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My free range bees

Being organic is all rage these days.  So that is what I do with my bee’s.  I keep them chemical free and haven’t used any antibiotics yet.  My bees are also free range bees.  Thats right, they fly where ever their little hearts desire.  There in lies the problem, I have no idea what they are getting into or what they are bringing back.  No matter how I treat my bees, their true ‘organic’ status is dependent upon everyone around them.  Unfortunately I can’t control that.  However, I am glad to say that my apiary is atop a bluff on the shores of Goodners Lake here in MN.  And they seem to love the forest of Basswood trees.  For they have produced some of the finest basswood honey I have ever tasted.   So, I am pretty sure my bees are almost entirely organic.

I began keeping bees three years ago.  Four years ago I had a very weird year of bee related convergences in time.  I had a beehive in the ground at our home in Maple Grove.  My first reaction was … ‘ I got to get rid of these things’.   You know the male instinct … if you don’t understand it then either destroy it or kill it.  Anyway, as I stood by the hive entrance somewhere before me in the wood chips, I noticed that the bees were literally flying around my legs to and fro, not giving a damn about me or my intentions.   It was then I decided that I didn’t need to kill the bees.  So I didn’t.  I just let them do their thing.  Nobody got hurt or stung all summer.

Later that summer I was up at the cabin doing my cabin stuff and it dawned on me that I hardly ever see any bees.  In fact I had noticed for years that we hardly even saw any birds, squirrels or anything else larger than your hand.  Everything seem small and intent on sucking our blood.  I started to realize that our wonderful secluded get away was sort of out of balance.  So I began feeding the birds, planting things that would feed the animals.  It didn’t really dawn on me that for the plants to succeed, they needed a little help from bees.

The last bit of prompting came at the Minnesota State Fair, that great get together where everyone pays way too much for way too much bad calories.  I was in the Ag building when I came upon the bees.  Not just jars of honey, combs of the stuff, wax candles and photos.  No, what caught my attention for over a half hour was the actual display of bees complete with beekeeper to answer questions and fill my head with trivia about honey and beekeeping.

I was hooked.  I knew right then, I wanted bees.  Their hive, history and honey was the coolest things I had ever seen, heard or tasted.   And the best part, as all beekeepers know, the best thing you can do in the fall and winter after the chores are done is learn about your bees.  And if their is one thing I love to do … read and learn new stuff.

The following spring I began my beekeeping years with two hives.  Each year has been an experiment.  Not everything has been a success.  But I love my bees.  The honey is a bonus.  The change in the forest is amazing.  In the twelve years we have had the place, my wife and I have never seen so many flowering plants and different kinds berried plants.   The bees have been very instrumental in bring back the birds and wild life.  You can actually see the balance returning to the forest around the beehives.  They are so cool.

Life is good.  Go hug a bee.

PS.  If you didn’t figure it out, all bees are free range.