Monument residents Leonard and Dolly Rickerman have turned Dolly’s childhood passion into a retail business in Palmer Lake.
Monument residents Leonard and Dolly Rickerman have turned Dolly’s childhood passion into a retail business in Palmer Lake.

Leonard and Dolly Rickerman just want their BeeTV.

“It’s so relaxing,” said Dolly, who owns a 20-hive apiary with her husband Leonard. The two also own and operate the newly opened Rocky Mountain Bee Supply in Palmer Lake.

“We try to get out to our hives every week. … I can get lost in there. I can sit there all day and watch my BeeTV. I forgot to pick up my son from wrestling practice once because I was so engrossed in it.”

HONEY, PLEASE

Leonard is a native of Cuba, N.M. He met Dolly while attending college in her home state of Texas. The two married, Leonard promptly joined the Army and, after 20 years and a final assignment at Peterson Air Force Base, the couple and their two sons settled down in Monument where they’ve lived for the past decade. Five years ago, they decided to start their own apiary.

“My granddad kept bees for more than 30 years in Texas,” Dolly said. “I have really fond memories of him going and robbing the hive. I couldn’t go out there or my grandma would threaten me. He would come in bringing the honey into the kitchen, and she’d get so mad. That’s where I learned a lot of my cuss words. He’d leave a trail of sticky mess.”

While eating fresh honey at breakfast as a child, Dolly decided that when she grew up, she’d have bees of her own.

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When they were trying to set up their own apiary, the couple discovered a need for a beekeeper supply store in the Pikes Peak region.

“Over the last few years, we’ve hit a wave of national interest in beekeeping,” Leonard said. “We were brand new to this only a few years back, and we’ve been through the learning process about how difficult it is to get equipment, especially in this region. Most of the big suppliers are on the East Coast or in California. We identified a big need here for equipment and education.”

BEE EDUCATED

Due to supply issues of their own, Dolly contacted some larger companies on the East Coast and was eventually approved for a distributorship.

“That was a prayer answered,” Leonard said. “Once we got that approval, it was light-our-hair-on-fire time to set up this little store. It went from concept to grand opening between January and March. We’ve had a phenomenal reception from everybody.”

The shop is set up to provide any beginner beekeeper with everything needed to get started.

A hive alone will cost about $280, Leonard said, and hives differ depending on the beekeeper’s intent — whether honey, pollination or simply to help revitalize the depressed bee population.

For between $400 and $500, one can be “completely outfitted and up and running as a beekeeper,” Leonard said.

In addition to protective gear, a smoker and some basic hive accoutrements, education is perhaps the most important tool, according to the Rickermans.

Since they are relatively new to the hobby, the couple passes on advanced questions to more seasoned keepers in the area. But the Rickermans provide basic beekeeping instruction and are creating classes for more advanced keepers, to include raising queens, as well as different management techniques for different hives.

“We did our homework; we read about them; we watched videos and we went to bee school with the Pikes Peak Beekeepers Association,” Dolly said of their own early experience. “If we can’t answer questions, we try and link people with experts out there, all who are within this area. We’ve created an information hub for backyard beekeepers.”

BUSY AS … YOU KNOW

The business model adapts to the seasons, according to Leonard. Customers order bees in the dead of winter and start setting up their hives as spring arrives. The couple helps those who want honey to get the right supplies in early summer, and they make house calls and extract honey for customers as fall approaches. Around the holidays, Rocky Mountain Bee Supply sells honey and crafting items, like beeswax for soap and candles.

As for the bees themselves, Rocky Mountain Bee Supply provides small starter kits that include a queen. The bees are bred by Dann Purvis, a local who is known worldwide for his bees, Leonard said, adding Purvis is the only beekeeper to have patented a bee.

The couple is optimistic about the potential of their business because the rise in beekeeping’s popularity has coincided with an increased interest in self-sufficiency and urban homesteading, Dolly said. Bees are incredible insects to watch, providing a side benefit for beekeepers, Leonard added.

“A colony of bees is a super-organism,” he said. “It’s amazing how elegant they are and how they communicate. … There’s so much to learn.”

Dolly said bees can use all the help they can get.

“People say bringing back the bee population isn’t going to happen with a commercial beekeeper and thousands of hives,” she said. “It will be because of thousands of backyard beekeepers.” [su_box title=”Rocky Mountain Bee Supply” box_color=”#005ac3″]Founded: 2016

Employees: 1 full-time; 1 part-time

Location: 790 Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake

Contact: rockymountainbeesupply.com[/su_box]