Retired Northland teacher making business out of beeswax

By KBJR News 1

August 17, 2014 Updated Aug 17, 2014 at 11:58 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Gilbert native John Skalko's story is similar to many of his generation who wanted to become teachers.

He got a degree in education at Bemidji State and student taught in Ely in the long defunct Kennedy school building. He then taught in Proctor.

At that school district, he discovered bee keeping while managing the school forest.

"In my array of doing different things, I became interested the nature and things composed out there teaching school forest," said Skalko, at the Duluth Farmer's Market.

Now retired from teaching, Skalko keeps busy and makes money with his bees. His forte is beeswax products like these candles.

He's been doing it since 1986 and these little bits of beeswax also helped his family.

"My children used that particular money and they would work their way through college by using all the wax and turning them into candles," said Skalko, "so it was their money for some of their college expenses."

Skalko sells his beeswax candles at the Duluth Farmers Market on East Third Street. Getting product to market has been a challenge the last few years.

Colony Collapse Disorder and last year's harsh winter have hit honey bees hard. Fellow beekeeper Mark Walters, for example, will try to solve that with cold proof Russian bees.

"They're winter hardy so when we try to winter bees over, we'll have a better success rate," said Walters. "They're quite disease resistant and they're really hard workers."

According to Skalko, beekeepers are hard workers, too.

He says a beekeeper can count on getting stung three times a day and there's no immunity to build up.

"Let's be honest," said Skalko, "it still hurts!"

You can find John Skalko and Mark Walter's bee–based products at the Duluth Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday.

Dave Anderson