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Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Wright County Journal-Press & The Drummer


BCO slated to perform Saturday, March 3

Readying for BCO's March 3 performance are: (first row, from left): BCO Concertmaster, Lindsey Bordner on the violin;  Andrew Burgdorf, cello; and Jack Stonecipher, cello. BCO will be performing different numbers this Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Kari Hartman)

The Buffalo Community Orchestra plans to promote health through happiness, as they entertain music- lovers at their upcoming concert, "Bounce Back with BCO!" 

The March 3 concert is a collaborative effort be-tween the BCO and the Bounce Back Project.  The Buffalo Community Orchestra would like to thank the Bounce Back Project; Buffalo Hospital, part of Allina; and Stellis Health for their collaboration and support for this concert. 

The BCO will be performing: Overture to Candide by Bernstein; Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov; Capriccio Italien by Tchaikovsky; and Mozart's Oboe Concerto in C Major, featuring Michael Jeannot on the oboe. 

The orchestra will also be performing Lord of the Dance with Bravo Orchestra, a local youth orchestra led by Erin Walsh and Andrea Kjellberg.

Conductor, Ernesto Estigarribia, will discuss the evening's music in a Conductor Chat at 6:30 p.m.  The concert will then begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Buffalo High School.  A reception with healthy refreshments will take place in the Commons following the concert. 

Tickets for the event will be available in advance at Buffalo Books and Coffee and at the door on the night of the performance.  Online tickets are available through the BCO website.  Adult tickets are $12.00 and Senior tickets are $10.00.  The BCO offers free admission for Students.  Children age 5 and under are also admitted without charge. 

Please visit for more information.   

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Bravo Strings is slated to perform their Italian Dinner Fundraiser March 9, at the Montrose Elementary School of Innovation cafeteria from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tickets for this event are $13.00 for adults, and students ages 12 and under are $9.00 at the door. Pre-sale tickets are on sale from Bravo Students at $12.00 per adult, and a student rate of $8.00. Students from grades 2-5 will play "Lord of the Dance" with the full BCO under the baton of conductor Ernesto Estigarribia.  The students play a lightly edited version of the difficult music, which has taken them almost two months to rehearse. The Bravo musicians are joined this year by three sixth graders who graduated from the Bravo program last year but specially requested to be included in the Bravo Orchestra again for this performance. The event will also host a silent auction, and door prizes will be announced. Pictured are (front row, sitting) Nicholas Berg (cello), (kneeling row, left to right) Bravo Principal Alex Chinikaylo (violin), Marcus Izmirli (viola), Kellen Warne (viola), Stone Hoel (viola), Mackenzie Robinson (violin), Vanessa Perez (violin), Gavin Warne (violin), Kaylee Anderson (cello). (Standing row, left to right) Tolu Oyewole (cello), Sienna Hoel (cello), Acacia Van Arnam (violin), Emma Marzean (violin), Kendra Ernst (violin), Haley Frei (violin), Greta Winger (violin), Jacqueline Castro (violin), Toni Oyewole (violin), Evie Winger (cello), and Ruby MacDonald (cello). Members missing from photo are: Marley Stuart (violin), Caden Stuart (viola), Melina Robbins (violin), and Isabelle Hansen (cello). (Photo courtesy of Erin Walsh)


Four locals arrested in Montrose on Feb. 15

By Miriam Orr

Four local women were arrested on felony charges for burglary and assault on the 200 block of Nelson Boulevard and Hwy 12 in Montrose, on Feb. 15, after breaking and entering. 

The victim was transported for medical care regarding concerns of a possible head trauma, after the Wright County Sheriff's Department responded to the call, which came from a resident who called 911 at Red's Café after escaping the scene.

Reports state that the four women entered the home of the victim without consent and with the intent to commit crime. The four women were armed, kicked down the door to her bedroom, and assaulted her with their fists while waving kitchen knives and making threats. The victim was tased in the thigh, while a second attempt was made at tasing her neck.

