Creating Buzz: Muhlenberg resident doing his part to 'save the honeybees'

May 27—Central City resident Shane Reno has made it his personal mission to "save the honeybees."

Reno, 54, was introduced to honeybees at a young age by his two grandfathers who kept them around, whether naturally inside a tree or in man-made backyard hives for pollinating purposes.

"I was always fascinated by them when I was a kid," Reno said. "...When my grandfather Reno passed away, I got his beekeeping equipment. So I set up some hives here and have had them for years."

But in 2009, Reno moved to Wyoming for schooling and for work.

When he returned five years later, it wasn't just his hives that were no longer active.

"When I came back, I kept noticing we didn't have bees anymore," Reno said.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, more than half of North America's 4,000 native bee species are in decline, with 1 in 4 species at risk of extinction.

And there are groups such as the Honeybee Conservancy that advocate for honeybees because they are an "essential part of our agriculture, pollinating many fruits, nuts and vegetables. Their health directly impacts food security."

Reno, who lives on 5 acres on Friendship Road in Muhlenberg County, is doing his part to keep honeybees around for his garden, fruit trees and overall concern.

In 2021, Reno, an industrial maintenance technician by trade, decided to restart building hives.

He initially purchased packaged honeybees that would create two hives in his backyard. However, when he received them in June, they "didn't take off" very well.

"We were going into a dearth when I got them last year — no pollen or nectar from Mother Nature," he said.

As spring began this year, which is swarm season for honeybees, he began offering to remove swarms in trees and colonies inside buildings.

Reno said established colonies, especially "cutouts" inside buildings, is a good sign in that they're healthy and haven't been killed or weakened by varroa mites, which cause damage to honeybee bodies by feeding off them and spreading viruses to the rest of the colony.

"Once I discover it's a strong colony of bees, I want to keep those, because that tells me they've been there for years and they've had no influence from man and been given any type of varroa treatment," Reno said. "...So I'm getting wild bee colonies that have survived for five, 10 or 15 years. I want to keep those bees because that tells me they ... have the ability to fight and live against these mites. So in my eyes, they're unique."

Because so much of the food supply is dependent upon honeybees, Reno said it's crucial to keep growing hives.

So far, he's expanded to 12 hives in less than two years and has a goal to create an apiary of 500 hives.

He's in the process of planting a new garden that will also include a small pollinator plot for bees and butterflies.

Two years ago, the state expanded its own pollinator plots that are managed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. It added 55 new pollinator plots in 2021, bringing the number of acres to 230.

Reno said Muhlenberg County is helped by having reclaimed mining land that serves as large pollinator habitats for honeybees.

"We're blessed here in Muhlenberg County because we have two of the largest pollinator plots in Kentucky," he said.

Reno said he welcomes anyone to call him at 270-543-1028 if a swarm needs to be removed from a tree or colony from a building. His fees vary based on the scope of the job.

"We're trying to save the bees ... that's what it's all about," Reno said.