The Beekeeper – Jasper resident takes up a hobby that’s low-maintenance and sweet

By Jen Burris (January 05, 2015)
Three years ago Mike Melcher began raising honeybees as a hobby after friends and coworkers peaked his interest in the bee community.

He now has eight hives, several of which are housed in his backyard in Jasper, Minn.

“It’s been an interesting couple of years, a lot of learning,” Melcher said. “It’s a fun hobby to get into and you get honey out of it.”

Melcher purchased his bees over the Internet from bee breeders. Entire colonies or just queens can be purchased.

“They come in the mail; they’re in little cages,” he said.

Some of the bee breeds he owns include Russian and Italian bees. He recommends diversifying the breeds to keep the genetic pool large, healthy and capable of producing honey.

To harvest the honey Melcher must remove the honey from the hive body, or ‘super.’ A super is a hive body where bees store their resources. Supers look like the hive, but are shorter, he said. Each of his hives contains four to five supers.

Beekeepers, including Melcher, often use fume boards that push bees out of the supers and down into the hive. This enables the beekeeper to cut off the top of the wax and remove the honey.

Honey is generally harvested at the beginning of fall after a summer of feasting on nectar. This must be done before it gets too cold and the bees begin to move the honey they’ve produced deeper into their hives.