When the victim's friend interrupted the scene, the four women began running around the room and taking items hurriedly, until law enforcement arrived on scene, where the four were detained at the residence and identified while a deputy consulted with the victim.

The four identified are Heather Marie Reyes, 24 (Buffalo); Heather Marie Heidelberger, 29 (Montrose); Bobbie Jo Auman, 40 (Rockford); and Colleen Ann Heidelberger, 49 (Montrose). Reports state that the knives were later located around the room, and the taser was found in the upstairs bedroom beneath a mattress.

The victim stated that the four had accused her of stealing something from a relative's storage-locker, and the assault was the result thereof. All four women face two felony charges of first-degree burglary and a felony charge of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

The charges of burglary carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence, a $35,000 fine, or both. The assault charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, a $14,000 fine, or both.


BHM Schools work continuously to maintain, improve school safety

By Doug Voerding

"We are always reviewing and looking for ways to improve the safety of our schools," said District 877 Superintendent Scott Thielman. "We always seek improvements and are al-ways asking what more can be done."

After establishing a crisis management policy nearly twenty years ago, the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose District 877 has been continuously working to keep the district schools safe for everyone and making the improvements necessary to strengthen that safety.

And this year is no different.

Just last week, parents and guardians received an email from Superintendent Scott Thielman, explaining that a possible threat against "BHS" found on social media was not Buffalo High School in Minnesota, but Belen High School in New Mexico.

Nick Knese Construction


Thielman's email read, in part, "It has come to our attention that a post is circulating out on social media about a threat against 'BHS.' We contacted the Buffalo Police Department and together we researched the situation. We want you to be assured that the threat is not against Buffalo High School."

Thielman's message continued, "This widely distributed social media post made its way across state lines and has again drawn attention to the need for vigilance and partnership between schools, students, parents, and the police."

After investigation, the Buffalo Police Department posted on Facebook, "The information received was a screenshot that appeared to be from Snapchat. Buffalo police officers began to investigate this immediately. The investigation re-vealed that the screen shot that was reported to us was taken from a news media story today in Belen, New Mexico."

Buffalo High School students first reported the threat and then helped with the discovery work.

In this case, someone in Buffalo "saw something and said something," giving the district and the police department a chance to investigate immediately.

"The kids helped find the source of the message," said Buffalo High School Principal Mark Mischke. "Then, while we were informing parents, the kids proactively reported out about the false alarm through social media."

Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke said, "We work closely with the school district. Any time there is an incident or threat or even a suggestion involving student safety, we meet with that school's building administration, the superintendent, and the communications coordinator to determine what message to send and who to send it to. We want to be all on the same communication page."

Added Budke, "In these difficult times, we want the message to be accurate and be for the greatest good in the best words."


Building security

As a result of the 2014 voter-approved bond issue, all schools in District 877 now have secure entrances. During the school day, at the elementary schools and the middle school, a single entrance is open and that entrance is through the school office.

Buffalo High School has two entrances, one on the north and one on the south, both monitored by staff.

In addition, all schools now have updated security with cameras at entrances and on parking lots, all continuously monitored by staff during school hours.

Those cameras show approaching visitors from a distance, giving staff time to react, if necessary.

Building security is also controlled by the location of interior doors, which can all be closed at one time by staff members who have been trained. Those same doors close immediately during a fire alarm.


School culture

The culture of Buffalo High School is always in the forefront of Mischke's thinking for school safety. For at least the last ten years, the goals for the year for Buffalo High School are about both for academics and for school culture.

"We all work to be intentional and supportive of kids' needs," said Mischke.

"School safety is most important to the kids in the school," continued Mischke. "We want students to take pride in the building and connect with the people in the building, with each other and with the staff."

The work of Mischke and the high school staff has been successful.

The most recent yearly survey completed by over 90 percent of the high school students shows that  91 percent of students say the school is friendly and welcoming, and 92 percent say they have a positive staff role model.

The Staff Leadership Team has already been connecting with student leaders about possible student involvement with marches in support of the Parkland, Florida students.


