Albert Einstein is often reported as saying, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”
While there is no concrete evidence to prove or disprove if Einstein actually made the statement, it does raise the question of the importance of the bee.
“Everything we eat is two to three steps from a bee,” Alan Beckert, owner of Southern Gold Honey Company in Vidor. “Bees pollinate grass which feeds cows. Hay production, which feeds livestock, increases with bee pollination.”
Beckert answered a classified ad in a newspaper in 1981 for a summer job working at a honey bee farm.
“The owner at the time asked me to come back the next summer and I have been here ever since,” Beckert said. “A year ago I bought the business from him.”
Beckert said he loves what he does as a beekeeper as no two days are alike.
“I have hives in 50 different locations and I visit at least four everyday,” Beckert said. “I am able to see the product from start to finish and I am not stung often.”
Beckert said ten bee stings a day is considered not often. He also said bees are usually busy foraging and will not sting or attack unless they are defending the hive.
“Most people do not realize my hives are even there,” Beckert said. “I have some at 20 years in the same location.”
A location may house 40 hives with each hive supporting 80,000 bees.
“On a cloudy day, there is no honey flow so a hive will be covered with bees,” Beckert said. “The bees will have nothing to do.”
With 90 percent of a hive consisting of females, the temperament of the bees is less than pleasant under poor weather conditions.
Lisa Beckert, Alan’s wife of 25 years, said males bees serve one purpose.
“After they have performed their duty, they will drop dead in mid flight,” Beckert said.
Alan Beckert said the bees have been slower to multiple this year due to the cold winter and migratory bees.
“After the issue with the Almond crops in California, there are hives here to build up the numbers of the migratory bees,” Beckert said. “It is causing an over population here.”
A pesticide used on the Almond crops in California lead to a major loss in bees for hives brought to the area for the purpose of pollinating the trees.
“The state of Texas calls the bees livestock,” Beckert said. “So I have to medicate them for mites and beetles just like a farmer has to medicate their livestock.”
A bee generally has a life span of 42 days according to Beckert.
“In the winter it could be 90-100 days,” Beckert said. “Each hive has to be fed and watered.”
“Queens do live longer,” Lisa Beckert added. “If they are productive and the rest of the hive likes them.”
The husband and wife team said the honey produced from their hives have been in local grocery stores since 1990.
“We sell local honey to local people,” Alan Beckert said. “We also sell some to an industrial company in Baytown.”
Beckert said the darker honey is considered industrial honey while the lighter colored honey is table grade.
“Chances are if you are eating a honey flavored cereal, you are eating local honey from here,” Beckert said.
Southern Gold Honey Company, known by the glass cowboy boot container it comes in, also produces a Pecan Honey Spread and hopes to soon have Hot Honey Sauce in area stores.
“The hot honey started as a joke,” Lisa Beckert said. “It actually turned out good and is becoming popular.”