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What’s Buzzin’, Door County?

Although National Pollinators Week focused special attention on pollinators last week, many Door County business owners and farmers celebrate pollinators (especially bees!) every day. 

According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, about 75 percent of all flowering-plant species need animals to move their pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization. Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, spices and more need to be pollinated by animals, and in Door County, where fruit crops such as apples and cherries play a central role in the agriculture industry, pollinators such as bees are key to successful harvests. 

To see what’s buzzin’ in Door County beekeeping, and to learn more about how to help the buzzers, I talked to Max Martin, co-president of the Door County Beekeepers Club (DCBC); and Chris Roedl of Hatch Distillery. 

Martin discovered beekeeping while maintaining the world’s collection of wild potatoes as true seed (as differentiated from “seed potatoes,” which are genetically identical clones produced in large numbers) at the USDA Potato Genebank. After approaching beekeeper Paul Eggert about potential potato pollination by honeybees, Martin discovered that honeybees aren’t attracted to potato flowers. Regardless, Eggert convinced Martin to begin keeping his own bees. 

For Martin and other beekeepers, the DCBC has become an important space to share the latest research and support fellow beekeepers. Martin pointed out that bees are especially important pollinators for the Door County community to recognize – in part because the cherry and apple industries rely on insect pollination, and in part because “many of the wildflowers that Door County is known for, especially the orchids, are insect-pollinated.” 

Chris Roedl, a beekeeper and owner of Hatch Distilling, tends up to 100 hives and harvests honey for Hatch’s clear spirits and honey syrups.

“Our relationship with bees is integral, like a dairy farmer’s relationship with cows,” he said. “The majority of our products are made from honey.” Although Hatch’s relationship with bees is rewarding in its production of local, organic honey, it can also be challenging. Seasonal weather irregularities – such as this year’s harsh winter and late (and long-lasting) spring – can hamper bees’ ability to forage blossoms, which delays honey production. 

In order to help out Door County’s bee-utiful buzzers, Roedl advised, “Put your mower away. Dandelions are a beautiful sign of spring and one of the best early-season sources of pollen and nectar for bees. We need that head start in spring as our bees are coming out of a tough winter. Leave natural areas on your landscape and embrace natural beauty.” 

Martin also emphasized, “Reduce your use of pesticides. If you do use pesticides, spray them when the plant is not in flower.” 

Want to learn more about bees? Join the 2019 American Honey Queen, Hannah Sjostrom, at various events across the peninsula July 10-11 (buzzingacrossamerica.com). As the spokesperson for the American Beekeeping Federation, Sjostrom promotes beekeeping and public honeybee education and represents more than 20,000 U.S. beekeepers. 

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