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Honeybees: Mother Nature’s helpers

Small farmers depend upon nature for pollination, but sometimes nature needs a little help.

That’s where Yong Park, assistant professor and entomologist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), comes in. Park works with honeybees and the focus of his work is community outreach.

UAPB has bee hives: 12 in Pine Bluff at the Agricultural Research Station, two in Marianna, Ark., and four in Lonoke, Ark. But, UAPB will not be lending out its bees. Instead Park will teach farmers how to take care of their own bees, and he will serve as a resource and provide information.

The “good” bees are the European honeybees, says Park, and the “killer” bees are the Africanized honeybees, which are smaller than the European bees.

“Many people think that aggressive European bees are the killer bees because the European bees may become aggressive for various reasons, such as bad weather (several days of rain with cool nights) or a queenless condition,” says Park.

A single honeybee can visit more than a million flowers during its lifetime, which is less than two months. The usual number of honeybees in a hive is 50,000. Farmers with crops requiring pollination should have one healthy hive every 3 miles because honeybees cover a 3-mile diameter.

“A good beekeeper should check the hive every two to three weeks,” advises Park. “This takes about 30 minutes if the hive is healthy and pollination is the goal. If something is wrong, then you’ll have to spend more time on the hive.”

Of course, if farmers are raising bees for honey, they must take time to extract honey. Park knows about honey. He’s won two second place awards — one in the light amber category and one in the dark amber category — at the Arkansas Beekeepers Association Honey Contest at its 2009 meeting in Mountain View, Ark. The honey was judged on clarity, aroma, color, crystallization and taste.

Dark honey is usually collected in the fall or only once or twice a year. Light honey comes from soybean, cotton, alfalfa and clover.

Swarming is a generally a seasonal factor. If honeybees are not provided enough space to expand after overwintering, they start producing new queens more often. Swarming in the spring is a simple split mechanism in honeybees. The honeybees follow an old queen and a new queen occupies the hive.

The remedy for swarming may be easy. For example, when space is scarce in early spring, honeybees are preparing to swarm. Just place another “super” on top of the hive. This helps reduce the number of swarmings.

Park advises farmers working with honeybees to be sure to wear the white traditional beekeeper uniform.

“There’s a reason for wearing white from head to toe including the bee veil, made with wire netting to protect the head and neck from stings,” says Park. “Honeybees can become agitated by dark colors. And, that includes hair, skin or clothing color.”

For more information on keeping bees for pollination or honey, farmers can contact Park at (870) 575-7245 or e-mail him at

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