Bees may be less active until spring blooms arouse them, but hives receive tending by keepers year-round.
The Adair-Cherokee County Beekeepers Association held its November meeting at Hunter's Home, and members took time to network, share what is going on with each keeper's bees, and to answer questions.
Hunter's Home has two fully working hives that were purchased used, according to the site's beekeeper, Greg McGee. One had a queen excluder, something the ACCBA members had not seen before.
This spring, McGee took the excluder off, and since it hadn't been capped, he couldn't harvest. Then he put the screens back and he put one in upside-down.
"I got 27 pounds harvested off of medium supers - 12 pints with about 24-and-a-half pints," said McGee.
Hunter's Home sold out of honey.
Joan and Larry Hatfield, of Stilwell, visited with McGee before the meeting started.
"We got about 20 pints, but when we went to harvest, it was gone," Joan said. "We don't know if they swarmed or somebody got it."
The Hatfields' first hive was purchased from a neighbor after they became more interested in natural, organic foods, like honey. They plan to build up their hives.
"We got new frames to put in in the spring," Larry said. "They love our crepe myrtles."
The honey was a little darker in the fall than the spring, according to Joan.
Larry was surprised at how heavy the medium super was. He said he needed help moving it.
There have been lots of swarms this year late in the season, Joan said, noting the information was found on the Northeast Oklahoma Beekeepers Association Facebook page.
Watching the bees is relaxing for Larry.
"They're fascinating creatures. I've never been afraid of them," he said. "Our bees are pretty docile. If you're being calm, they're not disturbed."
McGee said his bees are the same way.
"The bees love our cucumber blossoms and squash blossoms," he said. "I heard if you leave the frame out, the bees will clean it up, every bit, and they did. Then I put it in the freezer for three days to be sure there were no mites."
The hives at Hunter's Home are stacked ones to be correct for the period of the house, 1852. McGee said hives were patented in 1860 by Langstroth.
While researching bees, McGee learned some medicinal aspects - among them that honey has antibacterial qualities, like helping with diabetic sores.
Another cash crop can be the bees themselves. McGee said some beekeepers truck bees to California to pollinate almond trees, and then they're returned home. There's a market for bees, too.
"A nuke is $150 to $250 and includes a queen and five frames," McGee said.
When the queen is taken out, the bees make a new hive.
Plans for the Hunter's Home site include clearing a spot to put the orchard back how it used to be, as well as the cider mill.
McGee said they will then move the bees.
"We'd like to sell the apples at the Farmers' Market," he said.
Dave Fowler, site manager, joined the discussion, noting he's been doing apple research for about two years to see what variety was grown at Hunter's Home.
"Granny Smiths were in Arkansas, and Winesap, but three blights wiped them out, around the 1860s and 1890s, and 1930s. They were re-established a couple of times," Fowler said.
Handing out copies of information from the Oklahoma State Beekeepers Association about what bees like, McGee opened another discussion about colors, nectar, and the shape of flowers most attractive to bees, which ended with feeding bees in the winter.
"We put raw sugar on a paper inside the top of the hive," Joan said.
Winter is a good time to try making candles with beeswax, McGee said, showing some wax collected for that purpose.
Joan added it is also a time to treat the bees for Verroa mites.
The next meeting of the Adair Cherokee County Beekeepers Association will be Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at the Stilwell Public Library meeting room. No meeting will be held in December.