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Bee good to your pollinators

Saturday, these bees showed some activity in the warm sun. Photo by Margaret Ontl1 / 3
Dan Klasen is standing by four of his 20 hives. The black material surrounding the hives protects them from the cold and the electric fencing keeps the bears out. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl2 / 3
Kate Kees shows the smoker, used by beekeepers to quiet bees when they are working with the hive during the active months. She is also wearing a beekeeper's veil. Photo by Margaret Ontl3 / 3

It is the time of year when spring and summer are on everyone's mind, even the bees. On Saturday, in the warmth of the sun, Dan Klasen, president of the St. Croix County Beekeepers Association opened one of his hives to find the bees already moving around.

Klasen has 20 hives in three locations and has been working with bees since he was in high school. For this story, he was joined by Kate Kees, a relative newcomer to the hobby and a fellow member of the St. Croix County Beekeepers Association. Both agree there is something about bees that gets people hooked on the hobby.

For Klasen, it is a nearly a lifetime of working with them.

"While I was in high school and college I worked for a migratory beekeeper who had 4,000 hives," said Klasen, a Town of Hudson resident. In 1990, Klasen started his own beekeeping adventure. At that time with few houses in the area his bees produced 250 pounds of honey per hive. Today, he still enjoys the hobby but production has fallen off quite a bit. Now he averages 100 to 150 pounds and has the added worry about bears.

For Kees, the journey started by taking a two-day course at the University of Minnesota, taught by renowned scientists Gary Rueter and Dr. Marla Spivak.

"I have always been attracted to bees," said Kees, whose first summer of beekeeping was 2007. As a newcomer, she sought out the St. Croix County Beekeepers Association and became an active member. "It is the best bargain in town, with the dues being only $5 a year." The organization meets in Baldwin the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at 1960 8th Ave W.

"It is the kind of hobby that has broad appeal to all ages," said Kees. "We give a hive away each year at the fair to a youngster. The kids learn so quickly."

"It is so wonderful because raising bees helps raise the consciousness about the environment as well," said Kees. "If you think about it, most of what we eat goes back to bees and the process of pollinating."

While beekeeping is rewarding, it is not without its difficulties which is why the St. Croix County Beekeepers want to reach out to anyone who has a hive.

"The bees have a 2.5 mile radius," said Klasen. "So it is very possible if a hive is suffering from any of the common maladies that strike bee colonies, the bees can spread them to neighboring hives."

Colony collapse, parasitic mites and American foulbrood are some of the common challenges facing all beekeepers from backyard hobbyists to pollinators -- beekeepers who move their hives south and follow the emerging crops north.

"We would like to have hobbyists join so we can help them with all aspects of beekeeping including disease control," said Klasen. "It is an education problem."

"At each meeting we address what to look out for based on the time of year," said Kees. The organization mentors junior beekeepers and has a popular booth at the St. Croix County Fair each year.

"Everybody is intrigued by bees," said Kees.

Hives checked for American foulbrood, by calling Gordon Woller, the Wisconsin State Bee Inspector at (715) 286-2019.

"He said he has seen numerous cases of American foulbrood last year and is willing to help local beekeepers inspect their hives," said Klasen. "He can also advise on how to cure them."

For more information about St. Croix County Beekeepers, go to