Growing up, Dan Hauck followed a simple procedure during bee sightings: turn and run.
He still hasn’t forgotten the day when some childish tomfoolery — spraying water at a hornets’ nest — led to an agitated, buzzing swarm chasing him around the neighborhood.
“As far as phobias go,” Hauck said, “it was a 10 out of 10.”
That’s why friends laughed at him when he decided to take up beekeeping several years ago. Hauck is sweet on the gooey gold that bees produce, and he wanted to try and keep his own hives. The hobby stuck.
One year after tending his first colony, Hauck, who works for the city of Blaine as the chief building official, is taking his honeyed hobby public.
Since May, he’s been tending a bee colony behind City Hall and posting regularly about the project on social media and the city’s website. The goal is to raise awareness about bees through the blog, with the hope of starting a community apiary one day.
“Honeybees are really gentle and docile,” Hauck said, adding that he’s since surmounted his childhood phobia.
Hauck first approached city officials with his idea to keep a hive at City Hall back in December.
Bob Therres, Blaine’s public services manager, listened to Hauck’s pitch and raised two initial concerns: cost and safety.
Hauck assured him the project would be paid for out of his pocket. So far, Hauck has spent about $500, mostly for purchasing the bees and hive.
Hauck also vouched for the project’s safety and made sure to pick an out-of-the-way spot for the colony in a nearby wetland area.
A few times a week, Hauck slips on his beekeeping gear and checks on the colony behind City Hall. The hive is tucked beside a grove of trees, surrounded by grasses and wildflowers.
In his biweekly online posts, the novice beekeeper has been sharing his natural, chemical-free methods.
Blaine’s bees have been hard at work making honey since Hauck picked up his shipment of 2,000 worker bees and one queen in May. The workers, Hauck said, forage flowers up to a mile away from the hive.
That’s sweet news for the 54 residents tending Blaine’s community garden this year. Their plots are located across the street from City Hall.
For the past six years, Gene Gasparro has raised a colorful array of blooms, fruits and veggies at the community garden. A lifelong gardener, the 76-year-old retiree has asked the city to raise bees in the past. When he found out there was a new colony of pollinators nearby, he was elated, he said.
“They’re important to everything here,” Gasparro said, standing next to his zucchinis. “My yields are better this year because of them.”
Hauck plans to post updates throughout the fall as he readies the hive for winter. “No easy task in Minnesota,” he added.
The colony has about a 50/50 shot of surviving, Hauck said.
And if the bees die?
He’ll order another batch of tiny workers, he said, hoping to find a winning combination of genetics in the next colony.
“That’s the fun of it for me — trying new things to see what works,” Hauck said. “I’m not an expert, just a novice learning myself.”