VACAVILLE (CBS13) — Standing among the ashes of what’s left of Caroline Yelle’s Bee farm, is a hard reality for her to see years of work that went up in flames.
“Every time I drive by here I’m expecting something different. A place where there was happiness and work and now it’s gone,” she explained.
Five hundred of her hives in Vacaville and at another location in Napa Valley all burned. The flames from the LNU Lightning Complex Fires surrounded Yelle’s seven years of work. The fire also destroyed her mentor’s home and four decades of his own legacy that he left to her.
“I could put a price on that farm but the farm is covered by insurance, what breaks our heart are all these colonies that are just gone,” Yelle said.
She estimates the fire has cost $200,000 between the bees that were killed and the revenue she will lose without them. Yelle’s business “Pope Canyon Queens” breeds Carniolans, Apis mellifera carnica, a subspecies of the western honey bee. The breed creates a stronger gene of bees to increase their longevity, according to Yelle.
Yelle only has 100 hives left from a group of bees that were stored at a different location.
“We already have a shortage of bees. So, that disaster is not only affecting us, it’s affecting all the beekeepers who have lost so many hives and all of us because these bees are necessary for our crops,” she said. “That’s the big issue here, losing those breeders, losing the years of the hives selected and that is what is going to be impossible to replace.”
Yelle moved from Canada to pursue her passion for bees. As one of the few female-owned queen bee breeder businesses, she is determined to not let her legacy burn out.
“It means I don’t want to quit. I answered myself that day pretty quick that I would be rebuilding no matter what,” she said.
Yelle plans to take the next six months to prepare for the next bee season. She hopes to start breeding again next year but says it will take at least two to three years to fully rebuild.