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BEEKEEPER: Honoring National Honeybee Day

Len VanMarion
Certified Texas Master Gardener, TAIS Master Beekeeper,
Texas Beekeepers Association member, Real Texas Honey member

National Honeybee Day is Saturday, August 21.

The amazing Honeybee. This small insect is directly responsible for over 35% of our food. Without honeybees there would be no squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, apples and many other fruits and vegetables.  It takes 2,000,000 hives just to pollinate the almonds in California each year.

The Germany immigrants are generally credited with bringing the Honeybee to the Americans in the late 1600’s. Maybe the bees came with Johnnie Apple Seed to pollinate the apples he was planting. Honeybees are the primary pollinator worldwide. Yes, there are lots of other pollinators, butterflies, bats, other types of bees. All of these works of nature are threatened and need our help and respect.

I started as a beekeeper after I managed to get some blueberry plants to live in my yard, I killed the first dozen plants or so, but after getting them to grow, there were no berries. I noticed there were no bees on the blooms. After doing a little reading I decided to get some bees before the next season. Well, I did purchase a hive for the blueberries and it did change my life.

I did get a good crop of berries but I also lost this hive, purchased another lost it. This set me on a path of learning and amazement.  I sought out other beekeepers to try to learn why my hives died. Purchased books to read and joined the Texas A&M Master Beekeeper Program.  After many years I have learned a lot, managed to figure out how to keep hives alive, I still lose some hives, and am still amazed.

Bees must visit over 1,000,000 flowers to produce 1 pound of honey.  A strong hive will contain 40-60,000 bees living in perfect harmony with each other. Each bee knows its job in the hive and how to do it.  A bee will progress through many jobs in its short live. A young bee will spend the first week or so cleaning the hive, cleaning the cells out for the queen to lay in. The 2nd week of its life building comb, the 3rd week as a nurse caring for the bee larva and the last 3 weeks foraging for nectar, pollen or water. Yes, a bee only lives about 6 weeks.

National Honeybee Day was first organized and recognized in 2009 as a way to promote and recognize the job honeybees do.  The first slogan was “Ban Ignorance; Not the Honeybee” The goal was to educate the homeowner on ways he/she could help or hurt bees. The effort was to let people know that 1/3 of our food supply was dependent on the honeybee and how home insect spray and herbicide use was hurting the local pollinators.  We’ve come a long way but not nearly far enough. Beekeepers still loose almost half their hives each year and must struggle to keep their hive numbers and make a living.

Orange County has a growing group of amateur beekeepers with strong support from the Orange County Agrilife Office. To find out about beekeeping classes or information call the Agrilife office 409-882-7010. Search out the Local Facebook group and ask to join “Orange Texas Beekeepers” or look for a local beekeeper. You could also stop in one of the stores with honeybee supplies, Queen Bee Supply on SH87 just north of I10 or Tractor Supply on the I10 service road.

We have a local group that post tips and meeting info on a Facebook page. Once we get this Covid mess behind us we will restart our monthly get-togethers. These meetings generally offer a monthly topic for education and a lot of sharing.

If you are in a local group and need a speaker, please give me a call (I don’t charge).

Len VanMarion, Master Beekeeper and Master Gardener, can be reached at 409-728-0344