PHOTOS: Steve Petersen, Interior Alaska's bee guru

Fairbanks beekeeper Steve Petersen pulls a frame from a top bar hive.
Laurel Andrews photo
Steve Petersen's hives are active during a warm afternoon in June.
Laurel Andrews photo
Petersen teaching an intermediate class.
Laurel Andrews photo
Plucking the queen bee from her hive.
Laurel Andrews photo
Craig Medred

For Steve Petersen, beekeeping is more than a hobby or a job. It’s his way of life. His voice mail says he’s “Steve, the bee guy,” but people in Fairbanks think of Petersen as more of a honey bee guru. He is the man to call with questions. He’s where you buy your bee gear. He’s the teacher of beginning and intermediate classes. And he’s a major distributor of bees.

Every year Steve ships more than 400 packages of bees from an apiary in northern California, which he distributes to some 130 beekeepers in Interior Alaska.

Although it may seem odd that Fairbanks -- notorious for its dark, frigid, and seemingly endless winters -- would be a functional beekeeping habitat, summertime makes for prosperous colonies. Long days spur the queen to increase the amount of eggs she lays, creating huge colonies in comparison to hives close to the equator. A good hive in Fairbanks will have as many as 60,000 worker bees come July.

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