Backer Bees is one of three beekeepers who keep their bees at the Glenharold Mine, a reclaimed coal mine that used to supply coal to Leland Olds Station, Basin Electric’s first coal-based power plant located near Stanton, ND.
Dusty Backer, owner of Backer Bees, keeps 1,800 – 2,500 hives in North Dakota. “There is such a variety of flowers. Alfalfa, clover, canola, sunflowers, a lot of wildflowers,” he says. “This area is one of the best areas in the nation to raise bees, a really healthy place to raise bees. Anywhere within a 30-mile radius of this spot (Glenharold Mine) is awesome bee country.”
The bees come to North Dakota from Texas in late June, and leave in mid-October for California, where they rest until early February. They are then placed in the almond orchards for about a month. In mid-March, they head back to Texas for rebuilding.
“It’s extremely important this land in North Dakota is available to bees,” Backer says. “Where I grew up in Nebraska, there’s a lot of corn and beans. That’s not great for bees because they need a variety of pollen. Bees are like us, they need a variety of food. At Glenharold Mine, there’s acres and acres of untouched pasture. I know I say ‘untouched,’ and that’s not actually correct because it was mined, but that’s how it serves for us now that it’s reclaimed.”
North Dakota also has long daylight hours in the summer, meaning bees get at least two more hours of fly time than in the southern United States.
Glenharold Mine has been used for bees since 2004. As payment for keeping bees at Glenharold Mine, Backer Bees gives a case of quart jars full of honey to landowners.