Local/Regional Clubs the Heart of Beekeeping Communities

Trinity Valley President, Ryan Giesecke at the entrance to the Oso Bay Wetland Preserve in Corpus Christi, TX

Corpus Christi is a quiet, blue-collar town in the Coastal Bend of Texas. Its population, just over 320,000, sprawls over more than 500 square miles. It’s surrounded by industrial agriculture operations in nearly every direction that isn’t a body of water. As a result, the urban ecology abuts the ag fields directly in many cases, with some ag fields appearing right in the heart of town.

The south and southwestern parts of Texas are also home to the native Mexican Honey Wasp. These tiny little wasps are remarkably similar to honey bees. They’re black and yellow (much more yellow than honey bees), and they too collect nectar and make (small amounts) of (not very yummy) honey. Unlike our bees, they’re omnivores.

The Mexican Honey Wasp (MHW) is unusual in the native pollinator world because their habitat is actually expanding (approximately with the expansion of Mesquite). We don’t know nearly enough about these wasps. The last research was ended in the early 1990s. Their current range extends barely to Houston, across to San Marcos, and west to El Paso.

What we do know about them is that they sometimes build their nests, which resemble a hornet’s nest, in inconvenient places where they’re pests to people. Their temperament is quite gentle, however, so often, they’re able to cohabit with people. In the event they must be removed, our local group faces the challenge of habitat for relocation.

Ryan, standing by "his" MHW nest the day after relocation

MHWs build extremely delicate paper nests in trees or bushes. They’re usually just a few feet off the ground, but they can be quite high. They begin building a nest that looks like most other paper wasp nests, but as it expands to the size of a baseball, they build an enclosing cover around it. A central passageway is maintained along the vertical axis of the hive. As they build the nest bigger, they incorporate branches of the tree into the nest. These branches tend to anchor the nest in place, but can also damage the nest if the wind flexes the branches.

The branches are also a nuisance to the beekeeper removing them. Because the nest is delicate, the branches much be cut on all sides of the nest to reduce the chance a branch will catch on something and tear the nest apart. Some beekeepers leave select branches longer to use as hand holds.

Medium sized, MHW nest, upright, outer shell covered in wasps.

MHWs swarm in similar fashion to Honey Bees, but this behavior is poorly studied and only minimally described in literature.

MHWs respond imperfectly to smoke. Initially, smoke may chase the animals into the nest, but upon disturbing the nest, they will come back to visit us. Many bee removers vacuum the wasps, and most bag the nest for transport. They do sting, and they can sting multiple times. Beekeepers report different experiences with “how bad” the sting is compared to Honey Bees. Many become entangled easily in a bee suit’s mesh material and sometimes tear themselves apart trying to a) “get you” or b) get out of the material. Who knows the mind of a little wasp?

The spaces into which we can move these animals is limited. In 2016, we reached out to the Oso Bay and Wetland Preserve, a city-owned project that manages 600 acres of wetland and scrub habitat, right in the heart of the city.

In the summer of 2016, the Coastal Bend Beekeepers Assn (CBBA) wrote a Memorandum of Understanding with the City to provide habitat within the Preserve for the relocation of these native animals. Under the agreement, properly trained members of CBBA may enter the park after hours. The preserve selected a habitat that provides a safe space for the wasps to grow and thrive, close, but not too close, to the town where they once lived.

The first relocation we attempted was unsuccessful, but resulted in a nest specimen for the preserve Learning Center display. There, it educates kids and visitors on the vital importance of wild pollinators. In 2017, we relocated two other nests. These relocations were successful, but destroyed by vandals within a couple of months. The preserve erected a fence to block the trail leading to the MHW habitat location.

In April, 2018, Ryan Giesecke, President of Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association visited the Coastal Bend to speak at three events in our area: at the CBBA regular meeting, at our “branch office” meeting in the Rio Grande Valley, and at the Golden Crescent Beekeepers Assn in Victoria, TX. As luck would have it, he also had the opportunity to relocate a medium sized MHW nest! Of course, Ryan was eager to experience a new type of removal.

Locating the nest at the preserve is also a challenge. First, it’s a hike and a half from the gate to the MHW habitat area, and we have to cross the fence that has no gate. Because of the size of this nest, we elected not to bag it. And because wasps loose in the car with you is great fun, too!

At the habitat site, we must then select a tree that will hold the nest supported upright. Once placed, it becomes a race for the wasps to build their nest out and incorporate branches of their new tree before something knocks them to the ground. (We live, here, in a wind corridor.)

