Adventures in Sidelining

Our adventure continues as we went on our first trip to pollinate almonds this year. We tagged along this year and sent about 80 hives as part of a larger load. This was a pretty big step for us in learning what it takes to become a commercial beekeeper. We learned a ton loading up our bees to take them to a holding yard before they got onto the truck to head to California. This included sticking just about every vehicle we have in the mud as well as a string of luck getting out of the muddy farm with a truck load of bees. Our flatbed trailer blew out a tire and we were rescued by our good friends at Moore Honey Farm. All in all, it was a success despite some setbacks and our bees got to vacation in sunny California while we worked to prepare for their return.

Springtime in the life of a beekeeper is the most fun and also the most exhausting. Justin has been practically sleepless, waking up before the sun rises to pick up, drop off, or load up bees, working his 8-5 job, and caring for bees before the sun goes down (and sometimes after). The labor is continuous – building boxes, painting boxes, waterproofing boxes, feeding bees, moving bees, fulfilling honey orders, bottling honey, prepping for splits and nuc sales, and all the things in between. We have been preparing all of our boxes for spring growth – for us, this includes: painting, branding, and dipping it in wax for waterproofing.

Beekeepers tend to spend more time “prepping” than working bees and we’re no exception – much of the time is spent on ways to make his job easier. From modifying the farm truck so that it can carry our Donkey forklift on the back (as well as hives) to building a hive carrier that can more easily transfer a hive from one pallet to another, it’s helpful to focus on what you’re going to be spending time doing and coming up with a plan for how to execute that activity with as much ease and as little time as possible.

Right now, we are prepping for our next big adventure for the year – splits. We’ve got nuc orders to fulfill and a bee yard to grow. We have queen cells ordered and bees on the way back from California so we’ll be ready when they get here. It’s likely that we’ll do some shake outs for packages to help prevent swarming again this year on the hives we don’t have time, energy, or equipment to split or turn into nucs.

Since we have such a focus on growing our numbers, it’s a little sad to see the bees go, but selling bees in the spring helps pay for equipment and is an absolute necessity. Like in most businesses, financial logistics can be challenging. We’re avoiding taking out bank loans, keeping expenses down to a minimum, and trying to grow exponentially – this means we’ve got to put money back into the business. So, if you’re growing your bee business on a budget, be prepared to sell bees, honey, wax, propolis, or whatever you can monetize so you can continue to increase through splits, acquisitions, or whatever means you’ve got available to you.

Small pollination contracts have been a great way to get our feet wet and make local connections that are “win-win”. The farmer gets pollination for their crop, we get a nectar/pollen source, and our bees get some extra practice. We’ve had some remote and private yards that have even been conducive to a small trailer of bees being left intact so we didn’t have to load/unload when we got there. For us, this is helpful since we’re still light on the “big boy” equipment. We use the forklift to load the pallets onto the trailer and haul it to the destination. IMG_1039IMG_1035.HEIC

Reflections on TBA

Published in the Texas Beekeepers Association Journal:

As a new Director, I wanted to take some time and reflect on what it means to be involved in an organization like Texas Beekeepers Association. It’s been a whirlwind as I get my bearings and learn where I can be the most help. If you attended the Convention this Fall, you know TBA is growing and that we’re working on putting things into place that make that growth easier and more beneficial to the members. From forming a nonprofit subsidiary of TBA for educational & research purposes to moving in the direction to take more action to protect bees and beekeepers in legislation, we are growing up as an organization and we’re in a unique position to watch and realize the potential of that growth.

Hang with me while I share a story – I attended a talk at the beginning of this year that changed the direction of my heart this year. It was given by a Texas A&M professor, Dr. Henry Musoma, who was recently brought onto The Ellen Show for what, to him, was a simple act of kindness. One of his students, a single mother, emailed him because she couldn’t find childcare. He enthusiastically asked his student to bring her son to class and proceeded to teach the lecture with the child in his arms. Maybe you’ve seen the video, but if you haven’t – it was a simple act of kindness and understanding that changed this professors life. He went from a meeting with his Dean in which they discussed his frustrations with feeling limited in his capacity as a professor, to an internationally recognized figure for kindness by treating his student like a human, like an equal. This message by itself was inspiring, however, the message that followed was even better. Dr. Musoma discussed the challenges and setbacks he had leading up to this life changing event for him. He pointed out that with every challenge, every set back, every “no”, we have a choice – a choice to be “bitter” or “better”. It’s surprising how similar these words are, only different by one letter. The impact you have on yourself and those around you by choosing to do better rather than stay bitter is remarkably impactful.

