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Photo by Ethelyn Pearson. Joel (Dwight) Hull

Hull: bees are very human-like

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Settle in to learn more about keeping bees than their own mothers know, all of it interestingly told by a bona fide third generation keeper of bees. Actually, there are four generations, and with growing grandsons, a possible fifth.

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Joel (Dwight) Hull was born in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania in 1924. His grandfather had a few hives of bees, while his son, Joel's father, became interested and made it his career. Joel was 4 years old the year his dad came to Minnesota to check out the stories of great clover and alfalfa crops he's heard grew here. They settled west of Henning, where Joel graduated from high school. A stint in the Army in Germany for a couple of years, and marrying a girl named Ruth soon after he discharged took a little time, then it was back to those bees in Minnesota as fast as he could get there.

At this point in his life did Joel consider other options, things he might do that didn't have stingers? Nope, not for a minute. He knew the bee business. That's were he belonged. He said bees get used to the person who works around them often and don't bother to sting him.

Hearing Joel talk about the bee swarms and their families, makes them seem to have human traits. For instance, they have nurseries for babies in the hives, and have to feed them. They stock up food for the winter. Their life span is governed by what time of the year they hatched and how hard they had to work. Lazy bees live longest, wouldn't you know it?

The Queen Bee has bigger wings and when somehow more than one queen ends up in a hive, the girls fight, really go at it. There is bedlam! They hit and punch until only the lady of the house reigns while the jousted queen sinks into oblivion. Joel doesn't know what becomes of her. Do bees kick an opponent? Congress is likely at this moment choosing a committee to find out.

Bees have to keep house, or hive. Some are naturally neat while others have a sloppy hive. They do not like cold weather and crowd together. When it is too close, if they can find a queen, they leave home folks to swarm and start a new family.

Bee keeping is no longer a couple of hives. Hulls have from a thousand hives up in each of Louisiana, California and Minnesota. They market honey various ways. Sometimes, a truck will come in to pick up 11 or 12 barrels. They do not sell in small containers. Selling beeswax is a byproduct and in demand.

Hulls rent out the bees in other states but do not own land there. They travel to check out the bee colonies. They belong to a national bee association.

Joel is recuperating nicely from a fall in Louisiana while checking hives. We will soon be sending him, another satisfied Minnesotan, back to that spot in the whole wide world where he wants to live, among the folks he wants to live with, doing what he want most to do.

Hey, that's a winning combination!

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