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OP-ED: Well, I’ll bee! It’s National Honey Bee Day

National Honey Bee Day, which falls on August 21st this year, is the perfect time to pay homage to all of the black and yellow striped pollinators out there, from Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee to the honey bees we see buzzing above blooming Texas sunflowers.

On the third Saturday in August every year, this celebration for beekeepers, honey lovers, and all things that bloom reminds us how sweet these worker bees really are for our gardens. Honey bees play a tremendous role in our lives pollinating plants and producing honey, and their hard work contributes a whopping $15 billion to the American economy every year!

With fruit trees producing fresh peaches, plums, and nectarines in August and snow cones and sugary drinks filling the bleachers at All-Star baseball games, it’s common to hear the buzz of a honey bee on a hot summer day in Texas. For honey bees August denotes the start of their New Year, as they are working overtime to prepare for the long winter ahead.

You may not BEE-lieve this, but of the more than 20,000 bee species that have been discovered worldwide, over 1,000 of those bee species live in Texas! Unfortunately, that number is declining each year with some of these pollinators finding themselves on the endangered species list. However, with dedicated and compassionate individuals like Austin-area resident Erika Thompson, honey bee hives across the Lone Star State are being safely placed and maintained securing the future well-being of Texas honey bees. Thompson is a professional beekeeper and social media star who created Texas Beeworks to educate, inspire, and advocate for bees to her millions of followers. She specializes in bee colony removals and even offers private lessons to new beekeepers. This University of Texas graduate is raising important awareness for honey bees not only in Texas, but across the entire globe!

Keeping honey bees healthy and active pays dividends too. A single honey bee hive can produce four gallons of honey annually and the state of Texas is actually ranked as the 4th top honey producing state in the country, producing nearly 9 million pounds of liquid gold last year alone.

On an even sweeter note, our very own Uvalde, Texas is known as the Honey Capital of the World. The small South Texas town earned this title during the 1905 World’s Fair and has lived up to its reputation ever since. The 2nd Annual Uvalde Honey Festival wrapped up in June with locals and visitors enjoying tasty treats, live music, and all things honey!

The buzz of bees echoes throughout our state in other places as well from the bumblebee mascot of the Academy Independent School District in Little River, Texas to the city of Bee Cave, which got its name from the colonies of honeybees that lived in the banks of Barton Creek.  There is also a city of Beeville and a Bee County in Texas, however, both are named after Colonel Barnard Elliott Bee, Sr., who served as the Secretary of State and later as the Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas.

Besides being frequenters of baseball games and wild flower fields, honey bees are also critical creatures in the food chain. They pollinate 70 of the estimated 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world and 90% of wild plants benefit from bees.

This year has been especially difficult for honey bees in our state due to the severe winter storm that Texans endured in February. Most flowering was set back several weeks which meant limited food sources for pollinators, but thanks to the help of so many Texas gardeners, this year’s work should recover for honey bees as they prepare for winter. If you’re looking for inspiration for your garden, consider some of the popular plants for pollinator gardens like Pot marigolds, asters, and sunflowers.

Learning more about honey bees and beekeepers gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “busy as a bee.” Lucky for us, honey bees really do stay busy pollinating, producing honey, and keeping our ecosystems intact. Whether you decide to celebrate National Honey Bee Day by recognizing the beekeepers who tend the hives, collecting and spreading local wildflower seeds to promote honey bee pollination, or simply enjoying locally grown honey, I hope it will BEE real sweet!

 

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.