Unique program uses beekeeping as therapy for veterans

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Veterans Memorial is working with the city to bring a new therapeutic beekeeping program to Albuquerque. While it may take some time for them to have hives at the memorial, some veterans are already reaping the benefits of the Hives for Heroes program.

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Tucked behind a sunflower jungle, in a South Valley backyard, you’ll find hundreds of bees. Annette Colbert is a beekeeper, she has five hives in her yard. Colbert has been beekeeping for ten years. Now, she’s sharing her passion for bees, with some New Mexico veterans, in a new program called Hives for Heroes, which uses beekeeping as a form of therapy for veterans.

“I’m an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran,” said Ambrose Montoya, a participant in the Hives for Heroes program. “I think this has been extremely therapeutic,” Montoya said.

Colbert currently has three mentees, including Montoya, who come to her home a few times a month, to check on her bees and learn proper beekeeping techniques. “I’ve learned so much already,” Montoya said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in beekeeping, without a mentor like Annette,” Montoya told KRQE.

Eventually, Michael Burd, the President of the Veterans Memorial Foundation, says they’d like to have hives at the Memorial, to create easier access, so more veterans can become involved in the program. “This could be the difference between someone potentially thinking about taking their lives,” said Burd.

For now, Montoya and the other veteran participants say they’ll continue learning all they can, not just from Colbert, but from her bees too. “They can sense whether you’re nervous, or calm,” said Montoya. “For PTSD, it helps you to really relax and just be calm,” he said.

There’s no timeline for when the hives may be set up at the park. Burd says they’re hopeful they can begin fundraising for the program by the middle of next year.

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