J.D. Pesch, left, and his son Charlie each held up a frame to show the many bees working to care for the queen while also making honey. Nearly 99 percent of the workers bees are female and are the offspring of the queen. Charlie Pesch opens the lid of one of the hives.One of the 10 frames inside a hive. By the middle of summer, as many as 80,000 bees could be inside a hive.

A honey of a business

•Peschs operating apiary with 60 hives

To bee or not to bee. That's no longer the question around the Pesch homestead. Charlie Pesch and his father J.D. Pesch have been operating a small apiary out of their home on the west side of Minneota for the past four years.

"We pride ourselves on producing the highest quality of honey," said Charlie, the owner/operator of "Big Dipper Bee Company". J.D. originally started the apiary as a hobby; calling it "7P's Bees" to reflect the seven members of the family.

J.D. and his wife, Paula, have five children; Zach, 29; Charlie, 25; Henry, 21; Teddy, 18; and Ellie, 16. "I just became interested in the complex world of bees," said J.D.

"That's when I learned how important they are to our environment and a large part of pollinating our food sources.”

"I thought I could do a small part and have a few hives. The honey was a sideline bonus at the start; just having it for our family and friends."

Initially, the Peschs started out with two hives and eventually it grew to six by last year. Today, with Charlie taking over the main operation of the hives and honey making, there are 60 hives in five locations from Ghent to Taunton.

"Some of these hives are my hobby hives," said J.D. "I'm just fulfilling my hobby by working for Charlie now." "We put some hives in different locations so the bees get different types of pollen and nectar from the various flowers and flowering trees and bushes in those areas," said Charlie, who is employed by Clarkfield Outdoors.

The world of bees is extremely complex and interesting. The majority of the bees in the Peschs’ hives are European Honey Bees. "I learn something new every day," Charlie said.

"It's really fascinating. I mainly find my information online, by watching YouTube, or by being in the Beekeeper's Club at Southwest State that meets once a month."

Charlie's knowledge of bees is impressive, especially since he only recently got involved. "He knows so much more about it than I do now. He has really become involved," said J.D., who owns and operates Buffalo Ridge Appraisals.

Inside the Pesch home is a large observatory where the bees are allowed to enter and exit the hive via a clear plastic tube that extends through a hole drilled in a window sill. The bees can be viewed working in the hive through glass that covers the frame.

Charlie and J.D. then showcase eight of their hives located on their property. "If a bee bumps your forehead, that's a warning shot," J.D. explains.

"That generally means they are a little angry and don't like you around the hive. And the next time they will sting you." Honey bees are the only bee species that die after stinging. Charlie opens the lid of hive and calmly pulls out one of bee-filled frames without the use of gloves.

"I get stung once in a while," he laughs. "But you usually can tell right away if they are angry or not and should leave them alone."

The number of bees in a particular hive at this time of the year is around 30,000-40,000. But because a queen bee lays around 2,000 eggs per day, that number will climb to around 50,000-80,000 by the middle of summer. "One worker bee produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime; which is approximately one month," said Charlie.

"For a worker bee to make one pound of honey, it would have to travel 50,000 miles, or the equivalent of 2,000,000 flower visits.”

"A worker bee would never live long enough to travel that many miles to and from the hive, however, but it shows how hard they have to work for such a little amount of honey."

Every hive has one queen bee and 99 percent of the workers are female offspring of that queen. The drones are male and used mainly for producing. Worker bees will travel up to a two-mile radius in search of pollen and nectar. The Peschs are not involved in this apiary operation solely for the money. Rather, it's an interesting hobby that benefits others because bees are such outstanding pollinators. "Bees are very good for local plant life, gardens, fruit trees and flowers," J.D. notes.

"I have many people in the bee world that say once you have three years of established bees, people will start noticing more flowers, blossoms, and more. We have noticed this on our own property." Because the Peschs can keep the bees in state instead of them migrating across the country twice a year, it greatly reduces their stress and gives them a break from the perpetual collection of pollen and nectar in the summer. Bees are responsible for every third spoonful of food that consumers eat. And honey, in its purest form, is an excellent alternative to processed sugars which many of those in the medical field blame for many diseases.

"If you are used to buying honey off a grocery shelf and then you eat raw honey, you will never want to eat store-bought honey again," Charlie insists.

Charlie changed the name of the bee business from 7P's Bees to Big Dipper Bee Company recently and designed the logo that goes on the labels used on the products and the website (bigdipperbeeco.com).

"One of the reasons I named it Big Dipper because there are seven stars in that constellation which pays homage to '7P's Bees'," Charlie explained.

When the Peschs honey is ready to be harvested off the frames, it is made into raw honey, creamed honey and honey sticks on their property. "I'm always trying out new recipes with the honey," said Charlie. "I made creamed honey with orange zest and I might try some different things with pineapple or lemon, or things like that. It's fun to experiment with different things I see online or come up with myself."

Charlie is planning to sell the products once they become available in August at some farmer's markets in the area. "Every year we sell out of honey by March," said J.D. "And this has only been by word of mouth. People love it and I would say there is about 100 percent return customers."

After all, beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder.

A bottle Big Dipper pure honey made by the Peschs in Minneota.

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