The beekeeper behind Neil Gaiman’s bees

May 9, 2009 | By | Comments (7)


Ok, I admit that Minnesota is out of Sunset’s coverage range of the Western United States (although Minnesota—correction:a part of Minnesota— is west of the Mississippi). But when I found that one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Anansi Boys, and the Sandman series), kept bees on his rural property outside the Twin Cities, I had to find out more.

It turns out that although he is a supreme weaver of tales, and while he does attend to the hives when he has time, Neil is not the Big Bee Boss. Sharon Stiteler, birder and beekeeper, is the lady in charge.

Sharon says she always wanted to keep bees, but until very recently, beehives weren’t allowed in Minneapolis.

“One day we were visiting with Neil, and he mentioned he was thinking about getting bees to pollinate his fruit trees. I said, ‘I always wanted to keep bees. But my husband said ‘Oh no you’re not.’ ”

Her husband mentioned that she was busy. Neil was busy. And if Neil was away at a book signing and Sharon away a birding event, who would be stuck taking care of the bees? The husband.

Neil’s assistant chimed in saying keeping bees wasn’t in her job description.

Northern_beekeepers Sharon laughs when she finishes this story. “Now they’re my biggest helpers.” She finds that people love to visit the hives. “When they’re in a bee suit, it’s like they’re in their own little fortress of solitude.”

Sharon’s been a beekeeper for 3 years. “When I first started bee keeping, I realized that if you ask 5 beekeepers a question, you’d get 5 answers.” One day she was having a discussion with Neil about the hives, and she suddenly realized, “We must be real beekeepers now. We’re arguing about methods.”

The Gaiman beeyard is planned to grow to 7 Langstroth hives strong this year, with 4 hives of Minnesota hyegenic Italians and 3 hives of Russians. Why Russians? “We read that Russians have varroa mite resistance. And they also do better in long, cold winters.”

Sharon has a very cool video on her blog, of hiving their bees. You can see how the bees pour out of the box.  Having just hived a package of bees, I can attest to how easily the bees flow into their new home.

I’m curious. Any readers from cold places like Alaska been trying Russians?


  1. Mozelle Awtry

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  2. Eleanor Ward

    Beekeeping is a great hobby, whether you keep bees for pollination, honey, profit, medicinal uses or all of the above. But getting started with bees can be expensive if you use conventional hives. But there’s a simpler, less-expensive and more natural option: top-bar hives. The top-bar method of beekeeping allows you to make simpler, inexpensive hives. Build them now and you can start keeping bees next spring.

    September 19, 2010 at 4:09 am
  3. beekeeping supplies

    Beekeeping can be a fascinating hobby, a profitable sideline, or a full-time occupation. You may want to keep bees for the delicious fresh honey they produce, for the benefits of their valuable services as pollinators, or perhaps simply for the enjoyment of learning more about one of nature’s most interesting insects.

    Almost anyone can keep bees. Honey bees normally only sting to defend themselves or their colony; when colonies are handled properly and precautions are taken, stinging is not a major problem.

    Most beekeepers in the Mid-Atlantic region are hobbyists. Beekeeping is generally considered a minor industry. However, because of its interrelationship with agriculture and dependency of growers of several commodities on honey bee pollination, beekeeping is much more important than merely the value of the beeswax and honey produced annually.

    May 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm
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    i think beekeeping is not only good but also the profitable hobby any where in the world you are doing good job well done keep it up

    January 19, 2010 at 7:45 am
  5. Conrad Wainright

    Check out my site and the linked Save The Bees blog for information on bees, colony collapse disorder, and other green causes.

    May 13, 2009 at 3:15 pm
  6. Margaret

    You’re right! Sorry, I should have said Neil’s bees are west of the Mississippi.

    May 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm
  7. Craig Steffen

    “(although Minnesota is west of the Mississippi).”

    Partially, although that’s not totally true. The southeastern border of Minnesota is formed by the Mississippi, but farther up the state, the river cuts into the middle, and the origin of the Mississippi is actually in the northern bit of Minnesota. There’s almost as much of Minnesota east of the river as west, all told.

    Just sayin’. 🙂

    Craig Steffen

    May 9, 2009 at 5:54 pm

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