It may seem like this article has absolutely nothing to do with bees, and that wouldn’t be far from the truth, but I felt like this message was worth writing about as we approach a new year together – we have big goals as an organization. We want to impact lives and teach about bees, we want to get HB 131 in shape, we have hive losses from Harvey to recover from, we have events to plan and new members to meet, and we have a new honey show record to beat.

I’ve met TBA members who have been members for 30+ years and members who are on their complimentary first year membership. Our members are executives, farmers, teachers, students, researchers and business owners. We are all so different but we come together to put on events, build TBA, and move the beekeeping industry forward. So, now that TBA has 1500+ individual members and 51 clubs, I want to invite you to get involved if you feel called to do so. If you see something that is broken, offer suggestions on how to fix it, if you see something that is working, praise the people who are putting in hard work to make it so. While it may be challenging and frustrating, I promise you it’s also fun and extremely rewarding.

I’m excited for my new involvement in the Texas Beekeepers Association Board and I’m even more excited to play a small role in the continued growth of the organization. I’m inspired by those that came before me and encouraged by those serving with me. So, while we all work bees and get them through this last hump of what has so far been a fairly warm “winter”, I challenge you to get involved in your local organizations, volunteer for committees and make a difference. Work through your challenges and become better for them – whether that’s in beekeeping or in life. I challenge myself to do the same. Until next time!

Honey in Skincare

We are working on our honey-based skincare products to add to our shop. As we read and discover all of the natural remedies for age old skin conditions and problems, honey is a consistent staple.

Honey has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties and is therefore perfect for cleaning your skin and killing skin infections like acne. Honey is naturally hydrating and anti-inflammatory for the skin and offers a great way to enhance some other great skincare oils, exfoliants, and soaps.

You can use honey as a DIY face mask by using it alone or adding in any of these ingredients:

  • Balancing – add lavender oil or flowers to your honey for a face calming treatment
  • Moisturizing – add avocado to your honey to enhance the moisturizing properties and give your skin a hydrating boost
  • Clarifying – add patchouli to clean and clarify your skin
  • Nourishing – add oatmeal for a natural, gentle exfoliant and has great anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties

These are just a few ways to enhance your skin and use your honey in your home. Do you have any great recipes? We’d love to hear what works well for you – let us know!

Also, check out our skincare products in our store if you’d rather have it pre-made and ready to go!

Master Beekeeping Program

We finished our first year in the Master Beekeeping Program and I figured I would write about it to help anybody else who may be going through the program.

Here’s a few FAQs I’ve had over the past year:

  • Is it hard?
    • The first test is a very passable test. It requires basic bee biology knowledge, the ability to open hives and recognize what’s inside, knowledge of pests and diseases as well as treatments, and recognition of beekeeping equipment.
  • Why would you do it?
    • The program offers a relatively inexpensive way to hold yourself accountable to continue learning about honey bees. It’s been a great experience for us, and as natural educators, we found ourselves fulfilling the requirements for service hours and credits relatively easily (this isn’t required until after you’ve passed your first test as an Apprentice Level).
  • The reading list is long – do I have to read it all?
  • If I just study the review sessions, will I be okay?
    • Honestly, maybe… but I wouldn’t recommend it as the test changes and I expect will get harder as the years go by.

Once you’ve passed the initial test, you’ll have to complete 5 service credits and the modules required by the TMBP. These credits are most easily earned talking to non-beekeeping group about bees.

General tips – get signatures as you go – collecting and finding signatures at the last minute is a royal pain. If you can start assembling your binder early and get some of the modules knocked out early, I think you’ll have a much more pleasant and stress-free experience after you pass your first level of testing.

We just passed the Advanced Level of the Texas Master Beekeeping Program and that means that we’ve got to do quite a bit more (double the service credits) this next year to qualify for the Master Level in addition to picking a Major. This should be fun – join us and keep learning about these amazing honey bees!

Our Extractor

We bought a heavy duty, Sideliner sized honey extractor this year and it’s been a great investment so far – it can be run at lower speeds for our newer frames and can extract honey much faster than last years crush/strain or 2 frame extractor method.

Now, I’m writing this blog mostly to tell you about our extractor because we love it and the best part is, the vendor is local to Texas and very responsive to our needs. We’ve been so thankful to have made a friend in the process.

So, if you’re looking for a larger extractor (they only come in about 20+ frames), Steel Bees is a great company and resource for you. Check out our honey extracting video we put together showing our first use.

We’re happy to be able to provide our customers with Real Texas Honey in half the time now 🙂