Featured Beekeeper of the Month
This month our featured beekeeper is Melvin
Runneberg. Melvin and his wife, Dorothy, live in Laurens, Iowa
and began beekeeping in 1975 when their son, David, wanted to
get bees for 4-H. David apprenticed with several experienced beekeepers
and he and Melvin acquired 13 colonies from an older beekeeper
that died. Of course the project grew and when David was a senior
they had 47 colonies. After David entered college Melvin continued
the business. He says the size of the business varies but he has
kept it hobby size of about 10 colonies each year.
Melvin with two colonies from 2006. These
colonies produced nearly 200lbs. of honey each!
Melvin sells mostly extracted honey and some
comb honey from his home, through the local grocery store, and
through the Palo Alto County Nature Center where he volunteers.
Melvin says it’s relaxing to watch the bees it’s satisfying
and a good retirement entertainment. He enjoys sharing bee stories
and the honey and has mentored several others in beekeeping.
About future plans Melvin says, “At 82
years of age, I may quit pretty soon.” Melvin is a member
of the Northwest Iowa Beekeepers Association. The group consists
of about 25 families and meets 5 times a year with no set schedule.
Their current chairman is Jeff Triplett of Sutherland, Iowa. They
have speakers and participate in the Clay County Fair booth selling
honey products from members, display two observation hives, and
Melvin had an excellent crop in 2006 yielding
an average of 145lbs. per colony.
Melvin says he gets frequent calls from younger
beekeepers with questions about puzzling situations. He shares
ordering package bees and saves transportation by having a point
of pick up and delivery. He has sold cappings to candle making
members and sent quantities of honey sticks from member Jeannie
Rust of Webb to Iraq. The sticks are packaged in bundles of 50.
The army fellows like them because they can carry sticks in their
pockets and squeeze honey on crackers, peanut butter, and oatmeal.
Thanks for your story Melvin. The honey stick
idea is a good one.
Submitted by Ron Wehr