Featured Beekeeper of the Month
This month our featured beekeeper is Joshua Mechaelsen. He is another of the 2007 group of sponsored beginning beekeepers. Joshua lives with his family in Kamrar, Iowa. His operation consists of 2 standard hives and 1 observation hive. He hopes to double his numbers this year. He says his future plans are to raise around 10 Russian and feral colonies. He wants to raise them naturally because it is cost effective and smart, not because he is a tree-hugger. His plans are to major in agriculture at Dordt College and after that he plans to naturally raise bees, heritage poultry, and livestock. Pat Ennis mentored Joshua. Here is the story Joshua wrote:
My name is Joshua Mechaelsen, and as you know, I started beekeeping this past year. I did not always think I would be a beekeeper, and I am not sure that I always wanted to be a beekeeper.
For a long time I have wanted to make my existence from the land as my ancestors did before me; I have dreamed of owning lush pastures, plump cattle, and powerful draft horses. But did bees fit into my plan? To tell the truth, I didn’t think so.
I knew that bees made honey and that honey kept for thousands of years in the tombs of pharaohs, and that as a food straight from God’s creatures honey must be healthier than white sugar found in today’s mega-market. But did I want to care for thousands of little bugs that weren’t known for their butterfly kisses? I did not know until my family and I went to the Iowa State Fair and I saw the card in the nearly empty wire rack that asked if I would be interested in keeping bees. That little card changed my life (in a not so dramatic way). I showed the card to my mom, and she said to ask my dad. He said if I would take care of them I could fill out the form from the IHPA website. So I did, and I waited until October to get a reply. After that I went to the annual meeting in Marshalltown, Iowa. From then on the whole family (except mom) has been hooked on the little bugs that are so integral to life on this wonderful planet. Now I know that bees do fit into my plan.
There are many people that I need to thank for making my first year in beekeeping possible. First of all I need to thank my family for teaching me all that they learned in beekeeping. I especially need to thank my brother for absorbing all the information he heard and read and then repeating it to me until I got it right. I also want to thank the IHPA and Lee Heine for donating the package bees and woodenware to all of us scholarship recipients. In addition I need to thank Pat and Peggy Ennis for being such great teachers and mentors. (Though Pat might not think so, I don’t think anyone could know any more about bees than he does). In addition to them I would like to thank my friends Ryan Fisher and Felix Knutson for their help and for taking up apiculture as well.
I started out my first year of beekeeping in Mason City attending beginning beekeeper classes taught mainly by Pat Ennis. (I can’t remember the names of the others.) It was at these meetings that my dad, brother, and I were introduced to IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Actually I had heard of it when I took my Master Gardener training years back.
A huge part of IPM is based on a small cell size to fight the dreaded Varroa mite. So since we were just starting in keeping bees we decided to use the small cell to limit the levels of mites. So off to our ever growing stack of catalogs we went, and we found what we were looking for. Next we spent a small fortune and received our first order of supplies which included frames and foundation that needed to be assembled. Well that looked easy enough (ha). Evidently my brother, Joe, thought that I couldn’t do it well enough because he took over that operation, much to my relief. Then my handy dad decided that it would be easy to build our own hive bodies and supers (he’s a carpenter by trade), and we were off on another adventure.
Some while later Pat brought the package of bees to our house. Mom immediately banished them from the house, and they spent the night in our greenhouse. The next day Ryan Fisher helped us install them in our waiting hive, and we became full-fledged hobbyists.
A few weeks passed and Pat hosted a bee get together at his home by Goodell. Ryan, Felix, Joe, and I went to learn all that we could learn. After that we spent the next weeks checking on our winged friends weekly and feeding them to build up their numbers. Pat also brought a hive of eight frames of bees to us so that we could have two colonies. Then, one June day a message was left on our answering machine by a lady in Webster City who informed us (in a slightly terrified voice) of a swarm in a bush in front of her house. This was something Dad and Joe could not resist so they caught the swarm, and we then had three colonies.
During this time Joe built an observation hive to enter as a wood-working project at the county fair. When it got back from the fair we put the swarm colony in it and placed the hive in our greenhouse.
The hive that Pat brought us produced two gallons of honey that Joe and Dad extracted. However, my colony completely filled every spare cell in their hive bodies with honey, and would not touch the super above them. I have not been stung yet and am now dreading the first time. Joe has been stung six times, and Dad has been stung four times.
Thanks for your story Joshua!
Submitted by Ron Wehr