Let it bee
As director of animal health at the Tulsa Zoo, Dr. Kay Backues oversees the health of exotic critters large and small. It’s a big job, and one could say she stays as busy as a bee.
In fact, that would be a fitting comparison since the senior staff veterinarian also is a hobbyist beekeeper and takes care of her five hives on the zoo grounds, in an off-exhibit area.
Backues moved the bees from her back yard to the zoo with permission 10 years ago and says the bees immediately took to Mohawk Park’s native trees and flowers, as well as the zoo’s plantings. Soon she was selling honey to the staff and donating her minimal proceeds back to the zoo. Then, the bee business started buzzing.
“We had so many requests (from the public) for the honey, that we thought, ‘Let’s put some in the gift shop,’” she says.
Sure enough, zoo guests were fans, too; the batch sold out within a few days.
Now branded Zoo Bee Honey, the sweet stuff will return to the zoo gift shop shelves in July. In the meantime, April and May are peak honey-making months. Backues estimates she harvested 10-12 gallons of honey from the hives this past season.
“As far as I know, we’re the only zoo in the country that makes, bottles and sells its own honey,” she says.
Editor’s note: Zoo Bee Honey retails for $10-$25, depending on volume, at the Tulsa Zoo gift shop, 6421 E. 36th St. N. Tulsans may want to call ahead to reserve it: 918-669-6600.