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What’s buzzing? Beekeepers group offers tips for novices

September 24, 2012
The Daily News


Staff Writer

NIAGARA, Wis. - Area residents interested in taking up the hobby of beekeeping need not tackle the project on their own. There is help available through the Marinette and Oconto County Beekeepers Association.

Article Photos

Members of the association recently held a presentation on beekeeping at Niagara City Hall.

According to member Jean Chitren, new beekeepers can expect to spend several hundreds of dollars in their first year to purchase the necessary equipment such as bees, hive boxes, honeycomb frames, and protective clothing. After buying the basics, beekeepers should not have to invest much more money into their hobby, he added.

Beginning beekeepers usually start in April. Once they put a hive together and install the bees, they need only check the hive weekly to confirm that the queen bee is laying eggs.

Also, bees in a new hive will require sugar syrup to feed on until they start making enough honey. All of the honey made in the first year will need to stay in the hive for the bees to survive on over the winter. As a result, beekeepers will have no honey harvest in their first year.

Association member Jim Biernasz said that in the subsequent years, beekeepers can expect to get as much as 100 pounds of honey per hive per year.

"That's in a good year," he added. "You need to make sure your hives are in the right locations near plants and flowers to get a lot of honey. Bees will travel up to a mile and a half radius, though."

It may seem easy to follow the basic steps, but there are still some skills that only come with experience.

Beginning beekeeper Heidi Erickson of Florence, Wis. said that she is better prepared for next year after losing this year's hive to a skunk.

"I thought it would be kind of neat to raise bees," she said. "There is a shortage of bees up here and I like fresh honey."

Erickson started her hive the first week of May. Over the course of a few months, she noticed that her bee population was dwindling. She later realized that a skunk was eating all of her bees.

"Electric fences work against bears, but they don't do much for skunks," Erickson pointed out. "You need to raise the hive up."

Still, Erickson found the experience to be positive.

"I don't look at it as a loss," she said. "I accumulated a lot of information that will be useful when I start again next year."

Chitren and Biernasz offered a few tips that they learned through their years of experience, including:

- Not to eat bananas before going to a hive. The scent in bananas mimics the attack pheromone in bees, which can cause the bees to sting the beekeeper.

- Always keep at least two hives. With multiple hives, a beekeeper can compare them to each other and take note of any differences.

- Places hives on a raised area, and position them to face south or east.

The Marinette and Oconto County Beekeepers Association has members all over northeastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. For more information, contact Biernasz at (715) 856-6022 or Chitren at (414) 217-8891.

Nikki Younk's e-mail address is



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