We wedged the nest into a tree and left them, returning the next day to make sure everything was ok.

I recently visited these wasps again to check on their progress. After checking in with the office, I crossed the fence and walked back to the place where we placed them. On the way, there was no sign of trail traffic, just some wildlife signs. At the nest site, there was evidence of hog activity in the area. And then, there was the nest!

Relocated nest, odd shape due to tilting at the new site, wasps cover the outer shell, mid-day with most foragers in the field.

Right where we left it four months ago, but much bigger! This has been our greatest success so far. Normally, MHW nests are somewhat teardrop shaped, narrow at the top, and bell-bottomed. But our relocated friends had departed from that somewhat! As you can see from the photos, the original nest was shaped like most. It was about 28 inches tall and 14 inches around at the bottom.

The odd shape of the current nest probably is the result of the nest shifting in the tree and leaning over a little. Its overall size is about 40-50% larger than when we placed it there. You may notice fewer animals on the nest. This may be due to a few factors. First, of course, at night all the foragers are home. Second, the wasps experience the same Summer dearth that Honey Bees experience, so we may assume they too reduce their numbers in the hottest part of summer. And third, it’s possible that the old part of the nest was abandoned because of the leaning, and this may have slowed the growth of the colony population. This last point is largely speculation, however.

What makes this story so compelling is how much collaboration brought it all together. Our regional club here in South Texas spans 35 counties, and we try to serve the region with education and resources. We operate monthly meetings in Corpus Christi, and meetings in even-numbered months in the Rio Grande Valley. Ryan runs the Trinity Valley Beekeepers, which provides great service in the Dallas Metro. He also works closely with the Metro Beekeepers (Ft. Worth) and collaborated with that group to produce the upcoming Dallas-Ft. Worth Area Beekeepers Conference in Waxahachie (Oct 27, watch for additional info). Ryan was recently elected President of Metro Beekeepers Association too.

Ryan experienced a variety of beekeeping activity on his visit. He kicked off his visit with “Fights About Mites” at the CBBA meeting. The following evening we moved the MHW nest. On Saturday he spoke to our new project organizing the beekeepers in the RGV in Mission, TX. On Sunday, he did some work in the out yard of our Vice President, an out yard where fresh removals were rehabilatiated, so there were plenty of mean bees for him. They did a removal from a ranch house. And then on Monday, Ryan spoke at the Golden Crescent beekeepers Association. All together, Ryan spoke to about 150 people, moved a colony of bees and a colony of honey wasps, inspected a dozen hives or so, and had a great time!

This kind of collaboration is important. As the leader of a regional beekeeping association, I’m a big advocate for the importance of local service and leadership, but what is developing across the state, is regional collaboration over state-wide collaboration. This type of collaboration was also seen in the spring at the East Texas Beekeepers Conference that brought together seven local clubs to put on a spectacular event in Longview. Other regional collaborations are in planning stages now.

Our own experience with collaboration, with the City, with other clubs, with start-ups, and with vendors, has been extremely successful. CBBA is on the look-out for ways to leverage our influence (and our 501c3 status) to benefit beekeepers in our region and beyond!

It’s an exciting time to be involved in local and regional associations. Beekeeping as a hobby is expanding, prices are up, and people are eager to learn. The demand for new and better education is clear (see The State of Beekeeper Education in Texas), and local groups are starting to work together to show real leadership in beekeeping advocacy. Join your local or regional group and be an advocate with us!

TVBees & Metro to Host DFW Area Beekeeping Conference

2018 DFW Area Beekeeping Conference
DFW Area Beekeeping Conference will be held in the Metroplex October 27.
Hagee Communications Center
499 East University Avenue
Waxahachie, Texas 75165

Hagee Communication Center is located 30 minutes from downtown Dallas & 50 Minutes from downtown Ft. Worth on the campus of SAG University

  Metro Beekeepers TVBA  

Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association of Dallas and Metro Beekeepers Association of Fort Worth are joining forces to conduct the First Annual Metroplex wide beekeeping conference.

Notable speakers from across the State of Texas and beyond will be sharing their expertise in areas ranging from beginner topics to intermediate and advanced subject matter.

  Michael Bush
Les Crowder
 
  Author Michael Bush Author Les Crowder  

Featured speakers Les Crowder, the author of Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health and Michael Bush, the author of The Practical Beekeper will be conducting multiple talks ranging from Top Bar Hive to pest control management options.

