Beekeeping in Alaska: Maggie and Phil

Stephanie, a returning member of the collective, is in Alaska for the summer and investigating beekeeping in the North while she’s there. 

Last week I met two beekeepers living in Fairbanks, Alaska. Maggie and Phil live in a dry cabin (a cabin with no running water) near the Tanana River. Originally from Montana, they’ve been in Fairbanks for about a year.

This year is Maggie and Phil’s first year keeping bees, and they love it. Maggie said she was very nervous at first – that she would harm her bees, or that they would swarm. She loves the relationship she’s developed as a beekeeper with her hive.

Bees 2 - Maggie and Phil

Maggie’s dad had a few hives while she was growing up, and she’s been curious about bees ever since. She took a beekeeping class in the early spring that gave her the confidence to have her own hive this summer. Maggie and Phil ordered 4lbs of Russian honeybees from California. They’re renting the equipment from the Interior Alaska Beekeepers Association.

Beekeeping in Alaska is challenging! Bees rarely survive the winter in Fairbanks, which is long, cold and dark. The last nectar flow happens in early August, and the first snow falls by the end of September. Winter temperatures average from -25 to -35°C, but can drop as low as -60°C. Beekeepers typically start a new hive every spring.

Bees 1 - Hive

Another unexpected challenge this year is the weather. Fairbanks is usually hot and dry in the summer, but June 2014 was the wettest on record in more than 100 years. While I was visiting, the Tanana River was under flood warning so Maggie and Phil stacked their hive on top of pallets. The river held this time and the bees stayed high and dry!

Photo by Will Peterson

One thought on “Beekeeping in Alaska: Maggie and Phil

  1. Wonderful article.
    Thank you for the link. But we are not in charge of IABKA. We just share some news for a friends. Unfortunately some of the information in your post is wrong. I just spoke to Interior Alaska Bees Keeper Association. IABKA do not renting hives this year at all. It look like someone just using them name to promote them business, which is very sad. If the owner of the hive really want to be a part of association it’s very easy to do. Just contact them. And annual fee is only 10$ per year.
    This is a proper contact info for
    “Interior Alaska Bees Keeper Association”
    Stephen Petersen
    1153 Donna Dr
    Fairbanks, AK 99712
    Phone 907-457-2440

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