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      Minding her beeswax

      Melissa Hronkin has been a beekeeper since 2007.

      She and her husband own the Algomah Acres Honey Farm in Mass City.

      Keeping over 70 colonies, each housing between 40,000 and 60,000 bees, has proven to be a challenge in the brutal U.P. winters.

      Hronkin said she loses anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of her bees by spring.

      â??What happens is sometimes they make it through the deep winter, and then we have a warm-up in February, they break their cluster, they get excited, and then theyâ??ll freeze out after that,â?? explained Hronkin.

      Hronkin purchases her bees from California each spring, but this year the prolonged winter has taken its toll.

      Bees occasionally leave the hive during hibernation, but canâ??t stand the cold for long periods of time.

      â??Typically a bee thatâ??s going to come out in this weather is not going to survive it,â?? she said. â??Theyâ??ll also clean out the hive. Theyâ??ll carry out the dead bees; itâ??s really quite a complex little society.â??

      One thing some beekeepers are experimenting with is beehive cozies. The cozies have special insulation in them to protect the colony from the wind and elements so the bees can better survive the winter.

      â??This winter, we tried this little shelter as a way to keep them out, keep them actually protected and out of the temperature fluctuations, keeping them from breaking their winter cluster early would maybe cause greater survival because they would just stay in that hibernation mode longer,â?? said Hronkin.

      Not only is she experimenting with insulation of the hives, she is also working toward adapting them to the harsh weather through classes at the University of Minnesota.

      â??One of our projects is working on maybe producing queens from our survivor stocks so that we can have more of an acclimatized bee to the northern climate,â?? she said.

      But until then, Hronkin said she will continue to experiment with new ways to protect her bees.

      For more information on how you can help Melissa achieve her goal of attending classes at the University of Minnesota Bee School, click here .