   
  Schedule  
  8:15 A.M. Registration  
  8:45 A.M. Welcome & Opening Remarks  
  9:00 A.M. Program Topics
(Click here for Schedule)
 
  5:00 P.M. Door Prizes  
  Basic Topics

  • Basic Terminology, Site Selection & Apiary Setup
  • How To Get Bees & What To Put Them In
  • Pests & Diseases
  • Bee Biology: How They Work Without Us
  • Hive Setup & Installation, Inspections, Feeding
  • Winter Is Coming
 
 

General Topics

  • “Products of the Hive” By Michelle Kerr-Pankonien
  • “Texas Bee Law” By Mary Reed
  • “Nothing New” By Michael Bush
  • “Nutrition Management For Robust Populations” By Lance Wilson
  • “Pitfalls of First-Year Beekeeping” By Dennis Gray
  • “Top Bar Hives & Naturalistic Management” By Les Crowder
  • “Beescapes” By Becky Bender
  • “Splitting Your Hives” By Michelle Kerr-Pankonien
  • “Harvesting Honey”
  • “Varroa Mites” By Mary Reed
  • “Beekeeping Seasons” By Christi Baughman
  • “Sustainable Beekeeping w/ Nucs” By Joe Lewis
  • “Queen Rearing”
  • “Top 10 Best Beekeeping Practices” By Lance Wilson
  • “Swarms, Swarming, & Swarm Management” By Ryan Giesecke
  • “4 Simple Steps to Healthier Bees” By Michael Bush
  • “How Taking Photos Made Me a Better Beekeeper” By Thien Gretchen
  • “Fall Management” By Tom Atwood
  • “Fights About Mites” By Ryan Giesecke
  • “Instrumental Insemination” By Dennis Gray
 
 

$40.00 Admission if purchased on or before Sept 15th

 
 

$50.00 Admission after Sept 15th

Register Online

 

Your Bees are Hot!

As the middle of August approaches, bee colonies work harder and harder to maintain their hive’s internal temperature. You probably learned from any beginner text that the workers will forage for water to use in cooling the brood space. They spread the water on the combs and then fan it with their wings, using evaporative cooling. It’s very high tech!

You may be tempted to alter the hive configuration to provide ventilation. Beekeepers disagree on this issue. Small openings such as provided by inner covers don’t pose a risk to your hive, but you should think twice before making large openings in the hive. Some beekeepers prop or shim the cover, but be sure not to open it more than 1/8th inch. Larger openings will allow robber bees, and be aware that 1/8inch is plenty of opening for hive beetles to enter. If you decide to cut an upper entrance style hole, keep it small and be aware that the bees may well close it with propolis (an indication they don’t want it).

It’s also common in hot summers for a colony to “brood down” or reduce the colony population through attrition. In extreme cases, you may even see drones ejected from the colony. Consider the cause of this. A queen may be thought of as an egg extruder. As feed goes in one end, eggs come out the other end. It’s a simplified way of looking at laying rate. In the heat, more and more foragers will be required to fetch water, reducing the feed that enters the hive. Obviously with hot dry conditions, less feed may be available in the landscape too. So less feed means fewer eggs, less brood, and a reduced colony size.

When a colony broods down is not the time to make extraneous openings in their hive. Fewer bees are available for defending entrances that permit moths, beetles, and robber bees free access.

In dry conditions, bees will more frequently make a nuisance of themselves at water sources too. If you live in a neighborhood with close neighbors or lots of pools, consider putting out a source of water. Bees love salted or chlorinated water, so consider putting up a temporary pool of water that’s chlorinated. City water is usually tasty to bees, but over the course of a few hours the chlorination treatment used by the city may break down (put it in shade to prevent this).

See bees foraging for water at a window AC unit

You may also get calls that “bees have moved into my window AC unit.” Bees don’t often shack up in AC units because of the wind (from the fan) and the vibrations they don’t like. These calls are usually bees hunting water which is created and then pooled in the units. (Modern AC units reuse this water to cool the evaporator coils. These units may not have a visible drip outside because the coils evaporate the water quickly to increase efficiency. But there’s still a pool of water inside.)

What can beekeepers do?

During periods of dearth or heat (or both), you may consider keeping your bees brooded up by feeding them. Use in-hive feeders with small openings. This season is especially risky for robbing behavior. By keeping your colony brooded up, you reduce its exposure to pests, including other bee colonies, and you keep them ready to go to work making honey when the fall flow arrives.

