Bar Bell Bee Ranch


The bees return to Minnesota in Mid-April, coming out of the almond orchards in the Central Valley of California. Bar Bell Beekeepers spend the month of March on the ground in California; working the bees and preparing them for the journey across the country. It is the goal that the hives are healthy and full of bees, therefore the bee keepers do a variety of things to make that happen; grow queens, split hives, and feed the bees all to prepare for the 2,000+ mile drive. 


Los Banos, California

These rolling hills hold hundreds of hives for a multitude of bee keepers, they are the space where Bar Bell Bee Ranch prepares the bees for their return to Minnesota. Building up weaker hives, splitting extra large hives and feeding the bees are all part of the process for the journey home. It takes over a month of time to tend to the colony; the views, weather and local flavor of the area make it worth it. 


Los Banos, California 

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada foothills, the central valley of California is responsible for nearly all the worlds' almond production. This brings roughly 80% of the United States bee keepers' to the area for pollination. 


Squaw Lake, Minnesota

The hives come in on multiple loads of semi-trucks and need to be moved and placed early in the mornings, as the bees orient themselves to the sun. Once placed, a hive should stay in that location until the sun goes down, so the bees don't get lost. 


Squaw Lake, Minnesota 

If it were easy, everyone would do it; and bee keeping is far from easy. Long days and heavy lifting are rewarded with bountiful harvests, beautiful views and fulfilling work that supports local businesses and the environment. 



The hot days help the bees fly, and when summer is in full swing in Minnesota the days are long and the blooms are plentiful. These ladies collect from a multitude of pollen and necter sources. Bar Bell Bee Ranch places hives in various crops that produce the varieties of honey that is bottled and sold, nothing is added to our honey. From the buckwheat fields near Black Duck to the sprawling sunflower crops; all yeild excellent sources of blooms for the bees. 


Bar Bell Bee Ranch

The vibrant pollen that this bee carries back into the hive can come from as far as 2 or more miles away from the hive itself. 


Black Duck, Minnesota 

Placed in various areas, boarding crops, farms and fields; Bar Bell Bee hives thrive in the north woods of Minnesota. The relationships established with the land owners have been cultivated for years, it is a reciprocated partnership; what the land provides for these bees and vice versa develops a strong agricultural ecosystem. 


Bar Bell Bee Ranch

This top bar hive, established in the summer of 2017 provides for the most amazing formation of comb honey your eyes will ever land on, built by the bees themselves. No frames, just naturally forming, fresh, golden honey comb. 


Bar Bell Bee Ranch

The bees were a little confused as to how to get started in the top bar hive, but quickly took hold and started what they are born to do; make honey. It's a living science experiment that you can peak in on any time you'd like; just pop the top and see the bees at work. 



The fall, or at the conclusion of summer, means honey harvest for Bar Bell Bee Ranch. Pulling honey from the hives is a labor intensive process, that has many moving parts all in the name of lquid gold. Additionally our beekeepers are preparing the colony to make the (semi-truck powered) migration west.


Bar Bell Bee Ranch - Black Duck, MN

The hives are pulled from all the yards and brought to the farm, where they actually sit in the back of this large building when it’s time for extraction, once the honey is extracted, the hives make their way here in front, and are prepared for departure.


Bar Bell Bee Ranch - Ed Menefee & Nicole

Ed and Nicole are quite the team when it comes to extraction; Ed assess each frame of honey and Nicole perfectly positions and balances the frames in the extracting machine.

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Bar Bell Bee Ranch - Eileen Menefee & Jacki Fisher

We take all the help we can get at extraction time; be prepared if you visit the farm from August - October you might get a little sticky! Jacki, a long time friend, is learning about the extraction process for the first time.


Bar Bell Bee Ranch - Black Duck, MN

Honeycomb; fresh, full and golden is also harvested in the fall. The bees do all the hard work for us; we put frames of these Ross Round honeycomb forms into the hive and the ladies fill them with sweet honey for us. We then package and store them in the freezer until the time of sale.

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Bar Bell Bee Ranch - Eileen Menefee

Eileen is strategically placing frames of honey comb into the centrifuge honey extractor. It spins at a high rate separating the honey from the wax and distributing both into receiving containers where both are lightly filtered.



It might be below zero in Minnesota, but the sun shines bright in California, even in the winter. As the bees are placed in holding yards and almond orchards the Bar Bell Bee Ranch team tends to the colony in various ways during this time.


Bee Holding Yard - Los Banos, California

These holding yards are remote, away from highway traffic, homes, and even people. About the only company the bees have are cows, goats, wild boar and the birds! In this picture you can see approximately 900 Bar Bell Bee Ranch hives, they are moved here before and after spending time in the almond orchards.


Almond Orchards - Los Banos, California

Building new hives and splitting the larger hives are a few of the tasks the beekeepers take on while in the warmer winter weather of California. This is the time where the colony can increase in numbers to travel back to Minnesota for spring and summer pollination.


Almond Orchards - Los Banos, California

Nathan is looking for the queen; each hive needs one healthy, brood producing queen to remain an active hive. Without her, brood cells will not be laid, and bees wont be replaced. Bar Bell Bee Ranch produces their own queens, as well as purchases queen bees from other beekeepers.


Los Banos, California

There are over 1.3 million acres of almond trees in California, and over 80% of the United States beekeepers aid in the pollination of these trees. It’s an amazing partnership between the land owners, farmers, bee brokers and beekeepers.

Los Banos, California

Ed found a row of almonds to commemorate the year he began bee keeping.