saves Beekeepers One at a Time

  1. Homemaking in the Dunes says:

    I am very untrusting too, especially since I am not from around here. We have bees as well. I enjoy it . It was a learning curve. I can spot people like that too. We had a neighbor who I told my husband I didn’t like, he ended up on the front page of the local paper. That gut feeling.

    Reply
  2. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Bees are raised article so inspiring to read 🌹🙏👍🏻 life has everything in it , so you must create your own view into business guide 👌😊
    Actually we need the goal of achieving excellence in life by recognising good and bad based on our own experience
    ❤️🌷true happiness is peace ✌🏼 don’t bother people and with positive mind you make the greatest success dear friend 💗👏💐

    Reply
  3. herbthiel says:

    What a nice tribute to a great company. It’s a shame you had to deal with a couple of crooks at first, though. I’m hoping your bees do well this year, the honey from last year was really good.

    Reply
  4. YouLittleCharmer says:

    Ben!!!! I was thinking about you just last night as it’s been ages since we heard from you. And now I know why! Beekeeping is now added to your resume! Love it! 😁🐝🖤

    Reply

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