Honeybees are being housed at the Oklahoma City Zoo in their new pollinator program aimed at incorporating learning opportunities for zoo visitors while aiding in the pollination of plants around the premises.
With the help of OKC Zoo Security Manager and bee enthusiast James Lowrey, the zoo has officially announced the addition of four hives in the first year of their bee program. It would then gradually increase as they go on.
Lowrey, who has been put in charge of the program, explained that the new addition to the zoo will provide better awareness of different situations involving the endangered pollinators.
When speaking to the press, Lowrey had quite an interesting tale to tell as he recounted how people used to do a double-take whenever they find out that he loves taking care of bees. In fact, he revealed that it was a similar instance that caused his workplace to integrate the new program for the pollinators in the first place.
Speaking to the press, the bee enthusiast noted how people become fascinated at the topic once he starts talking about it. He said that it captures people’s attention as it is not a common hobby.
However, he appears to be optimistic that the rarity of beekeeping for regular citizens like himself will soon be history. Lowrey even noted how it is becoming more common in urban neighborhoods nowadays.
Aside from educating guests, the zoo also intends to take advantage of the buzzers’ arrival as they plan to have the plants in their 120-acre grounds get pollinated in the process.
According to OKC Zoo’s conservation and science curator Rebecca Snyder, she has seen bees work first-hand an is confident that it will work well in the zoo. She even attested that the new bee program will also benefit Oklahoma’s efforts in boosting the pollinators’ population by providing them with more viable habitat to thrive in.
The Plight of Bees in OKC
While the addition of the bee program is good news for Oklahoma residents, it carries with it a shadow of the past that remains instilled in the memory of many bee life advocates.
In 2015, news emerged that the midwestern state saw the largest number of honeybee death across the entire United States of America. At the time, people in OKC remain oblivious to the reason behind this.
However, experts have started to weigh in on the matter. According to Nathalie Steinhauer, a Bee Informed Partnership member from the University of Maryland, experts consider varroa mites as the biggest threat to the pollinators since the 1990s. Varroa mites are parasites that carry harmful pathogens into beehives.
However, Ken Hobson, a biology professor at the University of Oklahoma, believe that there is another reason why Oklahoma has a higher bee death rate compared to other states in the U.S.: drought.
Based on his analysis, bees have been suffering the most when the state experienced a five-year drought. He sees bees as a sort of monitor or gauge to determine the health of the ecosystem in the state and the decline in their population in Oklahoma says a lot. That is, especially since the bees there aren’t really from the state and were merely transported there to help with pollination.
Even so, Hobson is optimistic that bees are going to survive since people are starting to raise bees in their own backyards and are helping extinguish the risks pollinators’ face.
Backyard beekeeping is something that has provided numerous advantages for the buzzing pollinators. Various kinds of beehives have been developed from different items found in and around residences, making this hobby a lot more affordable and doable. In fact, some people are even considering beekeeping as their main source of income.