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Interviewed By MPR At The Beehives


Yesterday was an interesting day.  A couple of people from Minnesota Public Radio accompanied Lorraine and I out to the hives.  We’ve had Euan Kerr out before, but he was interviewing Mr. Neil.  For some reason, it really didn’t register to me what we would be doing when they asked to come out.  I love to show off our bees and I love to take people who have never been to a beehive out to our hives, but it didn’t register to me that Lorraine and I would be interviewed.  In my brain, they were out to interview the bees not me and I did not prepare for it the way I would prepare for a bird segment.  There were two people, Jessica Mador who took the audio and asked most of the questions (and was apparently a bit scared at the hives) and Tom Weber who came along to get video footage to go along with the story on the website.

a beekeeper

Our hives were on their best bee-havior.  All four of our new Italian hives have been so mellow this bee season, they were perfect to introduce to newbies.  They pretty much just let Lorraine and I talk while they asked questions that most people ask the first time they visit our hives.  As I understand it, the gist of the segment is about the recent change in the law that allows beekeeping in Minneapolis.  One of the reasons that I started with bees at Mr. Neil’s was because it’s illegal to keep bees in Minneapolis when we started.  Since our operation is going well out there and my building manager doesn’t want anyone on the roof of the building, we will not bee keeping any hives on top of the roof of my home.


One theme of questioning that we seemed to get over and over again was something along the lines of, “How dangerous will this be for people if hives are in their neighborhood” and “what should you be worried about.”  As I said, Jessica did not seem comfortable around the hives–and that is totally understandable.  She kept her distance from the hives and even had Tom put her mic in front of the hive entrance for her.  Lorraine and I totally freaked the first time we worked with our bees, so I could understand her nervousness. Plus, I’m sure Euan had told her how he got stung right through the beesuit (the suit was a hair to small on him and the bee found the breach where his bicep was flexed…and we also made the mistake of taking him out to a very angry hive.

But I wondered if this was an article more along the lines of–are bees something really scary that people need to worry about in their neighborhood and I hope we conveyed the answer of, “Not really.” Bees are kind of like the big scary guy at the bar.  If you go about your business, stay polite, you’ll be fine and if you play close attention, might learn a thing or two.  However, if you go up, punch and kick him, he’s going to get defensive and quite possibly hurt you.

bees are not scary

The bees were so chill, Lorraine demonstrated how to hand feed the girls.  I asked if Jess and Tom wanted to feed them.  Jess politely declined but Tom was all over it.  We also had another friend out named Beth (she was visiting from out of town and it was her first time at a hive too) and she was ready to hand feed the bees. I got a photo of it here.  Tom is the one filming his hand and Beth is the one in back.  Incidentally, Beth was a natural at the beehive.  Lorraine and I would be busy showing frames and larvae that when we’d ask for some puffs from the smoker or an extra hand–she was right there ready to help.

We did get into this whole weird conversation about talking to our bees and I really hope I don’t come off sounding like a hippie.  I was talking about all the times I have found comfort in our bees.  One of the awesome things about being a freelancer is that you can set your own schedule, the downside is that so can the people who pay you.  There have been times when we’ve been financially strapped because of waiting for a check or wondering what the next project will be.  Going out to the hives, watching the girls go about their work really comforts me.  I think it’s getting wrapped up in watching the live natural science right in front of me.  We also talked about the different personalities of all the hives and sometimes I even talk to the bees.  But for the record, I want everyone to know: I do not expect the bees to talk back to me.  I’m more of a Clint Eastwood type singing, “I talk to my beeeeeeeeeeeeees, but they never listen to me.”

honey tasting

I love this shot!  Beth is tasting honey freshly scraped right off the frame, I think she likes it.  She’s enjoying the flavor and her fabulous hair color works with the bucolic palette of our bee yard.  I think my favorite food period is honey freshly scraped off of an active hive in summer.  The wax is soft and warm.  Right now, our honey has a delicate sweet flavor with a hint of something peppery and surprise flavor of mint.  Earlier this summer, it totally tasted like lilacs.

