Minnesota is filled with many flying insects. Mosquitoes are not the only one that visit in the summer and that Minnesotans talk about all year long - spring, summer and fall also brings out bees.

The West Metro Bee Club is hosted by the Otten Bros Garden Center in Long Lake and was created in 2015 “to create an environment of knowledge that will ensure a healthy bee population.”

Monthly meetings are held to discuss a range of topics that benefit new and experienced beekeeper. The club also looks to inform and educate the community through their events, such as the garden workshop, Bee Pick-up Day and their Holiday Open House.

“[The] Holiday Open House is a wonderful time to start thinking about becoming a new beekeeper. On the way to see Santa, you can stop in and meet some of the club members and ask questions, even if you’re just curious. We always have fun stuff in the bee area,” Wanda Penner, receiving and inventory manager, said.

Otten Bros is currently home to two hives, which are used for training and hands-on learning. According to Penner, support has come in from clubs in the metro area and St. Cloud, who travel to Ottens Bros to teach beekeeping alongside their regular teachers.

“We have several experienced members that can help with any and all questions. We didn’t want to just sell beekeeping products; we really do believe that beekeeping is a very important part of our community,” Penner said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “pollinators, most often honey bees, are responsible for one in every three bites of food we take, and increase our nation’s crop values each year by more than $15 billion. However, honey bees have been in serious decline for more than three decades in the United States.”

The Bee Informed Partnership’s latest survey reported beekeepers lost approximately 40 percent of their honeybee colonies last winter. The survey included responses from 4,700 beekeepers managing about 320,000 hives, or about 12 percent of total honey-producing colonies in the United States.

When bees come flying around, they can typically be avoided; however, sometimes they can get inside homes. Penner suggests to first find out how bees are getting inside. If bees are coming from inside the home, find a licensed contractor who is also a beekeeper in order to remove the bees and repair any damage done during the process.

“If they are on the outside coming in, again find the source, fill it with steel wool so they do not eat through it and then fill it with foam,” she said.

Becoming a beekeeper is not the only way to help keep the bees alive according to Penner. Community members can “plant a variety of flowers, especially those that are native to you area, keep your garden blooming all season long, provide nesting sites by allowing dead branches and logs to remain and reduce the use of pesticides,” she said.

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