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Interest in bees makes resurgence in area

Zach Johnston, left, and his father, Andrew, search for the queen bee as they prepare to split their hive. Anna Erickson | FORUM COMMUNICATIONS

PARK RAPIDS -- The art of beekeeping is making a comeback in the area. In particular, younger generations are taking an interest in bees.

Zach Johnston, 12, of Park Rapids, has always been fascinated by bees. His parents, Andrew and Jolene, wanted him to learn more about beekeeping before diving in.

"Maybe when you're 14," Jolene said initially.

That changed when Zach attended a beekeeping class last year in Park Rapids. He registered for door prizes and ended up winning a hive of bees.

Since then he has been learning about beekeeping with a hands-on approach. He and his father have had help from local beekeeper Brett Kent.

"He's been so helpful in answering questions," Zach said.

He and his father have recently been working to split the original hive because the population had gotten bigger and was ready to swarm.

They have learned a lot from other local beekeepers and through classes.

Several classes have been offered through University of Minnesota Extension and the Hubbard County Master Gardeners. An advanced beekeeping class was offered recently in Park Rapids with Zach and other interested beekeepers attending.

Sam Michalicek, 15, of Henstrike, and Isaiah Guida, 12, of Park Rapids, are also up-and-coming beekeepers.

"My dad had wanted to do this for a while and my grandpa already had a hive," Sam said.

He's still learning the intricacies of beekeeping and attending classes to be informed.

Isaiah is taking his interest in bees to the next level based on advice from his dad.

"My dad always said if you work on your talents when you're young and improve them your life will be easier later on," he said.

At the advanced beekeeping class taught by JoAnne Sabin, he learned about pesticides and how they are harming the bee population.

Isaiah plans to gather more information about beekeeping over the next couple years before he gets his own hive.

Each of the young beekeepers has a goal of producing and selling honey.

Sally Shearer, Hubbard County Extension program coordinator, has also noticed the increasing popularity of beekeeping in the area.

"It's really taking off here," she said.

Shearer plans to continue offering beginner and advanced beekeeping classes in the area in the next few years.

For more information, contact Shearer at 732-3391 or