These Kansas City Beekeepers Bring Beehives Pollinators To Urban Gardens And Rooftops | KCUR 89.3

In the heart of Kansas City’s Blue Hills neighborhood, thousands of honeybees buzz in and out of 13 white hives, shaded by towering Japanese honeysuckle vines. Some boxes are decorated with bee drawings; others are signed by employees.

This place is the largest of six locations in the city supported by Mo Hives KCa non-profit organization that has been working for two years to revive the local bee population and educate young residents about conservation.

“If the bees die, we die,” says founder Brian Reeves. “I like to snack and eat. When the bees are gone, in five years it will look like ‘Mad Max’.”

Reeves began educating himself on beekeeping in 2017 after listening to a radio show about bee deaths. He found a local bee introduction class and was hooked. Now he maintains 15 beehives scattered between his home and a friend’s property.

Then he met Prairie Village pediatrician Marion Pierson during an introduction to the 2020 beekeeping seminar.

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

Bees swarm around the base of a hive on the Wabash Avenue site of MoHive KC early in the morning, before the day warms up.

Pierson had already thought about developing a program in Kansas City, modeled after a program in Detroit called Detroit Hiveswhich began in 2016. Pierson was particularly inspired by the organization’s mission to educate residents of color about beekeeping and conservation.

“A lot of city kids — black and brown kids — don’t understand that two hours of them have an HBCU where they could study agriculture,” she says. “And so they feel that agriculture is something far away, with a large area. But farming can be urban farming.”

Together, Reeves and Pierson Mo Hives founded KC as a non-profit organization and established a base of operations in an empty field on Wabash Avenue in Blue Hills.

The concept is quite simple. Mo Hives KC builds beehives on vacant lots or on top of buildings in urban spaces. They work with Kansas City Community Builders — of which Pierson’s husband, Emmet Pierson, Jr., is president and CEO — who leases the space to them at a low cost.

The small bee farms, also known as apiaries, then help pollinate nearby community gardens.

A woman wearing a bright yellow shirt gestures as she talks near several raised plant beds.

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

Marion Pierson, the co-founder of MoHives KC, talks about the raised planting beds and other features added to their lot at their Wabash Avenue location, where they maintain an apiary and growing collection of native plants designed to support pollinators. and have created a sustainable ecosystem .

Mo Hives KC has since grown to six spaces in Blue Hills, and they support five other beehive locations in the city, including two hives atop the Adams Mark hotel and two at Children’s Mercy.

Recently, they’ve expanded even beyond Kansas City — they’ve placed two beehives at the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City and secured a future location in St. Louis.

The group checks the hives every month. For the Governor’s Mansion, they are currently sending beekeepers to Jefferson City to monitor the colonies, but they are training and adapting the staff there to maintain the hives themselves.

“It gives us insight into all the key political people and all the different roles they hold in the Governor’s Mansion to tell the story of, one, Mo Hive, but ultimately the importance of bees to the ecosystem,” said Reeves.

A wooden box with swarming bees stands next to a sign that reads: BEE Urban, BEE Beautiful.  It is in a grassy location with car traffic in the background.

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

A beehive placed by MoHive KC is located near a community garden maintained by Children’s Mercy Hospital near the intersection of 22nd Street and Gilham Road.

Their original Blue Hills plot has grown into a microprairie, brimming with native plants and grasses that pollinators love. The group slowly cut and burn the invasive Japanese honeysuckle plants that surround the hives.

“It’s a way to reforest in the middle of the city,” she says. “So it’s reforestation versus deforestation.”

They added a Zen garden and small pond, raised vegetable beds and built a wooden deck for seminars. And they have planted fruit-bearing trees such as pawpaws and wild plums.

Their efforts have also kept this plot clean of waste and illegal dumping.

“Nobody dumps here anymore,” she says. “And we don’t really mow. And so we don’t throw all that pollution into the environment.”

Brett Creason, the site coordinator at Mo Hives KC, says he is passionate about transforming these empty spaces into something positive, like growing food instead of sod.

“Finding those plant species that are beneficial to pollinators, but also beneficial to humans,” he says. “We need to rethink what our suburban landscapes are.”

Creason teams up with Kansas City subway students in an internship program called Nature action crewsponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, which teaches them the ins and outs of urban farming.

A man wearing overalls over a bright yellow shirt uses a hose with a nozzle to water freshly planted plants next to a corrugated iron fence.

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

MoHive KC site coordinator Brett Creason waters some newly installed plants outside the nonprofit’s premises on Wabash Avenue.

“It just inspires confidence when they learn how to plant a garden,” Creason says. “They learn how to keep bees. I think they are gaining confidence that they can do things like this in other areas as well.”

Kelli King, a 14-year-old who joined the Nature Action Crew, has never worked with bees before. But just a few days into the program, she’s already made peace with the bugs buzzing in and around the Mo Hives KC plot.

“I used to be so afraid of bees,” she says. “But they are very calm.”

King says she is considering studying agriculture in the future.

“I’m really not a bug person,” she says. “But bees make me feel so comfortable. They are very nice and sweet.”

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