You can provide a nearby source of water. Don’t be discouraged if no bees show up to it the first day. Once they foragers have found a source of water, they will continue to use it. They simply don’t go looking for another. The second day may bring more bees and new foragers venture out and find the water. By providing a nearby source of water, you reduce the number of flights needed to bring it back to the hive.

Strong bees will protect themselves against pests like hive beetles, so if your colonies become weak, you may need to address this problem. The remedy is the same as always, reduce the space they must defend, making sure that both sides of each frame can be completely covered by bees, even if that means taking some frames out.

When working hives in the summer it’s important to spend as little time with the hive exposed as possible. Full, detailed and time-consuming inspections expose the colony to robbing. Once started, robbing is difficult to halt. Be aware that the queen may halt egg production entirely without feed, so consider that in your inspection plans.

Count your mites! Treat if you need to treat.

Many beekeepers in Texas lose as many colonies in the summer as they do in “winter.” Stay connected with your colonies and don’t neglect their needs during this hard season. It’s hard on bees and beekeepers, but you must get out there and help. Stay hydrated and safe. Work in short periods broken up by breaks and plenty of water and air conditioning.

What’s The Wax Worth?

Much has been made of the fact that it takes a lot of bee energy and honey to make wax. So much is made of this fact that it is often misstated the most valuable thing in the hive is the wax comb. This misunderstanding stems from the fact that it takes multiple pounds of honey to make a pound of wax. The conversion rate of


Photo #1 – Frame full of honey and 100% drawn comb. Weight: 4 lbs 13.2 oz.

pounds of honey made into to a pound of wax varies by study.

These studies have found the conversion rate to be somewhere between 6 and 8 pounds of honey to make a pound of wax.

When discussing how many pounds of honey is required to make a pound of wax, it is rarely considered and often overlooked how much honey a pound of wax supports. Or alternatively, how much wax is in a honey super.

 
To answer this question, I took simple observations of the weight of honey in a medium frame of honey and the weight of the wax that held it. In these observations a medium frame of comb containing 100% drawn comb and full of honey was weighed. After the honey in
that frame of comb was removed with a centrifugal extractor, the
comb was rinsed in cold water to dissolve residual honey. The frame
& empty comb was left to dry and then re-weighed. An exact duplicate
frame was weighed in order to determine the weight of only the wax
comb.

Photo #1 shows the frame full of comb and honey weighs 4 pounds 13
ounces.  
 


Photo #2 – Frame after honey is extracted. Weight: 8.2
oz

Photo #2 shows the frame with empty comb to weigh 8 ounces. The weight of the supported honey is determined by simple subtraction to be 4 pounds 5 ounces.

 


Photo #3 – Empty Frame. Weight 6.8 oz

Subtracting 6.8 oz. which is the weight of the frame shown in photo #3 from the weight of frame & comb of 8.2 oz. yields the weight of just the wax comb. A mere 1.4 ounces of wax.

That mere 1.4 ounces of wax comb held over 4 pounds 5 ounces of honey. The construction of the wax comb allows it to support an astounding 50 times its own weight in honey. While this 50X ratio is astounding, more discussion is needed to examine the value of that 1.4 ounces of wax compared to the value of the honey it contained. Using a conversion rate of 7 of honey to wax the conversion rates mentioned earlier, we find that 0.6 pounds of honey was converted into the 1.4 ounces of wax to hold the 4.3 pounds of honey.

Dividing the honey equivalent amount of wax into the amount of honey that it held yields 7.1 pounds of honey held by every 1 pound of honey converted into wax. That means that the value of the honey is actually over 7 times that of the wax that is drawn to contain it.

So how much Bee Energy in wax is in medium frame full of comb honey & how much goes into the honey?


Bee Energy of honey in a medium frame

  • If H is the energy to make a pound of honey, 7H is the energy to make a pound of wax.
  • Total wax in a medium frame is 0.0875 pounds
  • Total bee energy value of wax in a medium frame is 7H x 0.0875 pounds = 0.613H of bee energy .

Bee Energy of wax in a medium frame

  • If H is the energy to make a pound of honey, 1H is the energy to make a pound of honey.
  • Total honey in a medium frame is 4.5 pounds
  • Total value of bee energy of honey in a medium frame is 1H bee energy per pound x 4.5 pounds = 4.5H of bee energy per frame in honey .

