Blessed Bee Honey to the Rescue

What involves royalty, mass murder, a magic potion, a bit of saving the world, plus just a touch of danger? It’s beekeeping!

Both challenging and rewarding, it was the perfect long-term project for father and son, as Butch and Ben Sprenger discovered when they took a class at the arboretum six years ago.

The youngest of three sons, Ben returned to the Twin Cities after a few years in California and Alaska. But like a lot of Minnesotans, he worked through his wanderlust and decided to head home to ply his trade as an RN. Butch had been building and remodeling homes under the Destiny Homes brand for over 40 years. They both needed an outlet after hours, and they found one that they could really sink their teeth into.

Bees are amazing creatures. They are the only insect that produces food for human consumption. And that food is truly a magic potion, as Butch can attest. “Honey is great for allergies,” he explains. “I started eating a teaspoon every day six years ago and haven’t had a single allergy symptom since.”

Bees are also declining worldwide, a disaster of epic proportions as bees are the primary pollinators for much of the world’s food. A recent study by The Bee Informed Partnership suggested that over 30 percent of managed bee colonies in the US were lost in 2017.

Looking to do their part in saving the world, Ben and Butch found a great location and bought two hives…two queens and about 20,000 bees. That’s when they discovered beekeeping wasn’t a slam dunk. The first summer they lost one hive while the second succumbed over the winter.

But like good Minnesota men, Ben and Butch decided to go big or go home. They went for 10 hives their second year. They got some honey but all 10 hives were lost to the voracious Varoa mite that winter. Not to be deterred, they kept at it. Last summer they kept 12 hives and half wintered over and are ready to begin the next cycle.

Over the years, the pair have harvested at least a thousand pounds of the magical golden potion, sharing the harvest chores and rewards with family, friends and clients.

And that touch of danger? Ben is allergic to bee stings. He still gets a few every year, while the bees seem to like Butch better. But like a good beekeeper, Butch brushes off the pain and says a little Colgate toothpaste rubbed into the sting to remove the stinger will cool the bite.


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