manuka honey, roadside hives, truck drivers, bees, varroa mites

It’s not uncommon to have one phobia that you either find yourself stuck with for the rest of your life or find yourself getting over after much practice and a lot of patience. It could be spiders, heights, snakes, or even the color yellow, but for Blaine, MN city official Dan Hauck, it has always been bees, from wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, to even honeybees. Having been stung enough times as a child to be conditioned to fear them, Hauck spent most of his life enjoying the perks of honey but avoided bees with a passion. However, given his love of natural honey and a fascination with the art of beekeeping, Hauck eventually took a class four years ago with his cousin. Now, after all this time, a man who once feared honeybees is now a beekeeper.

Before taking the beekeeping class, Hauck would have ranked his bee phobia’s severity at a whopping: “10 out of 10…I don’t know what it is…Everyone has their own phobia. To me it was always bees. Probably because they’re fast, and you can’t get away from them.” With that beekeeping experience now under his belt, Hauck brought five hives to his family farm in Sunburg last year, and for this year, Hauck donated his time and money by bringing one colony hive to a wetland’s edge near Blaine City Hall where he works as the city’s building official. “For me, it’s kind of a fun thing to try,” Hauck said. “I’m not in it to make money.”

While raising his hive at city hall, Hauck has allowed Blaine residents to monitor the bees’ progress as a way of educating the public on the importance of honeybees, ever since the postal service first dropped off the 6,000 worker bees and one queen. One example of sharing with the public involved Hauck on Twitter detailing the week long process of trying to spot the queen among his infant hives like a bizarre form of Where’s Waldo? (he finally found her after finding her bee larva in uncapped shells, which led a post with many exclamation points.)

Hauck has said he’s not completely over his fear, but he’s now educated on different types of bees, and he specifically learned honeybees aren’t as aggressive as wasps or hornets. After raising them as long as he has, he hasn’t noticed much aggression while at work beneath his protective suit—he bought a smoker that can mask the scent honeybees put off when warning each other of danger, but he hasn’t had to use it at all. “Honeybees are really bred to be gentle. It’s surprising to have 50,000 bees right in front of you and only a couple might get upset, depending on what you do.”

Hauck is continuing to monitor the new hives as they grow toward his desired number—60,000—so they might survive better in the upcoming northern winter.

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