Couple stays busy with bees

Chris Thompson looks for the queen bee amid the swarm to help with a safer extraction recently at the Fairmont movie theater.

Sometimes considered pests, bees actually play a vital role in agriculture and society as a whole. Local beekeepers Chris and Krista Thompson, along with their young daughter Nevaeh, are intent on sharing that information with as many people as they can.

Their business, KC’z Beez, provides education, bee removal, pollination services and more.

When asked how they first got involved in working with bees, Chris says he developed an interest that never really went away.

“Well, I was kind of interested in bees and had been reading about them,” he said. “After a few years of that, I was just looking around online and I came across a guy that was selling, and the price was cheaper than what I was used to seeing, and we kind of jumped on it.”

“I ended up buying probably 60,000 to 100,000 bees plus two boxes full of frames and everything, and a queen all for about $200,” Chris said.

“But that’s not how much it cost us to start up,” Krista added. “We had to buy the bee suits, the extra equipment and we’ve spent probably close to $5,000.”

Chris said the average person who might be interested in getting started can purchase a kit for about $300, but will have to buy bees separately.

In addition to beekeeping, the Thompsons are available to help safely deal with, trap and remove bees that might be causing problems. Recently, the pair helped remove a small swarm from the exterior of the Fairmont movie theater.

“It really wasn’t as bad as we thought,” Krista said. “It could have been worse, but they were on the side of the light at the movie theater and he [Chris] just climbed up there and very gently scraped them on to a piece of cardboard in a bucket. The he climbed down the ladder and let them climb into the boxes that we had.”

“Ideally, if you can find the queen, you can put her into the box and they’ll just naturally go to where she is,” Chris said. “But I wasn’t finding her, so finally I just scooped them up and carried them down.”

When it comes to removal, a bee vacuum can be used, but Krista noted that it is potentially harmful to the bees.

“It’s really stressful on the bees and we don’t like to do that,” she said. “A lot of people just want to kill them, but they don’t realize that if we don’t have bees, we don’t live.”

In order to help spread that message, the family stays busy providing education about the importance of bees.

“We go to the elementary school and do presentations with the first-graders with Pheasants Forever,” Krista said. “They take the kids out and they plant flower seeds for pollinators.”

They teach the kids about bees, butterflies and pollinating.

Nevaeh excitedly shared just a few of the facts she has learned about bees with her parents: “The boy bees don’t sting, and the girl bees do sting, and the boy bees are bigger than the girl bees,” she said.

She said the male bees, or drones, are kicked out of the hive before winter arrives.

Another thing the Thompsons want people to know is that they should reconsider killing off dandelions in the spring.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand that when they go out in their yards and spray chemicals to kill dandelions, they think that’s good, but they’re doing a lot of harm because bees really need those dandelions,” Krista said.

Chris said dandelions are the bees’ first source of food and protein after a long winter.

In addition, the couple said that chemicals sprayed on crops such as beans and corn can kill bees.

“Bees and aphids are in the same family of insects,” Chris noted. “Aphids can hide underneath the leaves, and we’re killing more of the natural predators for aphids and honey bees then we are killing aphids when they spray for aphids.

“I’m actually working on making some posters to give to all the farmers surrounding us and where we’re moving bees to, in order to let them know to call us the day before they’re spraying so we can lock them in the hives so they don’t get killed.

“The University of Minnesota is actually doing a study here in Martin County,” Krista said. “They’re putting some of their own bees near bean fields where farmers are spraying to prove the chemicals will kill the bees. Right now, there is no law or anything to protect the bees. So we’ve been trying to spread the word and let people know that we’ll come and protect any bees around and try to save them.

“We need the bees, or there won’t be oranges, tomatoes, avocadoes, berries or anything if we don’t have them.”

The Thompsons will provide education via a booth at the upcoming Pheasants Forever Family Fun Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Martin County Arena.

“It’s free for the whole family,” Krista said. “There’s going to be food, games, prizes, archery, face painting and bouncy houses. We’ll have a booth out there to teach people about pollination and honey bees, and maybe a little honey sampling.”

As for helping others, the family is more than happy to do so.

“If people see bees, they can call us,” Krista said.

“We’ll actually get and remove the bees for free,” Chris said. “We will accept donations, but like at the theater, we told them we were both benefiting. They get rid of the bees that may be a problem to their customers, and we get to make sure the bees aren’t getting hosed down with chemicals and killed off and find them a home.”

KC’z Beez can be reached by calling (507) 848-0865 for Chris or (507) 230-0661 for Krista.