HIVE MENTALITY: Greeley parents start Illuman Apiary to educate public on declining bee population and come closer as a family |

HIVE MENTALITY: Greeley parents start Illuman Apiary to educate public on declining bee population and come closer as a family

Yara Tencza, left, jumps on her dad, KJ, while her brother, Zion, laughs at their kitchen table, which was littered in homemade honey sticks on Monday at their home in Greeley. The family makes its own beeswax soap, lip balm and candles out of beeswax and sell their wares online and now at the farmer's market.
Kelsey Brunner/ |

Illuman Apiary

To find out more about Illuman Apiary, visit or search Illuman Apiary on Facebook.

In between school and homework, Zion Tencza and his sister, Yara, help their parents make sure the bees are happy and healthy. Zion and Yara’s parents, KJ and Yendra, started keeping bees for a number of reasons, but most of all they wanted something to bring their family together.

The family of four keeps hives in their yard in west Greeley, and as they get older, the siblings are taking on more responsibility for their buzzing friends.

“I think we came to a point when the kids went to school that we saw our family going in different direction,” KJ said. “We wanted to find a common purpose, and the bees are part of that process for us.”

They not only found a purpose, they found a business as well. The Tenczas make chapstick, candles, hand and liquid soaps, lotions, lip salve, honey sticks, fire starters and, of course, plain honey. They sell it all online at, and recently they started selling at the Greeley Farmer’s Market.

At only 8 and 6 years old, Zion and Yara help out a lot. Zion builds the hives, and they both help explain the uniqueness of their products when they encounter someone who doesn’t know about the business end of Illuman Apiary.

KJ said his family lets their bees live naturally. They don’t force them to produce more just because they want more products to sell.

“Our goal isn’t to be a huge business or to make a lot of money from this,” he said.

In fact, Yendra said they use the business as a launching point to educate people about the bee epidemic sweeping the U.S.

“Because of their huge decline, we’re doing our part to keep them alive,” Yendra said. “A big part of who we are is creating awareness.”

Many honeybee hives in the U.S. are suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder, which according to the Department of Agriculture, is a syndrome defined as a dead colony with no adult bees or dead bee bodies but with a live queen. Usually honey and immature bees are still present. USDA reports say no scientific cause for the disorder has been proven.

A May 13 report said the losses of managed honey bee colonies were 23.1 percent for the 2014-15 winter, but summer losses exceeded the winter number of lost colonies. Annual losses total 42.1 percent.

Honeybees pollinate more than 100 crops in the U.S. According to a USDA blog, an estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables, are pollinated by honeybees alone.

KJ said he thinks a big part of why the bee population is declining in the U.S. is that they are being pushed too hard.

“Part of the problem is we are exploiting our bees and not following the bee seasons,” he said. “The bees are not here to serve us. If you take more than you need, the ecosystem collapses.”

Yendra said their family also feels connected to the well being of their bees. The bees’ success is their success. They want to be in touch with nature.

“To me that’s a big part of it,” she said. “You’re walking in what could be dangerous. But when you have a healthy respect and the right tools,” it’s not dangerous.

Plus, the kids have learned responsibility.

“The kids are growing into it,” KJ said. “The older they get, the more responsibility they’ll have.”

Now Zion is putting together his first beehive, which he will launch this year.

“It’s hard,” Zion said, while explaining his responsibility in building the hive. First the glue, next the wax foundation that fits in the middle, then it all has to be nailed together and put into the box, he said.

He will soon take some bees from one of KJ’s hives to start his own.

KJ said he sees this as part of the natural way of things when it comes to parenting.

“To take something I have and split it in half and give it to him,” KJ said. “And it’s going to grow.” ❖

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