Safe Schools Committee

A major part of school safety in Buffalo and throughout the county is the Wright County Safe Schools Committee.

The committee, formed twenty years ago, gives the schools a way to connect with the county and all of the county services.

Meeting every month, representatives from the school districts in the county, the county attorney's office, the county sheriff's department, city police departments, Buffalo Hospital, and other groups have formed a county-wide network to support each other's work with young people.

"We proactively promote community," said Mischke, "and build community connections. We have become a collaborative village. And that helps all of our students."

Currently, the committee will be sponsoring a community read of the book "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown.


School Resource Officers

Buffalo High School and Buffalo Community Middle School each have a school resource officer.

Their key responsibilities, said Budke, are to provide a level of security, be familiar with students, staff, and the building, and be a specialist in that building.

The resource officers are armed and wear a distinct uniform and have access to the camera systems in the building.

These officers, members of the Buffalo Police Department, receive 40 hours of special training for their work in the schools through a national organization. Their training is followed up with more local continuing education.

Proactive in their work, the resource officers frequently speak to classes about laws.


District Policy

While the district crisis management policy guides the procedures for any crisis situation, those specific procedures are constantly being examined and improved at each of the District 877 schools, all to keep all students safe.


BHM School Board praises new security at Discovery Elementary

By Miriam Orr

"I get it pretty easy tonight," Dr. Mathew Nelson of Discovery Elementary told the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School Board Feb. 26. "Instead of just talking to you about our new secured entrance, I'm taking you on a walking tour."

Members present at the school board meeting Tuesday night followed Nelson in his tour of Discovery Elementary School's new secure entrance, which was officially completed Oct. 23, 2017.  The project totaled $993,000 which includes parking lot remodeling and underground retention for stormwater containers.

"The response has been super positive," Nelson confirmed. "We wanted to make added efforts in making things even more secure for the school, and I feel we've done that."

Now, Door One at the DES is the only door in the building accessible to the public, and requires checking in with an identified staff member before entrance into the school.

 In addition to the secured entrance, DES now offers designated pick-up and drop-off points for parents, which also helps with security and organized practice while dropping students off at school and picking them up.

"We are very thankful for this space," Nelson said. "It's great to be out front to welcome the community now, and be able to provide the security our kids need at DES. It's easier to identify visitors, and it provides everyone with peace of mind."


Action items:

• The board approved the revised policy for #520 regarding student surveys, and recommended the addition of Minnesota School Board Association's Model Policy language to clarify the types of surveys needing parent review and opt-out procedures.

• In October 2017, the board reviewed the proposed easement for access and utilities for an underground powerline for the City of Buffalo on approximately the southernmost five feet of the length of the Discovery Elementary School site. This agreement is similar to other utility easements that have been granted to the city. The board approved of the easement.

• BHM School District representatives agreed upon a Memorandum of Agreement establishing an alternative teacher professional pay system with Education Minnesota—Buffalo. The agreement enables the district and EM—Buffalo to continue the Program for Professional Development (PPD). Members of EM—Buffalo voted in favor of the MOA/PPD program. The board voted in favor of the MOA and the PPD program will continue for the 2018-19 school year.


Report Items:

• Buffalo High School Student Council Representative James Oistad reported on RAVE Week (Respect and Value Everyone) activities for the week. They raised $150.00 for the United Way by playing a game; kids could pay to play and were registered into a raffle for prizes. They attended the EMASC Conference in Rogers. He also reported they are beginning work on the upcoming Bison Field Festival (BFF).

• Each year the district approves a budget for capital projects and long-term facility maintenance (LTFM) requests district-wide. The capital budget includes requirements for the lease/levy, equipment purchases to take care of facilities and requests for additions or remodeling of buildings. The LTFM budget includes the annual Health and Safety budget, Health and Safety project recommendations and repair/replacement needs and request of existing facilities.

