Local beekeepers offer tips to help bees thrive in KC

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RAYTOWN, Mo. – If there’s a bee buzzing around your head, you’re almost certain to notice it. But have you thought about the millions of bees out there right now? Maybe you should.

The bee population is declining. Over the past decade, studies show that the United States and Europe have suffered hive losses of at least 30%.

People are obviously afraid of getting stung by a bee, but people can do them much more harm if they are not careful of the vital work they are doing.

“They visit the flowers and help them do better,” said Erik Messner, co-owner of the Messner Bee Farm in Raytown. “(They) bring in more seeds, help fruit trees, vegetables and stuff like that grow to help support our food system.”

That means anything you plant this spring can help a bee, or thousands.

“If you go to your local nursery and ask what native trees are here that could help our bee population, they might point you in the right direction,” said Rachael Messner, co-owner of Messner Bee Farm.

But on a deeper level, people can help by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases they generate, or their carbon footprint.

Cars, electricity and even the food people consume all contribute to the carbon footprint. The average carbon footprint of a person in Kansas City, Missouri is over 15 tons. Globally, the average number is closer to four tons.

However, Kansas City aims to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Bees can literally smell the difference.

“More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means less nutrition for bees in every pollen source they visit,” said Erik Messner. “That means their immune system is weakened, which means any disease they could potentially encounter, they are more susceptible to.”

People can even help bees when they buy local honey.

“Honey is one of the three most fraudulent foods we eat in the United States,” said Erik Messner. “So it’s difficult and requires real investigation, but the best way is to go to a farmer’s market or get to know your local beekeeper.

The brave can take it a step further and try raising bees themselves. This gives the bees a safe place and gives people the opportunity to get their own honey. But people have to walk before they can fly.

“My number one tip is to find a mentor first,” said Erik Messner. “And work with him for about a year, because your chances of success are going to increase so fast.”

The Messners had some other advice. They said people can help the bees by simply keeping a birdbath so the bees have a place to collect water. Using a more natural plant spray, as opposed to chemicals, can also help.

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