The West Central Missouri Beekeepers Association started in August of 2015 with the expressed mission of trying to save honey bees. This Sedalia-based organization works to prevent bee fatalities and assists the public with bee removal.

“A gentleman named Bruce Bird and a couple of other people got this group started and we have grown to about 40 people right now, with more and more attending every month,” member Brad Hughes said. “We just want to grow and raise awareness of the bee situation right now.”

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According to Hughes, honey bees are currently facing a lot of threats to their survival. Threats include mites, beetles and signal interference from modern technology.

“They get Varroa mites, “Hughes said. “It’s just like ticks to us. They latch on to them and if they get them bad enough, they’ll wipe out a whole hive. There are beetles that get in there and they (bees) get diseases just like we do.”

Another threat to honey bee survival is neonicotinoids, a byproduct of insecticide use. Neonicotinoids are very toxic to invertebrates.

“I have a friend that lives in Otterville that had 121 hives and in two years he was down to five,” Hughes said. “We have no idea where they went. It’ll still have babies and honey in there but maybe only a couple of bees.”

According to Hughes, honey bought locally is free of additives found in a lot of store-bought honey. Hughes says it is great for individuals that suffer from food allergies.

“The local honey that we have here is a lot better than store-bought,” Hughes said. “For people with allergies, you can’t get anything better. We try to get our local beekeepers to give out honey to people that have allergies.”

It is not currently honey season. This time of year, honey bees are busy collecting nectar and making honey, according to Hughes. If an individual encounters an active hive, Hughes advises to be calm.

“Don’t panic,” Hughes said. “The bees are just curious. If they land on you, they’re not out to sting you. They’re just curious animals, so there is no need to panic. Another thing is do not spray the bees. I’ve gone on a couple of calls this year where half of them were alive and half were dead. That’s just a waste of a good batch of bees. Especially, with the decline of bees right now.”

Citizens needing help with bee removal can call Mike Conroy, President of the West Central Missouri Beekeepers Association, at (573) 301-1394 or Brad Hughes at (660) 343-3690. The group will not assist with yellow jackets, wasps or hornets. Hughes advises calling an exterminator or spraying these yourself.

“Our major goal is the existence of the honey bee,” Hughes said. “We want to make sure that we save the honey bee because, after all, for every three bites you take, they’re responsible for one. Without them, we’re generally screwed.”

Meetings take place at 6:30 p.m. every second Wednesday at the State Fair Community College science building. It is $10 for individuals and $20 for families per yearly membership. Anyone interested can attend meetings prior to paying for membership. The group encourages those interested in beekeeping or saving bees to consider membership. For more information, visit their Facebook page.