Both budgets provide a 10-year look at projects that are generated with the help of building principles. Over the course of 10 years in the Capital Budget, projects totals come to just over $3.7 million with just over $1.4 million for next school year. The LTFM Budget totals about $25.9 million over 10 years with a $2.2 million in projects for next school year. Both budgets for next school year will be reviewed and revised to work within the means of the district's budget for projects. A final Capital Outlay/LTFM budget proposal will come back to the board later this school year for implementation during the 2018-19 school year.

• BHM Schools is required to report on the annual progress on last year's goals of the Achievement and Integration Plan (AI). The district has completed year three of the three-year plan for 2015-17. A new three-year plan has been developed for 2017-2020.

The Director of Teaching and Learning reported the results from the past three years, and stated that one of their goals, Achievement Gap Reduction (opportunity gap and expectations gap), had been met.

The AI Plan for 2017-2020 is similar to the past plan, but there is a stronger emphasis on a systems approach with AVID.

•  The "Striving for the World's Best Workforce" bill was passed in 2013 to ensure every school district in the state is making strides to increase student performance. The World's Best Workforce (WBWF) Plan is intended to serve as a foundational document aligning educational initiatives serving students from pre-kindergarten through high school.

 The WBWF legislation is based on five goals:

1. All students ready for kindergarten.

2. All third-grade students can read at grade-level.

3. All students attain career and college readiness before graduating from high school.

4. Close the achievement gap.

5. All students graduate from high school.

The BHM World's Best Workforce Plan, coupled with the district's strategic plan, provide a solid foundation to accelerate student achievement.  The full WBWF document is published on the district's website: If you do not have access to a computer and would like a copy of the report, you may call the BHM Teaching and Learning Department at 763.682.8778 to request one.

• School districts that enroll 10 or more Native American Indian students are required by the state to establish an American Indian Parent Advisory Committee to allow parents the opportunity to express their views concerning educational needs of the American Indian children enrolled in the schools. The committee must pass a resolution indicating satisfaction with the district current programs in meeting the needs of their children or make recommendations to the school board to improve educational opportunities.

Each American Indian student's family in BHM Schools was invited to participate in the committee meeting held on January 23 at 5 p.m. No parents came to participate in the meeting. There are 39 students K-12 throughout the district which involves 27 households. Information was submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education to show the district's compliance.


BHM is Proud Of:

Mike Bloch, Buffalo High School Math Teacher and Antonio Kuklok, Tatanka Elementary STEM School Curriculum Integration Coordinator who were chosen as TIES Exceptional Teachers for modeling best practices in their classrooms and engaging students in learning with technology.



The district accepted donations totaling $12,222.62


Sheriff's Office discusses out of class work with County Board Feb. 27

By Miriam Orr

Chief Deputy Todd Hoffman of the Wright County Sheriff's Office presented a request to approve the temporary assignment of a Technical Application Specialist (TAS) to Office Technician II Kristen Hoye before the county board, Feb. 27.

The Sheriff's Office has had positions much like this one open since July 2017, and have had multiple rounds of interviews to fill it. Currently, the position is opening as of March, and filling it, even temporarily, is required.

"This is a hugely important position for the Sheriff's Office," Hoffman said. "Even if this position is temporarily filled until we can find a replacement, it is truly critical to the work we do – from records, communications with the jail - to, really, the overall office of the Sheriff."

Commissioner Mike Potter asked how long Hoffman would anticipate the length of the temporary appointment, to which Hoffman responded that the Sheriff's Office currently was looking at two applicants, and was hoping to have a decision made by the end of the week.

Potter commented, "It is definitely a challenge to fill these positions," he continued. "The public should know we're working hard to offset gaps in employment, and that these positions are highly important, and working to fill them, even temporarily, can be difficult."

Commissioner Christine Husom inserted that she thought the candidate for the temporary assignment, Kristen Hoye, was well suited to fill the job as things progressed towards filling the position permanently.

Hoffman commented that these "work out of class" situations have come up before for the Sheriff's Office, and that moving people throughout the office has worked well for them in past as they have ventured through the hiring process.


