Are honeybee products really good for me?

We are a little biased, but we think products harvested from honeybees are very beneficial. Honey and bee products have been used for thousands of years as a food and in medicinal remedies. Honey itself is basically sugars from flower nectar that honeybees collect and regurgitate. Sounds disgusting, right? Actually, the regurgitation process adds beneficial bacteria and helps diminish the moisture content of the nectar so that the sugars won’t ferment, making it an excellent preservative. In fact, bee pollen is best preserved in honey and can last decades or longer this way. Bee pollen of course is the next major product of honeybees that consumers ask for, and for good reason. Bee pollen, which is used along with honey as a primary source of food for bees, is packed with B vitamins plus a full spectrum of other vitamins, minerals, proteins and amino acids. There is also propolis, which is produced by bees as a “glue” from plant resins to patch and seal the hive, and it has strong anti-septic properties and is used in folk medicines.

Where can I find these great honeybee products?

Be careful of buying honey at the store, as it might not be what you think it is. We aren’t trying to scare you, but we think that honeybee products from local beekeepers are safer, more trustworthy and provide the most health benefit. In fact some people report that local honey and bee pollen has helped with allergies to local plants, although your mileage may vary. Check out our list of local vendors for more details.

Are all of the honeybees really dying?

A phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder has been widely reported since around 2006 and has brought about a renewed awareness of the importance of the honeybee. CCD, which has mostly impacted the large honeybee and pollinating producers, can be identified when a hive is completely abandoned by the worker bees, leaving behind even the queen and brood. There have been several studies conducted in the US since 2010 that have found a common denominator in neonicotinoids. This insecticide is a neurotoxin that not only can kill bees directly but can weaken their immune systems and leave them susceptible to diseases and parasites. Read more about CCD and the effects these insecticides can have on bees.

Even though the number of maintained beehives is down nationwide, especially for those of large commercial producers, there is a growing number of beehives and beekeepers here in Northeast Oklahoma. NEOBA is leading the way in education for new beekeepers and providing cutting edge information for established “beeks” in our area.

What are “killer bees” and are there any around here?

The term “killer bee” is a misnomer propagated by news stories and movies such as The Swarm and The Deadly Bees. Fortunately for us, public opinion toward the honeybee has shifted recently, mostly because of the awareness of CCD, and we have been able to educate the public and new members more on why they shouldn’t be afraid of these “poorly behaved” bees as we like to call them.

The official term for these bees is “Africanized” and what makes them seem to behave so poorly is their aggressive nature. They maintain a larger defense radius around the hive than normal honeybees and when they do attack it is in greater numbers of bees. This can seem pretty scary, but it shouldn’t be considering that you are more likely to die from a lightning strike or a virus carried by a mosquito.

Africanized bees are the offspring of African bees, imported to Brazil in the 1950s then accidentally released, and European bees and they have slowly been migrating up through the Americas ever since. These Africanized bees have been found in many of our southern states, including Oklahoma, but we haven’t seen any reach into Northeast Oklahoma yet. The Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture has a map of “Africanized” honeybee counties which you can use to track their progress.

 

What do I do if I get stung by a bee?

First let us give you some tips on not getting stung in the first place. If you are getting chased by a bee, it is probably just defending the hive. Leave the area immediately and go somewhere the bee can’t follow. If there are many bees coming after you, possible Africanized bees, do not jump in a body of water like in the cartoons. Just keep running until you have lost the bees, again get inside if there is a building nearby. If you happen to encounter a bee in a field or in your yard and it gets caught in your hair or clothing, calmly help it free itself so it doesn’t feel threatened and try to sting you.

If you do get stung, remove the stinger as soon as possible from your body, being careful not to squeeze more venom into the wound. If the sting is in or near the breathing cavity or there are signs of an anaphylactic reaction, time is critical and you should use an EpiPen if you have it or seek emergency services. If you don’t appear to be severely allergic to the sting, than you can treat it with antihistamines or calamine lotion.

Can my neighbors really keep bees in their backyard?

Quite possibly, yes. In the city of Tulsa there is an ordinance dealing with honeybees and it states that an apiary (a place where beehives are kept) of up to four hives per quarter acre can be maintained on a property at least 20 feet from the lot line. There must also be a hedge or fence forcing the flight path of the bees above six feet. For more detailed information please read Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 101 of the City of Tulsa ordinance.

If you don’t live in Tulsa, than you will have to contact your own city government to inquire what ordinances, if any, they have regarding honeybees and apiaries. Of course if you live in an unincorporated area than city ordinances won’t apply. If you would like to read more about the laws controlling honeybees in agriculture, such as apiary registration or authority to eradicate Africanized honeybee species, check out the Oklahoma Apiary Act and Title 7, Chapter 11 of the U.S. Code.