Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Beekeeper reaping sweet harvest

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 10/16/2012 2:13 PM

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ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — This is a sweet season for Randy Scott.

The Alexandria beekeeper has harvested 3,000 pounds of honey from 60 hives.

He's thrilled with the final numbers because it shows the great growth that's occurred in his five-year-old hobby.

Scott's longtime interest in bees peaked as he watched a friend with his beekeeping hobby. Scott and his wife, Teresa, were busy with their children's school activities and Teresa wasn't interested in working with bees so his hobby was put on hold.

After their children all graduated, Scott signed up for a local community education beekeeping course taught by Parkers Prairie beekeeper Lewis Struthers. Struthers became Scott's mentor and good friend.

Scott got his first three hives from Struthers. His first harvest yielded just two gallons of honey because that was all he dared take from the bees.

"That first year when you get them, you learn about them," he said.

It wasn't always a rosy, he said. Scott built up his hive numbers to 42 but lost 40 two winters ago due to harsh, cold wintry conditions.

He purchased another 30 hives.

"It's still a learning experience," he said. "I don't think you ever have it all figured out."

Scott keeps his bees in Minnesota throughout the year. He leaves 80 to 90 pounds of honey in each hive during harvest. The honey serves as the bees' food through winter. In October or November, he wraps tar paper around a grouping of 12 hives and places straw on top to keep the heat in. He checks the hives in February and, if the bees are running short on food, gives them sugar water. He removes the covering in April.

Larger beekeeping operations may have 400 to 500 hives and take bees to warmer climates where the bees earn their keep by pollinating crops.

Farm crops don't contribute much to his bee's nectar source, Scott said. His bees produce a mild honey from the basswood, sweet clovers, thistles, birdsfoot trefoil and wild flowers they encounter.

He has hives at six locations and trades honey for the opportunity to have a spot for the bees. Some are on farms and others near the homes of gardeners.

"As long as I put 10 hives in a spot, it's worth it for me and the bees," he said.

He sells the honey unprocessed, but lightly strained in a variety of jars and squeeze bottles from his home near Lake Ida, at the Alexandria Farmers Market and at The Grain Bin.

Teresa helps with the farmers market sales. The couple's son Jason, has purchased 10 hives. Their daughter, Stacey, helps with marketing. The couple has an 18-year-old daughter, Melissa.

It'll be 10 years before Scott can retire, but the part owner of Alexandria Aircraft is already making plans to increase his hive numbers in the coming years.

While it's not a big profit generator, he makes some money. But he's not raising bees for the money. Scott likes being outdoors and enjoys observing the bees.

"They are amazing little creatures," he said. "One bee can't survive by itself. It needs the whole organization. They all have to work together."

For more information on Scott's beekeeping hobby, check out his website at scottfamilyhoney.com.