It’s not clear what to expect the first time you visit Jerry Smith Park to look for bees. It’s a little known property on the the southern edge of Kansas City, on the Missouri side of the state line. To get to the east side, you leave the main avenue lined with barbecue joints, brew pubs and a sports complex, and head down a narrow back road. You wind past squat apartment buildings and big homes surrounded by fence. When you park behind the Elks Lodge and walk across battered asphalt to a barely-visible gap in the trees on the other side of the lot, expectations dip just a bit.
But then you pass through the trees and step, quite literally, into a whole other world. A small sea of hip-deep grass spreads out before you, with colorful islands of flowers scattered throughout. There is life everywhere you look. A brown-belted bumble bee comes in smooth and low over the grass; it lands heavy on white indigo right in front of you, the tall stalk bobbing rhythmically back and forth under it’s sudden weight and momentum. It takes a few moments to adjust before wading in to this small remnant of genuine prairie.
Here is just a small selection of the bees found in the remnant and reconstructed prairies around Kansas City.