NIXA, Mo. — Once a year, novice and expert beekeepers have a chance to pick up new hives at Nixa Hardware.

The bee pickup began Friday, April 29.

“It’s the time of year when people will be getting new bees and starting new colonies,” said Al Kenngott, Nixa Hardware‘s Bee Expert. “We take the orders we start taking them in December.”

“These are real hives, these are working hives. The Queen has laid in them and there are babies being born.”

Kenngott has earned his title of “Bee Expert.” He has had bees since 1979.

“There’s a whole mixture of people, some people have several hives but because these are Minnesota Hygenic Queens in the hives that are bred specifically to control varroa mites, some people want them to start them in their hives,” Kenngott said.

Varroa mites are parasites that can weaken the bees and transmit viruses.

“There’s a lot of first-time beekeepers that are just interested in doing whatever with them,” Kenngott said. “Some people will buy them to pollinate their garden and they’re not even interested in the honey.”

Kenngott cautioned people who think keeping bees is a low-maintenance hobby.

“Most people, and this is one of the things I try to stress at the store, people will put them out there and they think they can just come back and get honey,” he said. “I try to encourage everyone to get into a program to check their hives. I’m in my hives pretty much about every week.”

Kenngott said owning bees is just like owning any other animal like a dog or a horse; they require maintenance and care.

“This is a big investment, unless you’re catching them for free you’ve got $190 invested in a beehive.”

Kenngott said getting stung is just a part of keeping bees, but sometimes bees are more gentle.

“You have to be a little bit careful of their moods. Cloudy and windy days are bad.”

Kenngott explained how vital bees are to the environment and our food sources. For instance, he said if bees weren’t pollinating the almond orchards in California, the crop would be almost nonexistent.

“Thomas Edison said if the bees, and not just the honeybees, if the bees cease to exist, mankind would have about three years to live,” Kenngott said.