Other items:

• Auditor/Treasurer: Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, presented for approval the January revenue/expenditure cash and modified accrual budget report before the board. Hiivala concluded that the goal of the presentation was to present concepts. There is a 60-day review period for budgeting, and a final financial report will be available for reporting as of March 1. Potter commented that with such a specific reviewing time, he would be ready to see solid numbers on the report.


Committee of the Whole Meeting:

The upcoming COTW meeting was tabled in hopes to better confirm scheduling times and dates.



•A charitable gambling application (form LG220) for the Arthritis Foundation, Inc. event at Stockholm Karting Center in Cokato was approved under the consent agenda.

•Warrants issued between Feb. 13–20 were acknowledged by the board.


Hanover Historical Society to host antiques appraisal on April 7

Storytelling is not only fun, but also educational. A current media buzzword, everyone is talking about telling stories.  But, old things have stories too.

Do you find friends curious about a vintage piece displayed in your home, and wanting to hear where it came from or to whom it belonged?

On Saturday, April 7, at Hanover City Hall, the Hanover Historical Society will be hosting its Antique Appraisal Fair, a chance to learn more about antiques and vintage pieces. You can even bring an item to be appraised. Admission is $1, and if you would like an item appraised, the cost is $5 for one item with a limit of two items per person due to time constraints. We cannot appraise firearms, dolls, jewelry, or large furniture pieces. Appraisals will be performed by Bonnie Lindberg and James Marrinan of Appraisal Specialists Midwest.

Doors open at 9:00 a.m. to view silent auction items with the appraisals running from 10:00 a.m. until noon. Free muffins, orange juice, and coffee will be available.

Despite popular talk about adult children not wanting the stuff of their parents or grandparents, there are adults in their 30s and 40s who are interested in passing on a family legacy. Maybe you give your mother's baby cup to your daughter or granddaughter as part of that legacy.

In a world of disposable items and everyone wanting the latest generation of phones and smart TVs, it can be a refreshing change to hang onto grandma's dresser or repurpose some of her jewelry.

For more information or donate a silent auction item, call or email Claudia Pingree at 763-498-8435 or

This event supports the work of the Hanover Historical Society whose mission is "Bridging the past with the future while preserving history and enhancing a sense of community."


Township elections are set for March 13

On March 13, 2018, citizens alike will gather to elect local leadership for townships within the Wright County area. Polls will be open until 8:00 p.m. in various townships. Below are listed the candidates currently running in their respective townships.

• Albion Township: John Uecker (three years, Supervisor); Debbra Uecker, (two years, Clerk)

• Buffalo Township: Terry Weese, Joe Coolen (three years, Supervisor); Mark Hoffmann (two years, Clerk).

• Chatham Township: Thomas Schuveiller, (three years, Supervisor); James Bischoff (two years, Clerk).

• Cokato Township: Dean Mahlstedt, (three years, Supervisor);  (one year, Supervisor) Daniel W. Bravinder.

• Corinna Township: John Dearing (three years, Supervisor).

• Franklin Township: John Czanstkowski, Sr (three years, Supervisor).

•  French Lake Township: no candidate listed.

• Maple Lake Township: Tom Neumann, (three year, Supervisor).

• Marysville Township: Augie Riebel (three year, Supervisor).

• Middleville Township: Walt Barlow (three year, Supervisor); Joey Berg ( two year, Clerk).

• Monticello Township: Pete Stupar (three year, Position-A Supervisor).

• Rockford Township: Karen McDougall (three years, Supervisor Seat D); John Deitering (three years, Supervisor Seat E).

• Stockholm Township: Keaton Danielson (three years, Supervisor); Jody Selseth (two years, Clerk).

• Victor Township: David Glessing (three years, Supervisor); Michelle Bascom, Sharon Glessing (two years, Clerk).

• Woodland Township: Dan Domjahn (three years, Supervisor); Gloria Janikula (two years, Clerk).


