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.
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.
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!