The McIntosh County Expo Center was abuzz as members of the Eufaula Area Veggie Gardening Group learned about beekeeping from Olivia Toothman of the Creek County Agriculture Extension Education.
The program was hosted by Pamela Ward, McIntosh County Agriculture Educator and the McIntosh County Extension Office.
Toothman and her parents have been in the business for over eight years.
“Most people think that you can just get them and leave them,”Toothman said.
Bees can be temperamental. Many factors can play into their health and survival such as weather, drought and transportation.
“They are not always self-sufficient. Last year, due to the drought, we had to supplement them.” Toothman said.
Toothman reviewed the supplies needed to house the hive and the protective clothing needed to work with the hive.
“In the spring, I check on the hive about every 10 days,” Toothman said.
A hive can be purchased and is fairly easy to set up. A nucleus is a smaller colony of a few thousand bees. It contains a queen, workers, drones and a brood, along with the frames. As the colony grows, frames are added. A nucleus contains a tote with bees and wooden frames on which the bees draw comb. These cells of wax store everything they need to survive, including pollen, eggs, the larvae or brood and honey.
Packages can also be purchased that include the bees only.
Oklahoma is a beekeeper friendly state. Beehives are governed by the Apiary Act, which states that any community in Oklahoma cannot prohibit bees within the city limits. They must, however, be a specified distance from a neighbor.
When building a hive from scratch, it is important to allow enough space for bees to move around, but not too much that they begin building comb in unwanted areas. The first level of the hive, the brood box, houses the queen, her army of worker bees and male drones whose primary purpose is to breed. Worker bees live at least 28 days, and queens can live up two years or more.
One-half acre could have up to six hives, three-quarters acre could have up to nine hives, and a one-acre lot could have up to twelve hives.
“While it does require more work than you would suspect, beekeeping can be rewarding as it provides honey and helps ensure that the bee population continues to pollinate our crops and foliage,” Toothman said. There are many resources available. Toothman encouraged attendees to seek out beekeeping clubs around the state or to contact their local Extension Office or the Oklahoma State Beekeepers Association at okbees.org.
In closing, Toothman quoted Winnie the Pooh, “You can never tell with bees.”