EMS training at Park Lane Apts, Feb. 15

On Feb. 15, Minnesota's State Patrol Special Response Teams (SRT) conducted training at Buffalo's Park Lane Apartments on Montrose Boulevard.

Sergeant Jesse Grabow of Minn. State Patrol stated that the SRT trained in active shooter response, hostage rescues, and general building searches at the location.

In past months, Buffalo Police Department, Buffalo Fire Department, and other local county emergency service providers have been conducting training at the site.

Fire Chief John Harnois stated that in April, there will be a county-wide Fire Department training exercise at the apartment site, and that it has been a great location to conduct a myriad of different trainings.

"It's a versatile building for running exercises, since it's an old apartment complex. It's been a great location, and we've enjoyed using it; I know others have as well and are grateful for the experience."

The apartment complex, which once was income-based, is a large building that is optimal for training , and  has the local emergency services "scrambling to train there."


BPD activity at Pulaski Shores

Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke issued a statement on social media regarding police presence on Friday, Feb. 23, at the Pulaski Shores development. The statement is as follows:

"We wanted to make a brief statement about some police activity in the Pulaski Shores development on Friday, Feb. 23. There was an extended and significant presence for several hours by both the Buffalo Police Department and the Wright County Sheriffs Department. We are unable to provide further details at this time, but wish to report that the incident was resolved after a 52-year-old male took his own life, and there is no risk to public safety. We particularly want to apologize to the residents and others in the area that suffered any inconvenience."

Further investigation on this issue is still active, and no further details have been released to the press regarding the matter.


Belgian waffle breakfast, March 11

Big Woods Love, INC. invites you to an all you can eat Dad's Belgian Waffle breakfast on Sunday, March 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church basement in Buffalo, Minn.

Breakfast includes waffles, sausage, toppings, and beverages.

Tickets for this event are $8.00 for an adult, and $6.00 for children under 10. Proceeds go to Love, INC. (Love in the Name of Christ) in Big Woods.


Got veggies? Class for 2018 garden tricks

All right – so you want to grow the sweetest carrots possible in 2018. We have some nutritious growing ideas to share with you at your local Community Education Garden Class that just might help you with that.

Please, share this note with family and friends, and get your growing ideas planted.

Upcoming dates for classes are: March 6 in Howard Lake; March 12 in St. Michael; March 13 in Monticello; and April 10, in Buffalo.    

For more questions and information on locations, please call  Pat or Connie Lahr at 320-963-3690.


What's the buzz all about?

Tapping into local beekeeping, and what's buzzing about it

By Miriam Orr

You may remember hearing the term "buzzing around like bees in a hive," or "busy bee," in reference to a busy schedule. Maybe you've even said them yourself as you're late for work and rushing out the door, or piling kids in a minivan.

Maybe you've had the talk about "the birds and the bees" or, maybe you remember the British music phenomenon, Sting –  or, perhaps Muhammed Ali's "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" boxing analogy comes to mind. Whichever way you cut it, you've heard about the little buzzing fascinations that are, indeed, bees.

But have you really ever really stopped to think about them?


Meet the Beekeepers

For local individuals Gregg Hermerding and John Jarvela, bees are not just afterthoughts or objects of metaphor. They are a passion, and they are investments made for not just a better backyard, but hopefully someday, a better world.

Both Hermerding and Jarvela are Buffalo beekeepers. John has been keeping bees for four years, while Gregg has almost finished his first year. While they share the same passion and interest, they came to the hobby in very different ways.

Jarvela discovered his interest in bees through his son-in-law, who was keen on learning about beekeeping as a pastime. Jarvela had wanted something in common with his son-in-law, so he decided to read up on beekeeping, which eventually led him to attend a beginner's class at the University of Minnesota, entitled "Beekeeping in Northern Climates."

Hermerding, however, got involved with beekeeping after retiring from teaching in Monticello. He attended a community education class, thinking that beekeeping would be something to keep him busy during his retirement.

