Around noon Monday on the South Oval, students were met with a makeshift sign outside Nielsen Hall warning them to “Be(e) cautious” as facilities management and local experts removed a beehive from the building.
The building was blocked off by bright yellow tape as a pair of local beekeepers donned their protective gear and prepared to remove the hive from near the top of Nielsen Hall’s entryway. They wore thick, white suits and mesh helmets while dozens of bees buzzed through the air.
Paul Moody, the supervisor of masonry and roofing shop for OU facilities management, said the university waited to bring in outside experts, like local beekeeper Caroline Baker, to ensure the bees would be removed safely.
“It was just brought to my attention a couple months ago, so we reached out to Caroline to come out here and extract the bees safely without causing any harm to the bees or anybody else,” Moody said.
Moody said they will need to remove the brick and stone for Baker to be able to access the hive to remove the queen and the rest of the bees. The section of brick and stone removed to reach the hive measures roughly three feet wide.
Baker said she has been a beekeeper for 14 years. Her passion for beekeeping was sparked by a chance encounter.
“The bees came to my house first, I didn’t go looking for them,” Baker said. “They landed in my neighbor’s tree 14 years ago, I went over and knocked on her door and asked if she wanted them, she said ‘I want them out of here.’”
Baker said now she keeps bees in her own hives and removes unwanted hives from homes and water meters around the Norman area — though removing a hive from OU’s campus is a new experience.
Baker uses specially-made wooden frames with rubber bands attached to slide into the hives and remove the honeycomb and bee larvae. Then the grown bees and queen are removed separately.
Baker said keeping bees protected is something she’s “on fire” about after seeing Vanishing of the Bees, a documentary she watched after she removed her neighbor’s hive. Baker also joined a local bee club. Baker said their health is important, with bees accounting for over 80 percent of pollination worldwide, according to Greenpeace.
Baker’s enthusiasm is shared with at least one group of students at OU. The Beekeepers’ Association is a student organization devoted to protecting pollinators and letting students learn beekeeping techniques like the ones Baker employs.