Beekeeping in Wyoming

When you discover a family business in Worland that claims it’s the largest work force in the State, it peaks your curiosity. I was intrigued by Bryant Honey and the beekeeping trade. Like most people I had heard of the alarming die offs faced by beekeepers over the past few years.  And the fundamental importance of bees to the abundant crops enjoyed by farmers and consumers across the country. Yes, industrial revolution, chemical technology (and migrant labor) all make essential contributions, but thanks to the diligent attention of hard working beekeepers around the world, every third bite we take is attributed to the pollination of a bee from a commercial beekeeper’s colony.

Meet Don Bryant and his sons, a passionate, good-humored family who have taken their share of blows in the trade. But like many beekeepers, they are hard-wired to face the challenge of adversity, pulling together to beat the odds. After spending a day with them shooting this short feature for Wyoming Chronicle, it was clear they are well armed with an appetite for innovation and shared commitment.

There’s a deep calling that rises in those who spend time tending bees. Most of the keepers in America today are direct descendants of beekeeping great, great grandfathers. In America, many of the nearly two thousand small beekeeping businesses are on their 4th (and hopefully 5th) generation. Most today though, are seeing the present generation move on, answering the call of the modern world- un-interested in bees. With certain adversity in the trade, there’s little incentive to follow the family tradition…

When I heard that Wyoming produced some of the finest honey in the country I started pestering Larry Krause of Wind River Honey, another Wyoming Beekeeper, with questions. I discovered a romantic profession that seems to cultivate a steady, attentive kind of mind, guided by deep knowledge and patience. Four generations of trial and error and hard work yields a strong intuition that comes from working with something as familiar as breathing. This is a unique livelihood; harnessing a stinging, swarming, yet brilliantly social force of nature. Tied to the rhythms of nature, beekeeping is naturally punctuated by risk and adversity. They tend an intricate piece of the agricultural world where the winds of adversity seem to blow from every direction. Beekeepers today must gauge the consequences that modern technology, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, mono-cultures, and GMO’s might have on their narrowing and specialized gene pool of livestock- the bees….

CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) continues to inflict dire consequences on this tireless yet aging industry. Yet talking to Larry Krause and Don Bryant, you sense a different rhythm and intricacy to the world. It’s hard not to want to enter the meditative spell that calls one to look at the landscape through the eyes of a bee. Their lives seem to be perpetual motion – as Larry Krause puts it, they’ve become Bedouin Beekeepers, as they move with their livestock across the land.

About Stefani Smith