After hearing statements, much like "everyone who is interested should learn to try," both Hermerding and Jarvela decided to give beekeeping a go. What would lie ahead would be much research, and a lot of dedication to the effort.


Buzzword: Beekeeping

Bees get a bad rap. Hermerding and Jarvela explained that so often people "lump bees into one category," and they have a bad stereotype. Most often the first thing people think of when they hear about the black-and-yellow buzzers is that they sting, make honey, and help the flowers.

But, mostly, people focus on the stinging part. Gregg and John want to iterate, however, that we are talking about honeybees, and not bumblebees and other members of the classification.

"Bees, wasps, hornets – people stereotype them as one entity, and honeybees get a bad rap," Gregg Hermerding said. "We like honeybees. They are gentle and docile insects. They are not aggressive, and people just don't know that. There's a big misunderstanding."


"Everyone benefits from bees, and we don't want to have the issue that comes if they all happen to disappear."

    -Gregg Hermerding


Beekeeping in the metro area has issues with broadcasting awareness, says Jarvela and Hermerding. It's a hobby that is very under the radar, and there are more people into the pastime than one would imagine. It begs the questions, "What makes beekeeping so interesting?" and "Why do people do it?"

"It's fascinating," John Jarvela concluded. "No one bee can do what a hive does together. They need the entire colony – it needs the whole organization to get the job done, just to be able to survive."

Hermerding and Jarvela have studied the art of beekeeping on their own. They've attended seminars, made contacts, and read up on the practice through books and online research.

Jarvela stated that, "You need to have a good understanding of honeybees before you set out to keep them, because they're very intricate beings. Their lifestyle and existence is very specific."


The Basics

The first step to understanding beekeeping as a practice is the cost evaluation. It takes money to invest in the hobby, and Hermerding  and Jarvela made that very clear.

Hermerding  said, "You don't go into keeping bees to make money. Not unless you're a corporation. If you do, you will never get your money back. This is expensive to set up, and most often it is very unpredictable. You do it because you love it, and you do it knowing that you're giving back to the earth and for the fascination."

Between investing in hives, the proper clothing and protective equipment, and the bees themselves, the cost starts to calculate quickly.

Buying the insects themselves, one purchases by the pound. A beginning "starter pack" of bees guarantees a queen, since she is necessary to help the hive survive, along with worker bees. The bees come, typically, from California or Texas, though you can purchase them on a local level.

For two pounds, the cost is roughly $95.00, but can range up to $130.00. Purchasing, most often, depends on the availability of queens.

For a basic cost analysis, the hive boxes themselves cost approximately $250.00. To have an adequate number of bees, investing in $100.00 worth of the insects, and then allotting another $100.00 to $150.00 for protective equipment, you have a fair idea of how much "start-up" actually costs.

Season plays a large role in when you can begin keeping bees, too. A typical season is the end of March and early April to begin, and ends in November – or, whenever the weather stays consistently at or below 50 degrees, since bees cannot fly in that weather. 

"It's best to make sure hives have a lot of sun," Hermerding  commented, "and that there's a water source nearby – preferably not swimming pools. Protection from the elements is also key in choosing where you want to keep your bees."

Another staple of beekeeping is knowing how much honey your bees produce – and knowing when you can take it, and when to leave it alone, since bees need their honey to survive over the winter months.

"Bees require their honey to eat over winter," Jarvela stated. "They'll eat it over the cold months when there's nothing to do. Sometimes hives get an upwards of 50,000 bees, so you can imagine they require a lot of honey. Honey for you is just a bonus – it's not a given that there'll be a lot for you after a season."

A typical hive needs 75 to 100 pounds of honey to survive a winter. Jarvela explained that they survive the cold by eating honey and shivering, which then, in turn, makes them breathe harder, and the warmth of their breath and the friction of their bodies keep them, and their queen, warm all year round.


"They really are truly astounding creatures."

              -John Jarvela


It's not guaranteed that they'll survive, however. For instance, Hermerding  lost his hives this year, due to the fact that they froze – even after he coated the outside of the hives with protective layering to keep out the cold.