Summary

  • Bee Energy in the wax of a medium frame is 0.613H Bee Energy in the honey of a medium frame is 4.5H

TBA Transparency Issues Cast a Shadow on Summer Clinic Success

In an email update addressing the reorganization of TBA which was sent to members the morning of May 1st, Chris Moore, president of Texas Beekeepers Association, said “My desire is to be as open and transparent – both personally and for TBA as an organization – as I can.” He followed this with “discussions and deliberations are, by necessity, confidential to the TBA officers and board until informed decisions can be made.” This has been the message we’ve received from the TBA board for quite some time now; they say they’d like to give the membership access to information about what’s going on… but they won’t.

I went to TBA Summer Clinic in Conroe on June 30th. I gave my “Fights About Mites” presentation and a presentation on bee removal work. I spent the rest of my time there chatting with beekeepers from around the state and listening to Dr. Jamie Ellis speak on a series of topics over the span of the day. It was a great day, and a huge success, which just makes it all the more disappointing and worrisome that TBA won’t allow members to attend board meetings, won’t provide board meeting minutes to the membership, and generally operates in secret behind closed doors. It’s strange to keep information secret if it consists of details that would impress and reassure. It’s strange for triumph to be marked with what essentially amounts to a gag order on the content of board meetings. At $50 per person TBA just brought in around $34,000 on Summer Clinic registrations alone. That doesn’t take into account TBA merchandise, or the money generated by having Roger Farr uncomfortably begging for twenty dollar bills to fill honey supers that TBA had the Texas Honey Queen Program girls carrying around the room. It’s strange that the TBA board members don’t seem to think that the members deserve to know how this money will be spent.

I have personally been asking for access to more information for some time now. My concern regarding transparency started last year, when TBA was pushing hard for House Bill 1293 to update Chapter 131 of the Texas Ag Code: a bill that they eventually and reluctantly admitted (after the information had already been leaked) that even some of the board members were against.

This Spring, after the TBA delegates meeting in Conroe, I asked TBA Director Tanya Phillips if members were allowed to sit in on TBA board meetings. As president of my local/regional club, Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association, I knew it was standard for us to encourage members to attend meetings of the board. Tanya pointed out that her husband had sat in on board meetings before, and encouraged me to ask President Chris Moore. When asked, Chris Moore said he wasn’t sure if that would be ok or not, and went to ask Leesa Hyder, who is the appointed TBA Secretary. Before long Chris returned and told me members were not allowed in board meetings.

Since Summer Clinic traditionally marks the next required TBA board meeting, I called and asked TBA Director Ashley Ralph when and where the board meeting was, and made it clear I wanted to attend. She said I should email the board asking for that information. I did so. My email was ignored entirely by the TBA board… not one of them has responded to it to date. I showed up for Summer Clinic still asking to attend the board meeting, and was told that Chris Moore should have answered my email, and that the board meeting had been held the day before. Requests for minutes from the Spring board meeting have been ignored. Requests for minutes from Summer Clinic board meeting have been ignored. If any board meeting minutes at all have ever been made available to the membership I’m not aware of it. Even the minutes from the 2017 annual members meeting have not been made available, despite conflicting versions of the resolutions which were passed at that meeting having been published in the TBA Journal.

Most beekeeping clubs operate with extreme transparency. Lone Star Beekeepers Association board meetings are open to members. In a recent social media inquiry every local club leader who responded stated that their club communicates openly with the members and allows members to attend board meetings. Comments included “All of our club board meetings are open to everyone.” and “Excluding [the members] cries out that something is deeply wrong with the organization.” The TBA board has a history of being fearful of its members; there was a lot of attention given to the possibility that “troublemakers” would “disrupt” the annual business meeting last year… presumably by asking hard questions or expressing an opinion contrary to that of the board.

Is there a downside to open and transparent conduct? Essentially, from the perspective of a board that has forgotten that they are servants of the membership, I would say yes, it is conceivable that there is. There is the risk that the membership will demand a process, or a timeline, or a bylaw wording, that the members want but the board does not. There is a history of TBA board members clearly viewing member input and contribution as opposition; most infamously, opposition by the membership to board actions was compared to Cain and Abel, to slavery, and to WWII-era Europe in a presentation by TBA Director Roger Farr at the 2017 delegates meeting… a comparison which he has never seen fit to publicly retract or apologize for, and other board members have never seen fit to expect that he do so.

So the question remains: what is the TBA board so afraid of sharing with the membership? Why meet behind closed doors and demand confidentiality? What secret could look worse than the secrecy itself?

TBA Suffers Data Breach – Member Uses Member Database to eMail Members about Beekeeping!

