"Less grass, more flowers" is Chris Schad'spersonal motto.
Schad, of Rochester, a certified master naturalist, has been keeping bees for about nine years, after some friends got him interested in it.
In May, Schad gave a TED talk in Rochester on bee and pollinator habitat. He says Rochester has room to become a bigger and better bee sanctuary, which is important because bee pollination is responsible for about one-third of the foods we eat.
How hard is beekeeping? Schad says it's "more work than a cat and less work than a dog. You don't have to take care of them daily. We tell new beekeepers you should be out there every two weeks checking on the bees — there is a spike of activity in mid-April when you are getting started with new bees putting them in their boxes, so you might spend a couple of hours on a Saturday doing that. And if you have a couple colonies, you want to spend about an hour every couple weeks."
Of course, he added, "You'll want to spend more (time), because you can be so fascinated with it."
Bees don't tend to produce honey the first year, "but the second year you get some honey, and there is going to be another spike of activity in mid-August as you are extracting the honey. And then a spike of activity mid-October or early November as you are buttoning things up for the winter.
"The bees live in the box all winter," he said. "If you've done your job right you don't have to feed them, they are really well-suited to make it through winter, that's why they put away all this extra honey. They put away more than they need — that's the honey we take. Here in Minnesota, you need to leave them about 75 to 100 pounds of honey to make it through winter. They cluster up in a little ball and shiver. In the middle of that ball, it's about 80 degrees or so. They just rotate from the inside to the out, and from the bottom to the top. It's pretty amazing — they don't heat their whole box, just their cluster."
Schad produces and sells honey. His brand, "The Bee Shed," is sold in about 15 stores around town. He also sells equipment to beekeepers and teaches beginner beekeeping classes around the area.
Schad was kind enough to take me out to his bee colonies during this interview, and it was terrifying but also really really interesting and amazing. (He promised me that every time he has ever been stung by a bee, it's never been one of his bees, it was probably just a visiting bee, but said really, he doesn't get stung too much.)
"On a typical day I might get hit once, and I wear minimal equipment," he said. "I wear a veil but I don't wear gloves, and usually if I get hit, it's on my finger when I pick something up and don't see there is a bee there that gets startled or takes offense and stings me."
Any interest in becoming a beekeeper yourself? Check out Schad's site: www.thebeeshed.com.
More buzz on Lawrence
You may have heard John Marshall High School graduate Chris Lawrence'slatest single, "Out the Window," on the radio lately — it's been getting lots of airtime and is doing great on the charts. It's in the top 15 on local Shazam charts right now, No. 4 on KROC-FM's "Top 5 at 5," and available on iTunes this week.
Lawrence, formerly of Rochester, is a singer-songwriter in St. Paul who writes music and plays the guitar and drums. His music is part R&B, part soul, part funk, part hip-hop and a whole lot of "it factor."
This week, Lawrence left for New York, where he was invited by Donnie Wahlbergand New Kids on the Blockto open for them Thursday at the sold-out show in Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk. Check his Facebook page for clips and pictures from the performance: www.facebook.com/ChrisLawrencemusiq.