"Sometimes you just get unlucky," Hermerding  said. "You just have to start fresh and hope you figure out what happened."

Preparation for winter begins as early as September. "You begin to evaluate your honey amounts, and determine if they've produced enough for the winter months. If not, you have to feed them honey so they survive," Jarvela explained. "It takes some knowledge and basic know-how. That's where the research comes in." He continued to explain that most often, bees will need honey in the spring, and one can determine if they'll need to be fed by the fall, before the season strikes.

"What people don't understand is that bees do not hibernate," Hermerding  said, "The queen bee needs her daughters and worker bees to keep her alive, all the time. That takes upwards of thousands of bees to maintain her life."

Once the queen dies, Jarvela iterated that the hive itself will die, since the queen constantly births new bees to work, collect, and maintain the hive.


Population concerns

A 50,000 populace drops quickly, though – especially in recent years as chemicals have started taking over crops and flowers, and disease has stung the bee population.

One such ailment is the Verroa destructor mite, which targets bees in their brood cells before they are born, and know exactly when they are in their most vulnerable stage, called "pre-capping," in which the cells where larvae are deposited are not capped over with a protective wax. The mite knows exactly when this stage occurs, and will enter the larvae and attack the growing bee before it is even done developing.

"These mites literally drain the life out of the bees," Jarvela explained. "They suck their blood and weaken them to the point of where they will eventually die, and they're smart enough to know when that will be and can transfer to other bees before that happens. They are very contagious and almost impossible to cure."

These mites are difficult to cure – treatment needs to be aggressive, but not to the point of killing the bees themselves. Treatments are anywhere from medication to chemical sprays, though many of them are not adequate.

Though Jarvela and Hermerding are not experts, they've heard it said that it is predicted that within 10 years, every bee in the United States will suffer with this mite issue, since they are easily passed and reproduce at astounding rates. What's even worse, the mites can become immune to treatments, and when they do detach, they leave open wounds on bees that never heal and become even more susceptible to disease.

"It really is a terrible issue," Hermerding  commented. "It's best to check on your bees every so often to see if they have the mites, and if they do, see how they are spreading. Treating is very difficult and involved, and needs to be consistent."

While bee populations spike in the summer, they can drop quickly during the fall, mostly due to mites and the fact that a bee's life expectancy is short. Fall mite checks are a regular part of the procedure, Jarvela and Hermerding  state.

What doesn't help the decreasing population issue are pesticides, crop dustings, and genetically modified foods – they all play parts in decreased bee populations, and eventually, will lead to a critical pollination issue, which will affect the globe. 


Why Beekeeping?

Jarvela and Hermerding  both stated that while not everyone is cut out for beekeeping, you never truly know if you don't try. Keeping bees is not something everyone is particularly good at or "have the knack for," but the decreasing population of bees and pollination is an issue everyone should be concerned with.

"We're not saying that everyone should keep bees," Jarvela said, "but, if you're interested, at least try one year. You may find you like it."

Hermerding  stated, "If you want to help, and are concerned about pollination, plant flowers without herbicides. Make sure your crops aren't dusted with bad chemicals – don't spray hives, or flower gardens, or vegetables. Everyone benefits from bees, and we don't want to have the issue that comes if they all happen to disappear."

Hermerding  continued, "It's a mixture of science and art. The science of watching and learning; the art because it's unpredictable and beautiful. The creation inside of a hive, and the benefits the world reaps from pollination, is a truly amazing thing – and it is largely due to bees and the work they do. One little animal plays such a huge part."

Hermerding and Jarvela highly recommend researching, and seeking out fellow beekeepers to grow one's knowledge and understanding of the trade. They recommend educating children, families, and the community about honeybees and their benefits, and knowing the difference between the "not-so-aggressive" bees and the more-aggressive species, because honeybees don't deserve the bad reputation for the hard work they do.

"They truly are astounding animals," Jarvela concluded. "Their colonies are so intricate and fascinating. You never truly know everything about them."


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