A Visit to Mann Lake Ltd in Minnesota

Today I found myself at Mann Lake Ltd. in Hackensack, Minnesota. I like to visit showrooms and beekeeping vendors when I am on long drives or in places that are remote to me, northern Minnesota counts as someplace remote to New England. Drove half an hour north of Brainerd while on vacationing with in-laws.   The Mann Lake showroom is the most massive display of beekeeping equipment in one place that I have seen to date. They apparently have a Pennsylvania showroom that is larger, so that can be another adventure.


MANN LAKE LTD, 501 1st Street South, Hackensack, Minnesota 56452 USofA


Only bought a few small items since flying home there is a little room in my bags.  They have lots of books and at least a thousand products from the catalog in the showroom (≈3500 products total).  If one doesn’t see something just ask for it and they will go get it.


The sign pointing to Mann Lake’s Showroom


When a customer enters, someone gets up from the office and come to help you. They answered ALL my questions, and we talked about bees for a while.  The staff was accommodating and was happy to answer all my questions.


Mann Lake’s showroom in Minnesota with thousands of items.


I learned many things today that were interesting such as the Mann Lake company was started in 1983 locally in Mann Lake, MN by Jack and Betty Thomas who still help run the company. I saw their reserved parking spots, so they are definitely around. The company is dedicated to quality product, that provides jobs for good people. The company is now employee owned under an ESOP  (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). This way, the company’s employees carry on Jack and Betty’s dedication to beekeepers’ success., so their workforce has skin in the game and wants to be as innovative and forward thinking as possible. This motivates me personally to throw more business their way. (I have no affiliating to Mann Lake at this time. And I would mind one…) I prefer doing business with people who have my respect, and are local or Have ties to. My favorite are companies that employ people in the city, state, region, or county I’m living in. Minnesota was where my father spent his summers when he was farmed out of Chicago when he was growing up, and I have family here.


Picture of a garden style hive at the Mann Lake showroom.


Mann Lake is not behind the magazine Bee Culture, which is a price of extraneous information picked up someplace. Bee Culture is its own entity, though the showroom sells the magazine.

They don’t have any attraction for tourists to visit, other than the showroom. They do have demo hives out back to demo equipment. Don’t have more details on that I’m leaving too soon.

People in Minnesota really like Italian bees, probably because of the fast build up in the spring. They are having an excellent honey year this 2018. They are interested in new strains of bees and willing to try them out. They get their bees mainly from California breeders here in MN.

The Mann Lake store can sell you 60# buckets of honey. I just don’t want to haul that on the plane back home to Boston.

Their new green propolis trap pad (HD-368) is softer/bendy than the old one. Plus, it’s cheaper, so I bought two, see the Propolis Traps.

I got to see both types of pollen traps for the hives. The entrance hive one has three sizes of hardware cloth in it; i.e., 1/16″, 1/8″, & 3/16″ grid. The box frame version can be turned on and off, as opposed to the entrance trap which needs to be removed. (Links to follow). I like the variety and choice. They don’t carry any of the cheap plastic ones that come out of China. More on pollen collectors late this year.


A long view of the Mann Lake showroom


Good jobs are hard to find up here in upper Minnesota. There are resorts and seasonal tourist work, but steady good work with benefits are hard to find. The people that work here s need happy, and Minnesotans are charming, polite folks in my experience. I have dealt with customer service a couple time via email and am so pleased with the level of response I have gotten.

Thank you to the folks a Mann Lake Ltd showroom for making my visit so enjoyable and worth my time. For the reader, it is worth a detour to visit this location.


Mann Lake showroom display rack, wish I lived nearby so I could window shop each week.

This is where you can pick up 60-gallon drums of honey

Mann Lake warehouse and trucking trailers


Happy Beekeeping!


I found the Queen!

I found the Queen!  The Bergamot Hive is a glorious mystery to me with wax that is chocolate brown, smelling like cocoa, and produces a lot of honey. The Queen (mother bee) has eluded all attempts at detection. Then on a brilliant Saturday morning during the hive inspection of this calm hive, (Calm bee means there must be a Queen bee inside, right?) while examining the frames Her Majesty revealed herself!  She is a beautiful caramel color and fast; as soon as she was spotted she slipped to the other side of the frame. The shy lady that she is, who can blame her modesty.  Then promptly placed the frame back into the hive-body and put the hive back together.

Here are some pictures of the frames and at least one has the Queen on it.

👸🏻 + 🐝  = 🔎

Happy Hunting!


Quotation: Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the Bee

“The Apinae has characteristics so distinct and well-marked that one is inclined to credit all its members with one common ancestor. The disciples of Darwin, Hermann Müller among others, consider a little wild bee, the Prosopis, which is to be found all over the universe, as the actual representative of the primitive bee whence all have issued that are known to us today.

The unfortunate [primitive] Prosopis compares to the inhabitants of our modern hives as cave-dwellers to those who live in our great cities. You will probably more than once have seen her fluttering about the bushes, in a deserted corner of your garden, without realising that you were carelessly watching the venerable ancestor to whom we probably owe most of our flowers and fruits for it is actually estimated that more than a hundred thousand varieties of plants would disappear if the bees did not visit them and possibly even our civilisation, for in these mysteries all things intertwine.”

Maurice Maeterlinck, 1901, The Life of the Bee

Aristaeus’ Mysteries: Where do all the dead bees go?


Aristaeus Hive Landing Board View

Where do the dead bee carcasses go that are in the apiary where my hives are?  I knew there are under-taker bees that transport dead bees away some distance from the colony.  There are corporate sponsored hives near my work, and the beekeepers have neglected to clean up the thousands of dead bees around their hives after the winter kill.  Shameful!  In my apiary, there are no more than a couple dead bees lying around at any time.  Why?

