Get to Know: Mann Lake Ltd., Beekeeping Equipment Manufacturer

Makers, Meet, Williams-Sonoma Behind the Scenes

Jack and Betty Thomas enjoyed keeping a couple of beehives in their back yard as a hobby, but they recognized a need for quality beekeeping supplies. As a result, in 1983 they began selling supplies out of their garage right on Mann Lake in Minnesota, writing invoices from their living room and traveling from coast to coast, attending tradeshows and meetings with every beekeeper they could.


“They had a vision in mind, and they were running with it,” says Erica Organista, Mann Lake’s Sales Representative and Dealership Coordinator.


The Thomas’ business grew quickly, and they outgrew their garage. They set up a new office and manufacturing facility in Hackensack, Minnesota and, years later, a full-service warehouse in Woodland, California. Now Mann Lake supplies customers and dealers with over 3,500 products to keep bees, employing over 200 workers. In planning for the future of the company, Jack and Betty decided to transfer the ownership of the business to their employees under ESOP, or the Employee Stock Ownership Plan. This way, the company’s employees carry on Jack and Betty’s dedication to beekeepers’ success.


“Betty and Jack are still the President and Vice President of the company, but the employees have become owners as well,” Organista explains. “Everyone takes extra time and care, knowing the results of their hard work will come back and benefit everyone. We understand that everybody has different talents and capabilities, and we try to utilize these as much as possible, which often opens a lot of opportunities. It’s important that one enjoys what they do, and then everything else falls into place.”


Interest in beekeeping has grown tremendously in recent years, particularly after bees began disappearing in large numbers due to colony collapse disorder. According to Organista, one out of every three bites of food we eat took a honeybee to pollinate. “As far as the food chain is concerned, bees play a vital role,” she says.


In addition to starting beekeeping as a hobby, people also keep bees to save the populations. But in the past year or two Organista has identified other motivations as well.

“It’s not only about saving bees — people are starting to realize the importance of where their food comes from,” she says. “People are taking matters into their own hands, turning to gardening and keeping bees for pollination and to reap the sweet rewards of the honey. A lot of them are also raising their own chickens and starting their own hobby farms.”


That’s one reason the Mann Lake team is excited about their new partnership with Williams-Sonoma, selling their hives and starter kits to a new audience. “Williams-Sonoma is heading in the right direction, helping the industry and raising awareness in the beekeeping realm,” says Organista.


New beekeepers are often surprised to learn some additional rewards of the hobby, such as a higher plant yields in gardens. As for the honey, it can be used in everything from your afternoon tea and bread to candles and  natural beauty products.


“I admit, I’ve made a face mask with honey before,” Organista laughs.


The Mann Lake sales staff keeps their own hives outside their office building, which they use to test new products for the bees.


Members of the sales and support staff in the Minnesota and California offices all wear numerous hats and contribute to the company’s number one priority: customer service. “Ideally, the phone should never ring more than two times and is always answered 24 hours a day by a live person,” says Organista.


And right  now, they are ringing off the hook. A sense of community and pride in work has made Mann Lake a leader in the industry, as they strive to innovate and bring new products forward. The team manufactures many products right in their Minnesota branch — beehives, frames, feeds and more.


“This year when I attended one of the national conventions, what I heard time and time again — from commercial to hobby beekeepers — is that they look to Mann Lake for new innovation and information to keep them moving forward,” says Organista.


The beekeeping community is a tight-knit group, and Organista recommends new beekeepers become involved with local clubs and state associations, or sign up for classes to get started. Reaching out to manufacturing companies can also help ensure you have the product you need and the proper information to move forward and become a successful beekeeper.


“Beekeepers as a whole are rich and genuine people, and many of them have been doing this for 50 or 60 years,” she says. “They want to help and share their knowledge, and so do we. We’re not just here for product, but to help the beekeepers succeed.”

10 comments about “Get to Know: Mann Lake Ltd., Beekeeping Equipment Manufacturer

  1. fahim

    your company as made a tremendous development in the field of bee keeping.your company as a lot of expert people.i wanna your useful information about some bee keeping problems in pakistan.if you agree for this i will be great thankful to you.i will be waiting for your useful reply.good luck

  2. Jeanette Puglia

    I am an organic gardener right in the midst of Los Angeles. I am concerned about the lack of bees in my area. I was astonished to learn that keeping bees in the city of Los Angeles is illegal. What should I do?

    1. Franciska

      Beekeeping was illegal in San until 2012 when a city ordinance was passes to allow backyard chickens, goats and bees within the city limit. So you see it was a concerted effort. Many individuals kept bees illegally and was possible without incidence such as a reporting to authorities. San Diego has a meetup group with lots of discussions, teaching videos, mentors and events. Look for a venue similar to this in your area. It is important that you and as many contacts you may have become aware of the bee plight.

      BEE APOCALYPSE NOW: Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought
      Rate This

      By Todd Woody @greenwombat July 24, 2013

      Outlawing a type of insecticides is not a panacea. AP Photo/Ben Margot

      As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

      Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

      When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

      Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

      “There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

      Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

      Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

      In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health.

      “The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

      The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

      “It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.

  3. brent ford

    My employer just purchased a LARGE amount of bees. We ordered boxes from y’all but did not recieve any instructions .. I know it is not rocket science but want to make sure we put them together properly Looked on your website but have been unable to find anything other than purchases. Seems like you should supply a little more info with the boxes when that kind of money is spent… Wimberley,TX 78676

  4. Robin Jones

    Ideally, you should never order bees because you want indigenous ones from your region adapted to the climate. Also, you should know that bees are very fragile, so even after ordering bees, you can’t expect your colony to survive. Find a resource in your area like who will point you to a source for local feral bees.

    1. Bob

      Not true. I’ve purchased packages and queens that made it through winters just fine. It depends on how much attention you take. Also a lot of bee keepers starting the hobby really don’t know beekeeping. Study the hobby by reading the journals and books. Take classes taught by experienced bee keepers and work with a mentor To conclude I’ve kept bees for years and from proper management (from those southern packages) I haven’t bought a package or queen in over ten years. Look for scientific research before making such claim and don’t listen to those who have an alternate agenda. To end. It’s easier and cheaper to get bees local. I often give extra queens to friends and extra bees to. bolster weak populations for fellow bee keepers. We should be helping each other instead of thinking about a few dollars.

  5. salamat ali

    Hi Sir

    Thanks for your time to our mail. we are the manufacturer of beekeeping products in Pakistan . Our company want to work with you as a supplier of

    beekeeping products from Pakistan. if you are interested to work with us then we will send our products sample to you for quality checking .

    Ultra beekeeping Suit
    Ultra Beekeeping Jackets
    Fancy Veil Suit
    Fancy Veil Jackets
    Secure Head
    Round Head
    Beekeeping Gloves Not Ventilated
    Beekeeping Gloves Ventilated
    Also Leather Beekeeping Gloves
    Beekeeping Tools


    P.O Box 2112 Latifabad ,

    Sialkot 51310-Pakistan

    P: +92.52.562474

    Direct: – +92-300-617 0412

    Website :-


  6. Julie Cummings-Bosch

    So happy to receive my kit for Christmas, and just installed bees this weekend with the help of a friend who has many hives. he said that the 8 frames per box was too loose, we borrowed one from the next box up, and will need more as they fill. is this typical? he was concerned that with too much room between frames, they will start to build comb off the frame to fill the space. thoughts?


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