OKC ZOO ABUZZ ABOUT NEW ON-SITE BEEHIVES
May 09, 2018
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is buzzing about the arrival of a species familiar to Oklahomans: honey bees. The bees will contribute to the pollination process across the OKC Zoo’s 120-acres, keeping the more than 20 designated horticultural displays naturally vibrant and thriving. Additionally, the Zoo’s education department will integrate bee-related learning activities into their curriculum, plus the honey and honeycomb produced in the hives could potentially be used for animal enrichment. The OKC Zoo beehives are located in an undeveloped area south of the elephant habitat, away from walking paths and animal habitats accessible to guests. There are currently three hives at the Zoo, with a fourth arriving soon.
Hosting a population of bees at the OKC Zoo has been in the works for a year, but it was an unexpected champion that ultimately got the program to take flight. OKC Zoo Security Manager James Lowrey was at home watching YouTube in 2012 when he stumbled upon a video about colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon where most of a hive’s worker bees mysteriously die, and his interest was piqued. Lowrey began studying bees, learning more about their complex behaviors, eventually joining a beekeeping club to network with other bee-lievers. In 2014, he purchased two hives of his own and today his personal apiary is home to six beehives. Lowrey will help oversee the new program providing guidance and training to other team members about caring for the hives.
“From the colony structure to individual job roles and intricate communication systems they demonstrate, bees are endlessly fascinating creatures,” Lowrey said. “It’s a real pleasure to use a skillset I’ve cultivated in my personal life to benefit the Zoo.”
The US Department of Agriculture reports that 30 percent of the nation’s food supply is dependent on pollination from bees, with an economic value of about $16 billion annually. Due to a number of factors, bees and other pollinators are undergoing drastic population losses. In 2016, the OKC Zoo and more than 40 other statewide partners joined forces to create the Oklahoma Monarch & Pollinator Collaborative to raise awareness about pollinators and to encourage Oklahomans to plant for pollinators.
“Pollinators like bees and butterflies are critical to the world’s food supply,” said Rebecca Snyder, OKC Zoo curator of conservation and science. “Having beehives on-site will not only benefit the Zoo’s plant life, but it will also provide an opportunity to educate and inspire future generations to protect this vital species.”
Plans are also in the works to package the honey from the OKC Zoo hives for sale to guests. It takes new colonies at least a year to produce amounts of honey sufficient for harvesting, meaning OKC Zoo honey will be available in mid-to-late 2019, depending on several factors.
See what the buzz is about at the Oklahoma City Zoo! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at ZOOfriends.org or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.
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