In a surprising email from TBA, Chris Moore, President, informed members that on June 22 they received an unauthorized email from someone called The Texan Beekeeper. This grievous attack on TBA came out of nowhere apparently.

But wait. What terrible news was in the email? I received the email, so I looked through it again. It opened with a brief introduction and invitation/announcement that Lone Star Beekeepers is open for business. That’s not the best message for beekeepers if you’re TBA, but it seems harmless enough to invite someone to consider something. It was polite and factual. There was a brief write up about heat stress and remedies for it. Something about “watch out for snakes” too. There was a list of local/regional clubs that currently operate as recognized 501c3s. And the Texan Beekeeper was kind enough to point folks our way at SaveTexasBeekeepers.org as well as towards a couple of other online resources. Then there was an update on the TBA 131 Committee, Ashley Ralph, Chair. That was followed by a short explanation of mite counting with sticky boards.

What is so terrible about this email? You’ll have to ask Chris if you’re confused. Email him here.

But what is this nonsense in Chris’ email? “TBA did not authorize this email….” The email did not say otherwise. The Texan Beekeeper clearly did not pretend to speak for TBA or mislead readers to think that the email had much to do with TBA at all. “TBA recognizes this breach of member information and regrets any inconvenience caused to TBA members.” Breach? What breach? Most TBA members voluntarily list themselves in the TBA member directory, available for members only (password protected area only). I know I just clicked that box last week when I renewed my membership. I am always eager to hear from my fellow beekeepers! Perhaps TBA members who didn’t authorize their listing were breached? Chris isn’t clear about this question.

If you’re like most beekeepers, you get a few emails like The Texan Beekeeper each week. Some are great. Some are worthless. Some are trying to sell you something. They’re just emails. I couldn’t tell you where 10% come from. Who cares? In the arena of ideas, we at SaveTexasBeekeepers suggest that the more, the merrier!

Chris specifically accuses The Texan Beekeeper of breaching TBA data, but then only mentions member emails as compromised. Were other data compromised? Credit card numbers? Addresses? Members’ local club affiliations? Those would obviously be more serious problems.

Perhaps this breach is related to other breaches that TBA has quietly suffered in the past? The Coastal Bend Beekeepers Association (my group) initially took advantage of TBA’s web hosting in 2016 only to suffer multiple incidences of hacking of our site, the latest resulting in our page being turned into a Japanese mattress sales site. We have since moved the page to somewhere we hope will be safer. So TBA’s concern for online security is valid, though perhaps misplaced.

Here at SaveTexasBeekeepers we publish reliable beekeeping news that is attributed to specific writers (Principle Writers of the blog, or guest writers by invitation). The practice of writing “anonymously” though, has a long and famous history. Ben Franklin was famous for his pen names. Here are just a few of them:

  • Richard Saunders (aka Poor Richard, a name so recognized and influential a Navy ship was so named).
  • Mrs. Silence Doogood
  • Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful
  • Busy Body
  • Polly Baker

There were many other names that Franklin invented and used as a force for extreme good during his time. Polly Baker, for example, was used to advocate against the poor treatment of women. Often, these pen names are open secrets. What does it matter? Certainly, anonymous writers may also disrupt too, but writing anonymously places the emphasis on the only thing that matters, the writing, the ideas. So the question becomes, what ideas are so fear-inspiring to TBA?

Texas House of Representatives Considers Pollinator Issues

The Agriculture and Livestock Committee of the Texas House will hold hearings on pollinator health issues in July. The committee will meet jointly with the Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism.

The charge of the hearing is given below.

“Study the effects of declining migratory species, such as the monarch butterfly, as well as native and domesticated bee populations on agricultural production and its economic impact on the state. Identify possible causes of the population changes and monitor national trends. Make recommendations on how to improve and promote monarch butterfly and bee populations and habitats in the state.”

Beekeepers who wish to provide testimony or speak about the issues may contact their state representatives or the committee members’ office contacts.

When:  Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 10AM

Where:  State Capitol Room E2.010

Who:  Committee Chair, Rep. Tracy King (512-463-0194)

Does Pageantry Have a Place in a Modern Texas Beekeepers Assn?

If you believe that our young people hold the future in their hands, then you must also believe that we must empower them to take the reigns of industry and power and represent that future to the world around us. Our young people must demonstrate to the world that our industry is vibrant and productive. They must bring the message that beekeepers are open for business. They should be knowledgeable and competent. And they should have our full faith and support in carrying these messages for us.

