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MAYETTA, Kan. — The Potawatomi Nation is known as the "Keepers of the Fire," and approximately three weeks ago the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (PBPN) became keepers of the bees. The PBPN Planning and Environmental Protection (PEP) program recently installed three brood boxes at the Land Maintenance complex, across the road from the Nation’s orchard located on K road.  The new hives which each consist of roughly 10,000 bees are the tribe’s initial introduction to beekeeping. This new endeavor is off to a good start and it is anticipated that it will continue to grow and thrive and potentially become an economic resource in the future.

Virginia LeClere, PEP program Manager is leading the new bee initiative following a directive from the PBPN Tribal Council. LeClere and another PEP staff member, Chris Sims, attended Johnson County Community College (JCCC) Beekeeping I, II, and III, a 6-week training that prepares novice beekeepers on the ins and outs of bee maintenance prior to establishing the new colony. Staff plans to attend additional classes through JCCC in the fall to train on honey harvesting, wintering bees, and proper treatment of mites, moths, and diseases that can challenge healthy hives.

PEP Manager Virginia LeClere handles a tray of bees.

Along with the bees settling into their own community, a few members of the local Prairie Band community have also come forward to provide their hands-on knowledge regarding beekeeping. Food Distribution (Commodities) program manager Blake Garrison, Building Maintenance staff Kevin Throssell, and tribal member Richard Adame have all kept bees successfully and were happy to lend their expertise to the project.

The PBPN Tribal Council recognizes both the critical decline in the bee population and the essential impact bees make on the environment and felt now was an important time to include them as a component of the Nation’s resources.

PEP Manager Virginia LeClere describes bee processes to PBPN Tribal Chairman Joseph Rupnick.

Bees are vital pollinators with approximately 90 percent of all plants including trees requiring cross-pollination to flourish. Bees excel at helping plants grow, breed, and produce foods which furthers sustainable food systems for other insects, birds, animals and humans. The community is encouraged to respect the bees and their hives. Should anyone encounter a swarm, natural hive or brood boxes, do not disturb them.

Language Learning Tip: The Potawatomi word for bee is amo (äh-mō).

Editor's Note: This article was first published by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation News. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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