ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Sometimes at practice, a few honeybees will buzz around the Denver Broncos' Gatorade bottles.
That wasn't always the case. But when the team more than doubled the landscape at its headquarters, Brooks Dodson, the club's director of sports turf and grounds, noticed something: Flowers weren't growing.
It was time to draft a swarm of new players.
"I just noticed there wasn't a lot of bees on our property," Dodson said.
A friend in the same line of work in a Denver suburb mentioned that he had met a couple of beekeepers.
So Dodson visited Joe and Debbie Komperda. The beekeepers, whose business card reads "Bee Happy," were eager to help out their beloved Broncos by building them a bee yard north of their indoor practice facility about 100 yards from the practice fields.
Debbie Komperda built four beehives, each painted orange and blue and each unique so the bees know which home is theirs.
It's believed the Broncos are the first professional sports team to serve as beehive hosts.
Joe Komperda said it's a win-win: the Broncos get the benefits of hosting hives while the honeybees get a chance to thrive at a time when so many colonies are inexplicably dying, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder.
"There's a lot of people who want to make sure that we can support the bees," Joe Komperda said. "And the Broncos being a good corporate citizen and looking out for the environment, when they realized that their flowers weren't doing well and they needed more bees ... we were able to come up with an agreement that the Broncos will be a hive host."
Between 20,000 (winter) and 100,000 (summer) bees now buzz around the four beehives. They pollinate plants as they gather nectar and pollen from a 3-mile radius, and they generally stay away from the players except for the occasional visitors drawn to the Gatorade bottles.
"So that's why there's bees at practice all the time," linebacker Todd Davis said, laughing. "That explains a lot."
Another benefit is that some of the honey the Komperdas harvest gets used by the team's chefs in the Broncos cafeteria .
"That's really cool," Davis said. "It's kind of like that farm-to-table aspect. I think that's really cool having fresh honey here."
The Komperdas maintain the hives and take care of the bees year-round.
"We try to keep them well and try to make sure that they're out there pollinating flowers," Joe Komperda said. "And while they're not pollinating crops, so to speak, right here, they're still making a difference to the environment."
The hives have thrived.
"The flowers are doing much better," Joe Komperda said. "Of course, this whole area is planted very well. ... What that's done is because it's irrigated, planted, the bees had nectar all summer long. In other places where we had bees the bees didn't do much honey producing because there wasn't the capability to do that. It wasn't wet enough. There weren't enough flowers. But around here the bees thrived."
Even in Colorado's cold winter.
"Although people think that honey is for us as a sweet desert and something great, actually it's the way that he bees survive the winter," Joe Komperda said. "The bees actually get together in a cluster, a ball about the size of a soccer ball and they shiver and shiver and shiver and they keep the temperature inside that hive between 75 and 95 degrees the entire winter.
"The queen is in the center of that cluster so that they can keep her warm and make sure she's going to survive. And the bees in general survive that way. As the bees on the outside get cold, they move into the inside just like the penguins do. And they constantly move and they use that honey so that they can burn calories and keep it warm."
And the Broncos get to enjoy the extra honey that's harvested.
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