LOS LUNAS — Los Lunas is buzzing with some new residents.
Two new bee hives can now call the Los Lunas Open Space home after the village acquired them to bring more pollinators into the bosque and to use as an education tool. The hives were introduced to the area on May 10.
“The park rangers, our motto is conservation and preservation. We try to do that by keeping the open spaces clean and teaching people about the open spaces,” said Los Lunas Open Space park ranger Vince Armijo. “(Bees) are a huge part of our ecosystem and they are not doing great right now. They are disappearing at a pretty alarming rate, so not only is this going to help our community, but we are also going to use this as a teaching tool.”
Armijo said he had been in talks with the village for about the past six months about purchasing the hives, which can only be bought in April and May, and hopes they begin producing honey by the end of July.
After the bees begin to produce honey, Armijo said the open space division has plans to bring the community into the process by offering a class to teach about the pollinators’ impact on the environment while processing honeycomb.
“One of our big goals is to teach them how important they are and that they are not something to be afraid of,” Armijo said, joking that only people who kick the hive have a good chance of being stung.
The class will be offered along the myriad of other classes hosted by the open space division, including archery, pottery, camping and fly tying among others. Armijo said the class will more than likely come with a small fee to participate to cover the cost of materials.
The two hives were placed in a very low-trafficked area adjacent to the Rio Grande and behind the Los Lunas Wastewater Treatment Plant. There, the bees are able to have access to a variety of water sources as well as vegetation to pollinate.
Armijo said the open space division plans to acquire more hives next year to place in other parts of the village, assuming this hive takes to their new home.
“There is always a 5 percent chance that they won’t take. It’s 95 percent that they will take and they will be OK,” Armijo said. “We got past the first few days. They seem to be fine, so I’m hoping that they don’t decide to leave— again, that’s totally up to the queen.”
Armijo, who is the point person on the bee project, is a mainly self-taught beekeeper, doing much of his own research on how to maintain a hive while also receiving some mentoring from a teacher at Los Lunas High School.
Armijo visits the hives typically once a day to ensure that they have enough sugar water to sustain themselves and begin to produce honeycomb. However, as time goes on, the hives will become more self-sustaining, only needing check-ups from Armijo twice a month during honey season and once a month while they are hibernating in the winter.
“They are very low maintenance. They pretty much take care of themselves, take care of each other,” Armijo said, giving the example that should one of the bees fall into the pool of sugar water, the others will help it out by building bridges with their bodies and lick it clean.
He said even though the bees are generally pretty mellow, he does smoke them every time he disrupts their hive just to remove any stress that could bring. Contrary to popular belief, the smoke doesn’t actually put the bees to sleep, but actually causes them to eat, according to Armijo.
“They forget about everything else and just go and eat their honey or the sugar water so they stop focusing on you,” he said. “I just don’t want them to stress out, that way they don’t leave the hive, so I do smoke them every time I come.”
There are many ways the community can promote the health of pollinators without necessarily installing a beehive in the backyards, such as avoid the use of pesticides and plant bee-friendly flowers. However, he warned, some genetically-modified flowers found at box stores don’t provide bees with the correct pollen they need for survival.
“There are a lot of bee-friendly flowers and plants that you can plant.” Armijo said. “I just suggest that they do some research on it and see which ones are good for bees and which ones aren’t.”
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.