Our Georgetown world was significantly enlarged in 2005 when my oldest son wanted to keep honeybees. We researched and joined a local beekeeping club called Williamson County Area Beekeepers Association (WCABA.org). They offered a scholarship and tutor to school age youth under 19 who were interested in keeping bees. So my oldest son applied and won some bees, equipment, bee boxes, a tutor and the next thing we know…many years later, we are a small family company business selling honey and beeswax products. Much happened in those years including my 2nd son pursuing the beekeeping scholarship too and winning it. The boys started removing unwanted honeybees from structures and homes as part time work with my help as chauffeur and counselor/mentor. They shared this new love with many friends in scouts, 4-H, speech and debate friends, and church. We researched bees, participated in the bee club, made many mistakes on swarms, removals, and realize we have much more to learn about these amazing insects!
In 2010, we lost about 7 of our 18 hives to starvation primarily. We believe this was due to the construction of a new large subdivision down the road from our small home farm which destroyed hundreds of acres of prime wildflower and mesquite trees that offered nectar/food for the bees. So we had to find a place to put many of our hives before we lost more. We didn’t have a good place nearby so we sold 8 hives to a new beekeeping friend in Burnet. In 2011, when we bought some farmland in Jarrell, it was a perfect place to put our bees. It was surrounded by wildflowers, forbs, mesquite trees, and most importantly no/minimal mowing and a stock tank that never ran dry. So we moved most of our hives to Jarrell and they have done beautifully with only a loss of two hives the following summer. From that time, it has taken us several years to recoup our hives and in 2017, we have over 50 hives and are working on expanding yearly. We have kept a few of the hives at our home in Georgetown since that is the most we can keep alive with limited foraging.
This past couple of years, the large subdivision down the road started on its second building phase with hundreds more homes, so we are probably going to have to move almost all our hives out of our home yard. We also learned that a cattle company bought 540 or so acres of land in Jarrell right next to our bees there and they sprayed herbicide to kill all the flowers and are going to plant oats this fall for their cows….so back to square one. The bright side is we had a friend offer to house the bees on their 1000 acres in Bertram where no building seems to be going on. So we moved many hives there. Then 2018 was a rough year with drought, then tons of rain, then a cold snap…then more rain. I had bees starving since they never were able to build up during the summer. I lost many hives and sold more so someone else could feed and keep them alive. I feel like I am taking two steps back and was heavily feeding the hives to keep them alive.
Keeping bees is not as easy as it used to be and much research is needed to help us understand them better. Don’t believe everything you hear or read about what may be destroying them. Sometimes it is our own cattle farmers and construction companies. But for more reliable scientific news, go to reputable journals and honeybee science research magazines such as American Bee Journal or Bee Culture Magazine. It is not a finger pointing game that will solve it. It will be many factors that need to be changed including our own behavior of destroying their forage and planting green deserts of grass in our thirsty lawns instead of drought resistant native flowers and plants. Maybe more on that later.