Cherokee beekeeper creates Super Bee Honey Farms
Cherokee Nation citizen and beekeeper Tom Ellis displays a quart of raw honey he produced through his honey-production business, Super Bee Honey Farms. Ellis sells his honey at local farmers markets. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Covered in protective gear, Cherokee Nation citizen Tom Ellis checks on a hive by pulling out a frame of bees on his property where he operates Super Bee Honey Farms. Ellis maintains 85 hives to extract honey to sell. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee beekeeper Tom Ellis points at a brood on a frame of honeybees. A brood is a collection of honeybee eggs laid and maintained by the hive until they are hatched. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CLAREMORE – For the past five years, Cherokee Nation citizen Tom Ellis has learned the business of beekeeping and honey production to earn extra income. As part of his Ellis Family Farms business, in 2013 he created a honey production division called Super Bee Honey Farms.
Since taking on honey production, he’s learned about honeybees and how to expand on the honey-making process.
He said honeybees are “fascinating” for their abilities to pollinate, create honey and by being the only insect that provides food for people to consume.
“We also collect bee pollen, and that’s a real good thing to take if you have bad allergies. So there’s several different things the bees do. But pollinating your garden and your fruit trees is one of the best things that you can get from them besides the honey,” Ellis said.
He said it’s taken him since 2013 to get enough honey to make a profit when he sold it at farmers markets in the Claremore area. He, his wife and granddaughter now set up at the Cherry Street Farmers Market in Tulsa nearly every Saturday to sell honey-based products.
“This year we applied and got accepted into the Cherry Street Farmers Market in Tulsa, which is a farmers market to end all farmers market. It’s really amazing that people support it and we’ve really done a good job,” he said.
Through his wife and granddaughter’s business, Kinzie’s Candles & Creams, Ellis sells different size jars of honey; Nutty Honey, which contains pecans and walnuts mixed with honey; candles; lip balms; salves; and other beeswax items.
He said after five years, he’s still learning aspects of beekeeping “to make it better.” He said all he does is manage the hives and tries to give the bees what they need before they need it.
“Procrastination is the worst thing you can do in beekeeping because if you wait too long to do something then they’re going to do whatever they need to do to survive,” Ellis said.
He said beekeeping starts with obtaining a nucleus colony in a box with five frames of honeybees in different stages of brood, honey and pollen. As the swarm grows, more frames and boxes are added to accommodate the colony.
“In the first year they tell you not to expect to get any honey because the bees have to build up and get ready for winter. Then the second year, you can start adding your extra boxes and hopefully make a crop of honey from that,” he said.
Ellis said he does two to three extractions a year to get honey from the hives. Extractions, depending on the time of year, can produce lighter or darker honey based on what the honeybees are pollinating. Flavors also vary.
He said he has 85 hives and hopes to build up to 200 hives so he can retire from his full-time job.
“We’re selling about everything we can now at the market, which is a good thing. But some day when we have more honey than we know what do to with then I wouldn’t mind being in some retail space,” he said.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit Ellis Family Farms Facebook and YouTube pages.