Spring is still a few months away, but there’s a buzz of excitement about a partnership involving Northland and the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet.

Last year, the college entered into a partnership with the Northeastern Minnesota Beekeepers Association as part of a initiative. Next week, the college will host a daylong seminar on .


And the college is home to a demonstration hive; the beekeepers association moved it last April from Carlton to a yard set up behind the college.

“The bee yard is one of our sustainability projects so we can do education projects with not only the college, but the community also,” said Courtney Kowalczak, director of the Environmental Institute at FDLTCC. “We can expand the knowledge of the importance of and pollinators and help them (the beekeepers association) do a little more education and outreach and they help us by bringing in their expertise.”

While still in the beginning stages, the project is garnering interest from several groups at the college for the hands-on learning opportunities.

“Some of the faculty is interested and the biology and nursing departments (for the holistic side) want to learn more about the hive and its products,” said Jeff Tibbetts, president of the beekeepers association.

The college plans to build pollinator gardens this summer, with milkweed, alfalfa and goldenrod as well as more apple trees to keep the busy bees happy.

The Northeastern Minnesota Beekeepers Association has about 90 members with varying degrees of experience and years working with honeybees.

Brian Roth is on the education board of the beekeepers association and has been raising bees for about seven years; he got into beekeeping after taking a class through Cloquet Community Education. He said he enjoys working with bees and the connection with nature that they provide, and hopes to play a small role in helping the bees in a time that hives are dying off in massive numbers for reasons that may include pesticides, mites and habitat decline.

“I never realized how much of a connection I would have with the bees,” Roth said. “They’re dependent on me  — they wouldn’t survive a winter without me — and my girls teach me a lot in return. … As I learn to help them survive and thrive, it’s a good feeling.”

And there can be benefits beyond just honey.

“My neighbors have thanked me because they know the bees are coming from my hive and they notice their gardens are doing better,” Tibbetts said. “They notice and appreciate that we are all connected.”

Beekeepers help the bees survive winters by insulating the hives as well as providing food for the bees. The female bees cluster together (with the queen at the center), eat honey and shiver all winter to stay warm, producing heat.

Roth said the beekeepers are continually trying to figure out ways to help their bees survive the winter, which is challenging. But it’s worth it.

“With the decline of the native pollinators, I feel like I am providing a supplement to the environment,” Roth said, adding with a chuckle. “And I like honey.”

Beekeeping seminar

A beekeeping seminar will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Saturday, Feb. 20, at Fond du Lac and Tribal Community College in Cloquet.

The “Beekeeping and More” seminar is open to anyone who is interested in beekeeping, whether they’re already a beekeeper or not. The workshop will include educational sessions, prize giveaways and hands-on activities.

“We hope to draw more people into beekeeping,” said Brian Roth, who serves on the education committee for the Northeastern Minnesota Beekeepers Association based in Carlton County. “It will be a great place for folks to find out more and get connected with people who have experience.”

Find more information, including a schedule of events, at nemnbeekeepers.org/wordpress/beekeeping-symposium/.

The registration fee for the seminar is $12 for beekeeping association members and $17 for non-members, and includes a boxed lunch. People can preregister at fdltccbeekeeping.zapevent.com or pay at the door (cash or checks only).

For more information, contact Courtney Kowalczak at [email protected] or (218) 879-0862.

Pine Journal editor Jana Peterson contributed to this story.



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