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Agricultural News

OSU's Courtney Bir on Protecting and Advocating for Bees

Tue, 21 Jun 2022 12:44:15 CDT

OSU's Courtney Bir on Protecting and Advocating for Bees Farm Director, KC Sheperd, caught up with Oklahoma State University Extension Specialist for Farm Management, Courtney Bir. Sheperd and Bir touch on the upcoming Women in Ag Conference and talk about honeybees, an important part of the agriculture industry that has gained popularity recently.

"The Women in Ag Conference has been going on for many years," Bir said. "We had to take a hiatus for Covid, of course, just like everything else. Last year we were back in person, we had a great turnout, and we are expecting the same again this year."

The conference will host a wide variety of topics, Bir said, so there will be something for everyone regardless of knowledge or experience level.

"Whether you have cattle or you are interested in diversified agriculture, we will have something for everyone at this conference," Bir said.

Bir said the conference is August 4-5 in Oklahoma City and participants can register online.

"I do believe that there are still rooms available at the conference hotel and we have a block reserved, so it is a really great price for that," Bir said. "It is a great opportunity to network with other women in agriculture and hear about everyone's trade secrets and get some of those conversations going."

Bir will be speaking about diversified agriculture at the conference, specifically how to incorporate honeybees into an operation, she said, as well as poultry, and selling directly to consumers.

With this week being pollinator week, Bir stressed the importance of protecting and advocating for the bees.

"We are developing an online course for beekeeping," Bir said. "We also have a website that we are working on to put out more resources about beekeeping in general, as well as resources for learning about bees."

If someone sees a beehive or a group of bees, Bir said she would advise them to go onto Facebook or any other social media beekeeping group and inform them of the location of the bees.

"Most of us will jump at the chance to go pick up some free bees and we will typically go capture those bees for you," Bir said. "If you see what looks like a loose group of bees hanging out on a tree branch, contact a beekeeper, and don't reach for the spray."

Bir said a person does not have to be a farmer or agricultural producer to have bees. People can keep bees in their own backyards.

"I actually am a backyard beekeeper myself," Bir said. "You definitely can have bees in your backyard as long as you are within your HOA (Home Owners Association) restrictions. That is a really great opportunity, and this online course will be open to the public so anyone can take that course once we have it developed."

There is still controversy, Bir said about protecting the bees.

"I do work with honeybees, and honeybees are not native to the United States," Bir said. "They are actually an invasive species and they are classified as livestock, which is why as an ag economist, I work with honeybees."

Although Honeybees are not native pollinators, Bir said there are native pollinators that are important to the ecosystem, and protecting the native pollinators help out the honeybees too.

If someone wants to help the bees, Bir said they can start by having plenty of diversified flowers in their yards.

"If you live in a rural area, leaving some of those things that we like to mow down like clover for the bees to use is also really helpful," Bir said. "So, there are a lot of steps that you can take, and there is a lot of information out there in terms of helping support the bee ecosystem, but there is a difference between the native bees and what I work with and they honeybees."

Choosing what flowers to plant for the bees, Bir said, depends on the time of year. Honeybees like clover, she added, but they are resourceful.

As for planting flowers for honeybees, she said it depends on the time of year.

"I don't have any data to back this up, but they don't seem to like my roses very much," Bir said. "Things like zinnias, sunflowers, or anything that comes in sort of a spring wildflower mix really could support a lot of different pollinators and would be a good choice."

For individuals who want to learn more about bees, Bir said to start researching and remember to be mindful. The online beekeeping class will not be available for another six months, she added, but fact sheets about bees should be coming up on the web soon.

Click the LISTEN BAR below to listen to KC and Courtney Bir talk more about seasons for bees and the OSU Beekeeper Club.



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