Bees and bikes?

Never thought they'd go together? At a business called "Beez Kneez" in Minneapolis, bikes are used to extract honey from the honeycombs. Tim Alsdurf of New Richmond began raising bees at his home on the outskirts of the city three years ago. He's also a member of the Big Ring Flyers bike racing team. So this fall he decided that his two interests could be combined. He spent more than four hours on a recent day riding a stationary bike at Beez Kneez.

The story starts 10 years ago when Alsdurf and his wife moved to New Richmond. They have two large apple trees in their backyard, but they never produced decent apples. Tim investigated and found the trees weren't being pollinated, thus the poor apple crop. So the Alsdurfs decided to get a hive of bees, hoping to improve the apple production. They didn't realize the adventure they were uptaking.

In the first year, there was a noticeable difference in the size and quantity of apples. Alsdurf said the apples were one-third bigger than the past year. He said in the first year after getting bees, "we took four 50-gallon garbage cans (filled with apples) out, plus another pickup truck load," saying there were still many apples left behind for the neighborhood deer to come into their yard to feast upon.

Alsdurf also has a large garden, which has produced a much larger harvest since the bees arrived. Jennifer has planted a number of flowers and plants that are bee friendly and that give the bees a food source throughout the summer.

Alsdurf said he's also fortunate that none of his neighbors spray chemicals on their yards, which contribute to bee mortality.

The bees and beekeeping are more of a project than Alsdurf ever imagined. Each year he splits the hive and adds another queen. In April he buys three pounds of bees. By June, he estimates that he has 10,000 bees in his colony.

"The term 'worker bee' is spot on," Alsdurf said of the daily activity he sees at his colony.

Alsdurf said there are great resources in the area for people interested in beekeeping, starting with the St. Croix Beekeepers Association.

The bees are producing so well that last year Alsdurf was able to harvest 300 jars of honey from his hives. Because the number of bees has grown, he's started another colony near Stillwater and plans another on a property with 40 apple trees near Baldwin.

But how did the bike idea come about?

"I read about it last year. It dawned on me that I had to do it," said Alsdurf, who has gotten heavily into biking in the past five years.

Honey is extracted from the combs with centrifugal force. Usually it is done with motorized operations. At Beez Kneez, the stationary bikes are attached to an extracting device and the bike riding provides the centrifugal force to extract the honey.

Alsdurf was so impressed with the bike operation to extract honey, he said he'd like to get one of his own someday.

With the volume of apples and honey being produced, Alsdurf has begun setting up at the farmer's market at Westfields Hospital to share his bounty.