All in all, it was fun to take people out and both Jess and Tom said we made them feel at ease visiting their first hives.  Which is good.  The last thing I want to be is the snarky and judgemental beekeeper screaming at a nervous newbie, “Get your butt over here and stick you hand in the hive.  Why are you crying?  There’s no crying at the beehive! Wuss!”

I know they’re going to interview some other beekeepers too and I can’t wait to hear how it’s all going to come together…I just hope I don’t sound like the hippie beekeeper and I hope more people will be excited to take up beekeeping.  One thing is for sure, they will get a lot of different opinions.  Talk to three different beekeepers and ask them the same question, you’re likely to end up with seven different answers.  This should be up sometime next week and I’ll put up a notice.

12 comments to Interviewed By MPR At The Beehives

  • Kyllikki

    As someone who already keeps bees in the metro (mine are at a community garden in St. Paul) I’d like to say-the more the merrier! My bees are really successful, super mellow, and generally a joy to bee around. We’ve had kids come visit the hive, without suits, and nobody’s been stung, even with me carrying frames around so they can check out the brood.

    I’d been wondering whether urban bees would do better in some ways than country bees, and I think it’s likely that they will. With all the gardens people have in the city, there’s a huge number and diversity of flowers for the gals to find, and they don’t have to fly far to get to them. In the country, you may well have your bees next to 40 acres of corn, which they have to fly over to find anything else, and you tend to get monocultures, so I imagine that it can be a bit feast-or-famine.

    I’m glad your hives are doing well this year. Did you ever get any Russians?

  • They are great behaved hives, I must say.
    And the honey I did taste felt very balsamic to me, as if the bees had been at a eucalyptus tree (yet, most likely, none are available in their neighbourhood).
    Your girls are very photogenic (and so is Beth) and I have been having a great week showing them to the world on my blog.
    They really are amazing creatures.
    And so are you guys for making this all happen.

  • No, we do not have our Russians. I have a blog entry prepared about that, but I don’t like to use the blog to yell at a small business and have been hesitant to post it. But my experience with Long Creek Apiaries has not been good. We were promised bees by the end of May, they never came, we kept calling and they kept saying, “We’ve had rain, they’ll come next week.”

    Then they quit answering the phone or returning messages. Once when when someone did answer and we said who we were and where were our bees, they hung up on us and stopped answering their phone. Finally, someone at Long Creek said, “We can’t get you the 3 packages, maybe one and we’ll put you on the list for next year.” We said that we’d rather have our money back and they said, “Oh, well, we won’t do refunds until next month.”

    I feel we have gotten in to dodgy beekeeping world.

  • Thanks, Nathalie, I’m so proud of our girls!

  • Heidicrafts

    All this, and you’re up on Paint Your Wagon lyrics, to boot. Wow.

  • donielle

    totally had a tom hanks moment reading your blog today “there is no CRYING in beekeeping…”

    i totally understand about finding comfort in the bees. love this post, so colorful and the bee pics are awesome as always.

  • Euan Kerr

    Thanks for being sweet enough to say that I was flexing my bicep when I was stung. I am not sure if I actually have one of those, and really believe the bee just mistook me for a large white blimp that was bearing down on it, so it had to attack my arm. The day I spent with you and the bees was magnificent, and one I will always treasure. Thanks too for showing Jess and Tom around. It sounds like it’s going to be a great piece.

  • Thank you,Thank you. I am so glad you have bee hives. I have saw only a few honey bees this summer and it is really scary. We need bees so much to survive.

  • Thank you for sharing these delightful bees. They are always interesting, especially when attacked by large white blimps.

  • Living in Duluth, I wasn’t able to set up bee hives either as they are considered “feral animals”. I’ve relegated myself to sitting in the middle of my flower garden and being a bee stalker. My bees go about their merry business, no doubt adding a question to their dance “Wanna see a woman with too much time on her hands? Follow me!”

  • Euan,

    thanks for sending them my way. You would have been fine when you visited had we not taken you to the angry hive.

  • Another interesting bee post. I found myself watching another wild hive here in CO yesterday – so entertaining. Thanks for opening my eyes to those little busy bodies. The way they all departed in a straight line, and were coming back in more of a random cloud, was mesmerizing. Now I sound like a hippie. Nature has a way of making us all sound that way, don’t sweat it.