Two retired Norman police officers have found a sweet and unexpected passion.
John and Laura Bowman were first introduced to beekeeping six years ago at the Oklahoma State Fair where they stumbled across an exhibit by the Oklahoma State Beekeepers Association.
“They had an actual hive set up, where you could see through,” Laura said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s fascinating.’”
John took immediate interest in the bees, but Laura was hesitant.
“He started researching bees and beekeeping and decided that we should go take a class,” Laura said. “I didn’t want to do it, because I didn’t want anything to do with the bees.”
John was able to convince his wife to attend the Central Oklahoma Beekeepers Association’s Beginning Beekeeping class with him. She soon began to see bees in a new light.
“We went to the class five years ago, and it was such an informative class,” she said. “I decided that I would let him buy me a bee suit, and it’s been history since then.”
The Bowman’s back yard began its transformation into a bee farm and their number of hives has since grown to 27.
“They are so mesmerizing,” Laura said about the bees. “You can go and sit in front of the hives and just stare at them.”
The Bowmans attain most of their hives by offering free swarm captures and hive removals for people in the community.
“There’s a lot of guys saying, ‘Oh, you’re stupid for doing it for free,’ but I know there’s a lot of people who can’t afford 1,000 bucks … to remove the bees,” John said. “I don't mind it, the people we have met so far doing it are cool.”
During a bee removal, the Bowmans will safely extract the bees, cut out the comb and remove any residual nectar or wax.
The Bowmans say the beekeeping industry is filled with opportunity.
“You use everything from a bee,” Laura said. “You can do bee sting therapy, you can use their wax, you can use the propolis, we eat their honey, we can collect their pollen and it’s also good for human consumption.”
Longterm, the Bowmans have a plan for their bee farm that goes beyond honey production.
“We’re considering doing pollination services,” Laura said. “If you get at least 100 hives or more in a load, then you can send them to California for pollination services, because they have no natural pollinators.”
For now, the Bowmans allow the hives to keep most of the honey they produce to allow the greatest and quickest bee population growth.
“We’re not able to extract the honey, because they need the honey.” Laura said. “Now, if we get to where we have 100 to 200 hives, then we can start pulling honey and selling honey on a regular basis, because we’re not necessarily looking to increase our numbers.”
The Bowmans have grown quite experienced in beekeeping, but they faced a few setbacks in the beginning. They are now able to laugh about the first time they tried harvesting their honey and made the fatal flaw of leaving it exposed to the bees.
“We were so proud of ourselves that first year,” John said. “Suddenly, I look over there and … there are probably 200,000 bees. There was eight pounds of honey, but by the time we got over there, it’s empty.”
Although John said beekeeping requires a learning curve in the beginning, Laura sees beekeeping as a hobby that anyone can pick up if they’re willing to put in the work.
“It’s a hobby that anybody can do no matter their size, their strength, their age,” Laura said. “You don’t have to have hundreds of acres to do it. You can literally do it in your quarter acre backyard in town.”
John said he has watched the interest for beekeeping grow in the last five years.
“At the bee club there is literally everything from hippies to grandma and grandpa keeping bees,” he said. “It truly is across socioeconomic boundaries.”
Honey can be purchased from the Bowmans for $10 per pound. For more information, or to purchase honey, call (405) 517-1566, email email@example.com or visit the Scissortail Honey Facebook.