University of Missouri pilots beekeeping program

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COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri is piloting the Certified Master Beekeeper program at several sites across the state.

The program aims to help educate anyone already interested in beekeeping as well as promote awareness of the dangers facing pollinator populations and how people can help.  

Scientists warn that the steady decline of bees will eventually have major consequences for American agriculture. Bees pollinate some of the highest-demand produce like apples and cucumbers.

Without enough bees to pollinate and promote growth, consumers could see supermarket staples disappear. 

The University’s program is still being tweaked with help from local beekeepers and associations who are eager to offer their advice and make sure the program does more good than harm.

Jim Duever, president of the Boone Regional Beekeepers Association, maintains several beehives on the property he owns with his wife, Valerie Duever, president of MO State Beekeepers Association.

The bee-loving pair are co-owners of Jim ‘n’ I Farms, Inc. out of Auxvasse.

Jim Duever’s main concern about the classes is that people who are serious about owning and maintaining hives should understand the challenges of having bees.

“It is a long term commitment,” he said. “You don’t just buy a package of bees, install them, and walk away.”

He said people who do not want to actually maintain bees on their property can plant flowers and pollinator habitats. The Duever’s property is filled with bee-friendly plants.

Jim Duever said loss of habitat is one of the main reasons bee populations are dwindling, along with disease and poison by pesticides.

At Jefferson Farm in Columbia, one of the sites for the beekeeping classes, only one of two new hives survived the winter.

The farm has since incorporated several more hives in preparation for the upcoming beekeeper classes.

Its first class, for beginners, is May 14.

“This class will cover some of the basic fundamentals of beekeeping, such as honeybee biology, what kinds of equipment is needed for beekeeping, what’s to be expected, and plant and pollinator relationships," program director Amy Dooley said.  

Jim Duever said he believes the disappearing of bees could be reversed, but the only permanent solution would come from conservation efforts.

“Eventually the bees will survive and come back, and we don’t want to go back to our old ways,” Duever said. “We got to keep moving forward and not only protect the bees but all the pollinators.”

For more information on MU’s beekeeping program, contact Amy Dooley at 573-239-6134.