With these things in mind, let’s start a marketing program. In this program, we will only allow young adult women to act as our spokesperson. But not just any women. These women mustn’t be married. You know how busy married women can be. That’s why she must also not be pregnant. Imagine how impossible it would be to work with a woman with a child, so she mustn’t have ever been pregnant either. As long as we’re at it, we don’t want young women who have been divorced. That shows a lack of commitment in a person, right? Of course, we don’t want any shacking up either. And by young women, we only mean between the ages of 17 and 24. We obviously want pretty women, not some old woman. Beekeeping is complicated, so we should also exclude young women who dropped out of high school. Again, lack of commitment, you know?

We should have a knowledgeable spokesperson, so we’ll quiz applicants about bees and beekeeping. After all, we don’t want our marketing programming to look like a beauty pageant, do we? Still, we should dress up the candidates in fancy dresses. And she should wear a sash, but again, we don’t want this to look like a beauty pageant, so we’ll call the sash a “banner” instead. And there has to be a tiara, since we will call her the Queen. Of course.

Welcome to 1955

While you may find the proposal above old-fashioned, out-dated, and absurd, the sad news is that these rules are real. I didn’t make up a single one of them. These are the largely unpublished rules behind the Texas Honey Queen Program, operated by the Texas Beekeepers Association.

Let’s count the ways this program discriminates.

  1. Young men are denied the opportunity to participate.
  2. Women older than 24 are excluded
  3. Married women are excluded
  4. Divorced women are excluded
  5. Pregnant women are excluded
  6. Women with children are excluded
  7. Women who have lost children are excluded
  8. Women who have co-habitated with a man are excluded
  9. High school drop outs are excluded

The question that we face now, in 2018, is what justification can we mount to excuse these discriminatory practices? The Honey Queen look-and-feel accomplishes a marketing purpose – the visibility is high and distinctive. But is the imagery of a pageant what our industry association needs in promoting beekeeping?

We should take a close and careful look at the core values of Texas Beekeepers Association. We should question why, even today, we lack a serious statement of equality and non-discrimination for our group. We must question whether it is our place to make judgements of how a young adult is to live their private life with regard to marriage, raising a family, etc.

Beekeeping is challenging, but it is also one of the few occupations that requires no formal education whatsoever. No license. No degree. No certificate. Nothing, not even a high school diploma. So shouldn’t we embrace the high school drop out who comes willing to learn and work? Is beekeeping not an excellent solution for that young person who has perhaps made mistakes in schooling? At our regional beekeeping association (Coastal Bend Beekeepers Association (Corpus Christi, TX)), I say bring on the high school drop outs! We will teach them our trade and make them productive!

If the young people are to carry our banner and speak for us, should they not reflect the membership in every manner? Of course they should.

The Texas Honey Queen Program

“The Texas Honey Queen acts as the official spokesperson for the Texas Beekeepers Association to promote all aspects of the Beekeeping Industry. The Texas Honey Queen is available for interviews, personal appearances, and is prepared to give presentations to local community groups.”

This official description of the Texas Honey Queen summarizes the purpose of the program. It is not a youth program at all. It is a marketing program, though the Queens and Princesses are selected from youth Honey Queen programs across the state. How are they selected? And who selects them? That’s much more difficult to answer. We know that TBA and other Queen program administrators preach again and again that the programs are not pageants. It’s clear why they must preach this, because of all the pageantry that is clearly part of the programs: the fancy dresses, the sash/”banner”, the tiara, etc. But in fact, they’re selected by their performance on knowledge based presentations and their skill in delivering them. The criteria are quite important to the program. It’s the pageantry that isn’t important at all.

And who selects the Queens? The Queen Committee selects queens, and that’s the limit of what we know. There is no list of committee members anywhere on the TBA web page. There are no minutes of committee meetings found on the web site. The meetings are not announced anywhere. Only the Chair of the committee is named in any way whatsoever. Nowhere is there a list of Queen activities, either past or planned.

The Texas Honey Queen Program operates quietly in closed door meetings (like much of TBA business). Who funds the program? TBA does. At the 2017 fall business meeting, the financial reports state that $5056.71 was spent on Honey Queen expenses from a fund that held $23,132.47 at the end of the report. This is roughly twice what the program reportedly generated in donations to the fund. The 2016 year-end report did not itemize the Queen program budget at all, but provided the fund balance.

Like many aspects of TBA, the membership is blissfully unaware of how and where their money is spent on the Queen program. Certainly, some is used to pay for travel for the program. And of course, the Queens are not volunteers. We do know they’re compensated, but exactly how is a mystery. A “Queen Scholarship” is mentioned in a few corners of official statements, but how much money is spent on this compensation is never mentioned. Are the Queens paid employees? Independent contractors? Or simply scholarship awardees? These numbers are not available to mere TBA members.

