MENOKEN, N.D. (KXNET) — Beekeepers around North Dakota are hoping to turn things around.

They admit last summer’s drought really stung, dropping honey production by millions of pounds.

And this week, one honey farm to watch their last big collection of 2022

His shop is noisy and sticky. But this crew is working fast, hauling box after box, scraping and vibrating all they can get.

“Most people don’t realize North Dakota is the number one honey producer in the country,” Leroy Slater said.

The ‘king’ bee around here, if there is such a thing, is Slater, better known as ‘Duffer’. The name came from his grandma.

“There was a guy in the hospital who died the day I was born. and his name was Duffer,” Slater said. “So, I was born the day he died. And the name stuck.”

Like many North Dakota farm kids, Duff started the trade before he was 10 years old from his stepdad.

He’s now been on his own for around 20 years.

“This year, we ran around 4,500 hives,” Duff said.

“For Slater and his crew, this is the last big honey harvest or extraction of 2022. Once they squeeze every drop of honey out of this batch, the big job is going around collecting all of the bees, because they’re boxing them up and shipping them out to California before winter.

“It’s not like home, but it’s pretty nice to be out in that 50 degrees,” Duff said.

That doesn’t mean Duff can just put his feet up with the snowbirds. He still has plenty to do before winter.

“You’re handling every one of these boxes a couple of times a year,” Duff said.

Duff admits he’s been stung so many times, he’s stopped counting.

“These are very aggressive bees, they’ll just sting you for no reason,” Duff said.

He’s now hoping some fall rain will set up 2023 that’ll sting a little less on his bottom line.

In addition to selling honey wholesale, Slater sells off his beeswax.

He also sends his bees to pollinate crops in California, Washington, and Texas.