I was in my hives a lot this weekend and inadvertently killed many bees.  I feel terrible about this because being relatively new to beekeeping and like the bees, this stings me too.  Smarts it does, the hope is these lunatic feelings of remorse will inevitably fade with time, someday I hope to laugh at my self.  Back to the corpses of bees that lay in front of the hive after the under-taker bees give up trying to fly them far away from the colony.  I sat in front of the hive after my work was done and watched the bees clean burr comb left out for them.

Then what happened was two hornets were loitering suspiciously in front of the hive at ground level.  I thought they might have come for the syrup spilled earlier in the day.  Nope, the syrup was gone.  One hornet was working on something… what was she doing?  Looking closely she was butchering the fresh corpse of a bee that had been dropped in front of the hive.  She tried to pick it up once or twice to fly away with the whole carcass, but couldn’t lift it.  Eventually, she got the head off and flew away with it.  A minute later she was back and flew away with the rest of the carrion. Fantastic, the circle of life at work.


Hornet Working on Honey Bee Caracas

I looked around for the other hornet and couldn’t see her but a couple feet away from the hive saw a bee moving, not an unnatural way.  A wood ant was dragging the corpse away.  The ant is a quarter inch long and was managing quite well with the 5/8 inch bee.  And the circle continues…


Wood Ant Dragging a Honey Bee Caracas Away


So I wonder if the chipmunks in the area are also munching on dead bees?  Will need to watch out for that.  It just goes to prove that nothing is wasted in nature unless humanity is given supremacy.  Bee, wasps, and hornets all have their function.




Bee Hotel: How you can help our wild bees


Image: About Flickr.com by Jürgen Mangelsdorf


Beekeeper General

Unlike honeybees, most wild bees are solitary loners. Only bumblebees and a few other bee species live in a social community, as people commune together. Wild bees make the most significant contribution to pollination, but the population of animals depends on the food and nesting availability. In recent years, horticulture has changed, the supply of flowering plants is dwindling, and suitable nesting sites are becoming scarce.


Urban and suburbs are expanding rapidly, which, destroys habitat, leading to the endangerment of an ever-growing number of bee species. Fortunately, the discussion about bee mortality is leading to many people to rethinking the issue, more and more gardeners are providing the wild pollinators with flowering plants and even building nesting sites – the so-called “wild bee hotel.”

Hotel, Sweet Home

Actually, the term “hotel” is a misnomer, because in a hotel most guests stays are brief, do not change anything then leave soon. Wild bees, however, cleanse their future nest before moving in, build dividing walls between the brood cells and provide food stores for offspring. Depending on the species, a larva can spend up to a year or more in such an enclosure before it hatches from its cocoon. Few hotel guests clean the room, renovate it and lay down food stores in their rooms. However, the popularity of wild bee hotels is increasing to the benefit of the wild pollinator community.

The nesting site depends on food supplies

A wild bee hotel can be placed in any garden, on any balcony. However, it depends on the local food supply, this determines whether or not wild bees will settle in the bee hotel. Garden owners are often disappointed when they have established a nesting a, and no wild bees can be found to have moved in later. Maybe the food supply in the immediate vicinity of the bee hotel is insufficient? Wild bees use nesting sites only if sufficient plants are found within a radius of around 335 yards (0.2 miles) that are suitable as food sources.

Also, most wild bees are true to their birthplace, so they find a nesting site near their birthplace. If all conditions are met, the animals accept the offer after one to two years.

Building a wild bee hotel – the conditions


insekten-und-bienen-hotel (1)

Image: About Flickr.com from science year


All bee species are similar in that they like it warm and dry. Especially dry. A nesting spot should always be placed in a dry place. Penetrating rainwater can, for example, result in a fungal infestation, so particular attention should be paid to the choice of location. The entrance should always be clear, and the location should be at least a foot above the ground level. The entrance to the nest should get some direct sunlight to ware the nest in the morning or by noon if possible.

A simple bee hotel consists of a wooden box filled with hollow plant stems. For protection against birds, a simple wire mesh can be suspended over the front, so the predator can’t reach the nest.

Simple nesting aids for balcony, carport, and terrace

The University of Nebraska presents simple ways to make a wild bee hotel in a few simple steps, http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2256.pdf

All you need is bamboo, an empty tin can – alternatively a small wooden box – and some cotton wool. The bamboo tubes are sawed so that they are longer than the can. It is crucial that no sharp edges are left over, so if necessary, once again with a file smooth the edges. One side of the bamboo is closed with cotton wool – this side comes down into the can. The bamboo should fill the tin can bulging and the can will at best find a full sun. However, here it must be ensured that it is absolutely firm and cannot fall even in strong winds, at best, it is buried in a flower box.

Another possibility is a stored tree trunk, which is equipped with various large holes.

Important in the selection of simple materials

The basic requirement for a species-appropriate and functioning wild bee hotel are the materials used. In no case should glass tubes be used, even if this would allow events to be observed inside. It almost always promotes fungal infection, which destroys the brood.

The use of wood must be wood that has been deposited, and there should be no formation of cracks in the hole – this is one reason why wild bees would avoid such nesting aids. After drilling, no wood fibers should adorn the holes. Therefore, bamboo tubes should be checked carefully before they are used, as they often have splintered edges. If necessary, you must smooth out with sandpaper.

Pine cones are just as suitable as straw or perforated bricks. Ash, for example, is well suited for the construction of a nesting box. As a natural nesting aide, rotten deadwood can be used wonderfully. Simply placed on the balcony or on the terrace and the animals use the existing holes.