- Associated Press - Sunday, July 30, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Beekeeping is one of the few jobs that require a full suit even in the Oklahoma heat, but one family gladly suits up to save pollinators.

Bee colonies have been declining for many years, and Tonya Wells and her family are on the forefront of the fight to save them.

Wells, her father, Paul Leathers, 74, and her daughter, Brianna Wells, 16, work to save bees throughout the Oklahoma City metro area.

The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2vGmZoR ) reports that calls to the family come at all times of the day - one recently from United Rentals Pump Solutions in Yukon, where a swarm had landed on a pallet.

Workers did not know what to do.

“We looked out there, and there was a swarm of bees flying everywhere,” said Michael Hendricks, operations supervisor. “We thought they were going to just pass us by.”

It was nearly 100 degrees outside, but Wells and Leathers, suited up and began to capture the bees that were clumping up under the wooden pallet.

“We try to go out and capture these before they go up somebody’s siding or somebody’s chimney or the roof of their house,” Wells said.

Bees usually swarm when their colony faces overcrowding, with half of the hive leaving.

Wells often does the service for free if the bees are nearby. She sometimes charges less than $50 to cover the cost of gas and equipment.

Workers at United Pump Rentals were happy to have the bees gone, but were glad that the bees weren’t killed in the process.

“That is why we go and catch swarms, because some people … just want to go and spray the bees and kill them,” Brianna Wells said. “When people call us, we go and save the bees.”

Last year, Tonya Wells went on almost 20 swarm calls.

“Going out and recapturing these swarms and re-hiving them, we are kind of helping re-establish those population numbers,” Tonya Well said.

The bee population has declined by more than 33 percent from April 2016 to March 2017, according to a survey of 5,000 beekeepers across the country.

“Our goal is to help bring the bee population back up,” Brianna Wells said.

Tonya Wells said she tries to provide a home for the rescued bees. She takes them back to her five-acre property where she and her daughter help them acclimate to the more than 40 hives there.

“A lot of people think this is cool, because you are doing something that will save the bees,” Brianna Wells said. “Though I usually get mixed reviews; sometimes my friends think I am crazy.”

Brianna Wells fell in love with beekeeping five years ago after talking with the representatives of the Central Oklahoma Beekeepers Association at the Oklahoma State Fair. Now her mother is vice president of the association.

“It takes all of the beekeepers working together just to try to get the number of beehives nationally back up,” Tonya Wells said.

Brianna Wells hopes to one day own several beehives.

“It is a growing process, I mean it does not all happen overnight,” she said. “Beekeepers spend a lot of time in the field producing honey. It is a rewarding business.”

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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