There’s quite a buzz these days at the Mille Lacs County Fairgrounds.
That’s where a collaborative effort between members of Mille Lacs County 4-H, the Mille Lacs County Fair, and the Princeton Community Garden have teamed to create and maintain a bee center. It’s located on the south west edge of the fairgrounds, near the entrance used to enter the pit area of the Princeton Speedway.
The bee colony was created recently after two pounds of bees and a queen arrived at the Princeton bee center. That amounted to about 3,000 bees, according to Randy Hatch and Delmas Hines, two men instrumental in establishing the bee colony. The hive came to life after the queen bee secreted pheromones, a secretion of chemical scents. Once the pheromones were accepted by the worker bees, the worker bees began their task of taking care of, and protecting the queen.
“They met the queen, liked her, and accepted her,” said Hines, a long time apiarist, the name of a person who cares for and raises bees. Hines, who also runs Hines Gardens in the Princeton area, said eggs were located in the bee center’s hive boxes, another sign of good colony health.
To get the colony started, Hines installed in the hive box a couple of previously-used honeycombs.
“The bees really went to town on it, which is really great,” Hines said. “That’s another sign of a healthy colony,” he said.
The bees should be active at the fairgrounds site because of readily available nectar, basswood trees, and dandelions.
The bee center is located near a small wetland, which is important to bee health because they like water, Randy Hatch said.
“The pond is one reason we selected this site,” Hatch said.
Because bees use flowers to forage, it is expected that the bees will be regular visitors to the nearby Princeton Community Garden, as well as the gardens of the fairground neighbors.
Members of the Mille Lacs County 4-H program have been working to plant pollinator-friendly flowers adjacent to the bee center, as well.
The bee center came about when gardeners associated with the Princeton Community Garden noticed a lack of pollinators at the garden.
“The community garden wanted to have bees,” Hatch said.
But officials at the City of Princeton weren’t excited about bees being located at the garden site, because under city ordinance, bees are considered livestock- and livestock isn’t allowed in the city limits.
The city offered to look at its ordinance and find a solution that would work for all concerned. Locating the bee center on the far edge of the fairground property became a viable solution.
The fair board and the 4-H program then became partners in the bee center.
Future plans call for the bee center to be home to four to eight colonies, Hatch said.
Hatch says he learns something about bees on a nearly daily basis.
“But its the kids getting initiated into the world of bees is what I’m really looking forward to,” Hatch said.