Research leads local woman to become beekeeper

Deb Lee, special to the DLJ
Samantha Hintze is posing with her bee hives.

Samantha Hintze decided this spring to try something not many people would dare to do.  She decided to start keeping honey bees.

When a huge wild hive was discovered on her land, which is about 35 miles from Devils Lake, she began to look into how to get rid of it.  As she researched, she became more interested in keeping bees.  Her research then took another direction.  Over a period of about five to six months she spent hours on the internet and purchased a few books on the subject.

Deciding where to get her bees from was basically determined by who was willing to ship them to her.  The majority of distributors will sell for pick up only.  The distance for that was too great for Samantha.  She estimates that she checked into about 25 distributors before finding one that was willing to ship them to her.

You might imagine a flatbed trailer stacked with hives rolling down the highway, but no, that is not how Samantha’s bees were shipped.  They came in the mail!  The postal workers were so kind to give her a courtesy phone call to let her know that the bees had arrived, and she could pick them up immediately.

As her bees came all the way from New York, they were hungry when they got here, and Samantha fed them sugar water right away.

Samantha set up her hives about 50 feet from her house down in an apple orchard.  In the spring when those apple trees blossom the bees will pollinate those blooms.

She has seen her bees visiting the flowers and plants she has in her yard near the house.  She knows they are her bees because special marks were placed on their little backs.  Her bees have orange dots and green dots; one color for each colony.

Although she has not been stung by her bees, and as a rule honey bees are pretty docile and prefer not to sting and do so only as a last resort, Samantha will suit up in the typical bee keeper’s suit when she is harvesting, checking on them, and moving them in for the winter.

Many beekeepers, or Apiarists, will ship their hives to a warmer climate for the winter, hive boxes and all.  This is when you might see them on that flat bed going down the highway.  Since this is not an option for Samantha, she plans to move them indoors once they become dormant with the cooler temperatures.  There the hives will be wrapped in a blanket, and the bees will be locked into the hive boxes.  They are very inactive when it is cold and do not just go to sleep as you might expect.  They will still walk around and eat, and do not leave the hive.  She will need to feed them if they do not have enough honey made by then to sustain the hives.

Through her research Samantha learned that it is best to not disturb them too much while they are establishing their hive.  So, for now she is letting the bees do what bees do.

Once the bees have settled in and are comfortable with their new territory, which may take a year or two, she will harvest the honey.

She says her first harvest will be for her sampling only.  Once she gets the hang of it, she plans to sell the honey at local farmers markets and other venues offering similar home-grown products and goods.

Since bees do not have a long life expectancy, her hives will produce new generations without the identifying dots, although she is confident that she will know which ones are “hers” as opposed to the members of the wild hive on her property that she has decided to leave alone.

Each bee in the hive is born into a specific role and those duties will change as the bee completes the tasks, matures and ages, and finally dies.

Interestingly, when it is time for them to die, they strive to die outside of the hive as not to create the work of removing their carcasses for the other hive members.

In addition to the new endeavor of the hives, she also has four dogs, two cats, a teacup pig, and two potbellied pigs, although those animals are oblivious to the new edition of the bees.

Samantha has her hands full and wouldn’t have it any other way.