From spring through fall, you're likely to see Dru Spinuzzi buzzing around her yard, tending to her bee hives.

She picked up the hobby on a whim one day while volunteering at the annual Posada of Pueblo at the Orman Mansion for the Kentucky Derby.

"All of these swarms started to come into the mansion grounds, so I just ended up getting a swarm and I started from there," Spinuzzi explained. 

Spinuzzi is a beekeeper and the education coordinator for the Pueblo County Beekeepers Association, which meets monthly to talk about best practices and to pick each other brains on pollination and beekeeping. She's a relative newcomer, having done it for only about three years now.

Last year, Spinuzzi maintained nine hives, including two in the city — as is the limit per a city ordinance — and seven in the county.

There are anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 bees per hive, so the combined population of the nine hives is about 500,000 bees.

Spinuzzi said she doesn't sell the honey the bees produce, which is harvested in the fall. Instead, she uses any extra she collects for herself and gifts the rest to family members.

"My family always wants some, so I give it to them," she said.

The goal of beekeeping isn't to produce honey, Spinuzzi said.

"Most beekeepers do it to pollinate flowers and keep bees going and alive," she said. "Without bees, there would be no fruit, vegetables and flowers. The honey most take is just anything extra the bees don't need."

Though beekeeping is an expensive hobby due to the cost of the equipment and the bees it requires to get started, it's not one that is labor-intensive, as most people would assume, Spinuzzi said, depending on how many hives are maintained.

"People think you have to go check on your bees every day — and that's not true," Spinuzzi said. "What you do is you open your hive in the spring and make sure they're doing OK and they're still alive. You do treatments for mites. You have to maintain a queen at all times and make sure they're healthy and they have enough to forage on.

"If you take care of them, they'll do what they do. They are amazing bugs."

As with the other members of the Pueblo County Beekeepers Association, Spinuzzi is expecting a better crop of honey this year compared to last year due to the more favorable weather conditions.

"Last year was a problem because of the drought," said Tom Laca, Colorado State University Extension agent for Pueblo County, who taught beekeeping classes that led to the formation of the Pueblo County Beekeepers Association. "We've had a lot more winter and spring moisture this year than we did last year, and so we're going to see a lot more of not just people's backyard flowers and what they plant, but out on the rangeland, we have a lot more flowering species that will be blooming this year.

"Toward Beulah, we have a really good crop of yellow sweet clover honey. It just grows wild there. Last year, because of the weather conditions and that, there was none of it coming up to bloom."

Since it's spring and bees are starting to swarm, Spinuzzi said she wants to urge residents not to spray and kill them.

"We would like people to be aware that they do not need to be afraid of bees. Lots of people are afraid of them, and they end up spraying swarms and killing them," Spinuzzi said.

Spinuzzi said anyone who sees a swarm they want gone can call the association's hotline at 252-2406 and request a "commander" to come and collect the swarm.

"When bees are swarming, that's when they are the most docile," Spinuzzi said. "They're just trying to find a new home."

The Pueblo County Beekeepers Association has launched a membership drive, Spinuzzi said.

"If someone is looking to get into this hobby, you need education. I wasn't educated enough when I got into it," Spinuzzi said.

For $25 a year, membership includes access to a mentor to guide a new beekeeper through the process at the group's monthly meetings.

"I learned so much from being in this group," Spinuzzi said.

rseverance@chieftain.com

Twitter: RyanS_Chieftain