The Future is Within Our Sight

What does the future hold for the Texas Honey Queen Program? TBA seems set on continuing the program in its current form. TBA board member, and Publications Director, Chris Doggett explained at a local club meeting that the program is necessary in order to enable the young ladies to compete at the national level, called the National Honey Queen and operated by the American Beekeeping Federation. And certainly that is true, and an important component for the candidates. Without a state program, the young ladies would be ineligible to compete for the national titles. Is that good enough? That’s the question that TBA must answer.

At the same local meeting, Doggett acknowledged that the program does not offer equal opportunities for young men, but he pointed out that such programs do exist in the state (as youth programs only at this time). The East Texas Beekeepers Association (Tyler, TX) operates a Honey Queen/Ambassador program in which young men may compete for the title Honey Ambassador. Obviously, nobody advocates for the fellows to be called Honey Queen. The East Texas Beekeepers program nevertheless provides access to their program for young men to compete.

The Brazos Valley Beekeepers Association (Bryan, TX) considered the formation of a Honey Queen program and (at least as of this time) declined to begin a program. Instead, they propose to simply add “Honey Queen”-activities to their extremely successful and robust youth program. This has the benefit of pushing many young people into the community to carry our message. This increases the diversity of beekeepers that interact with the public, and sends the message that beekeeping is, indeed, for everyone.

Significantly, the Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association (Dallas, TX) has recently formed a Honey Ambassador Program, completely inclusive of all young people who wish to compete. Young men or young women will compete for a single title: Honey Bee Ambassador. Perfect equality.

There are other programs for young people to put beekeeping on display for all to see. In 2017, the Coastal Bend Beekeepers brought a 4H student to speak in Corpus Christi, TX. His story was about his very successful project in 4H that saw a couple of colonies turn into 40+ in just a couple of years. He came without any title whatsoever, but spoke with authority to a room of 140+ members of the community. 4H is a world-wide program with a clear and stated commitment to equality and equal opportunity for all young people. The program cultivates leaders. What better program could we possibly seek to mimic?

As the beekeeping industry moves into the future, the role of young people will determine the success of the industry in general. Historically, beekeeping enterprises are handed down inside a few families. But today, we’re seeing fantastic growth of new beekeepers. Many of those will wash out when they learn that beekeeping is WORK, but a few will stay. Some will build their own enterprise. And a few will carry our message to the world, that the beekeeping industry is strong and vibrant, that we’re open for business, and that beekeeping is for everyone.

Honey Bee Health Coalition Announces 7th Ed. of Essential Guide

 

Today, the Honey Bee Health Coalition (HBHC) released the newest edition of their important Tools for Varroa Management guide book for beekeepers. Since the first edition, the HBHC has diligently updated their guide for beekeepers. Indeed, no beekeeper should be without a copy of the guide.

Notable additions over the years include the addition of video demonstrations (page 11) to help beekeepers of all levels learn exactly how to properly manage varroa in bee colonies. This 7th edition includes guidance for the new product Formic Pro in the listings for treatments. This is particularly important because Formic Pro offers additional application options that are new to beekeepers.

We’ve provided the link to the guide below. Be sure to visit the HBHC’s web site for additional tools and learning opportunities. Don’t skip this important resource dedicated to keeping managed bees healthy.

Tools for Varroa Management (7th Ed.)

Web Hosting Service Offering announcement By Lone Star Beekeepers Association

Lone Star Beekeepers Association announced its formation last month and that it is accepting memberships.  LSBA is a state wide incorporated non-profit beekeeping association whose mission is to support beekeeping activities of all sizes and give beekeepers a voice in local and statewide regulatory issues in Texas.

Among the membership types is an associate membership category for businesses, allied professionals and local beekeeping associations.

A great benefit of being an LSBA associate member is a free web hosting service is included.  Clubs, associations & bee related businesses and individuals can maintain a professional looking website under their own custom registered domain name.  In addition up to 10 Lone Star Beekeepers Associatione-mail addresses are also provided under that custom registered domain name.  Associate members can use e-mail addresses such as info@mybeebusiness.com or president@localbeeclub.org to make it easier for members to conduct club activities or business.

Further information on membership and the web hosting service can be found on website http://www.lonestarbeekeepers.org/memberships/#AssociateMembership