I learned firsthand that there are many great books, apprenticeships, conferences and teachers out there – but the best teachers of all – are the bees. As it is common to order bees in order to establish an apiary, that is what we did. Unfortunately, the company we used did not disclose that the bees were chemically treated. Although treating bees for pests and diseases is a ‘normal’ industry practice, it is not our practice, nor how we want to maintain our apiary.
As you can imagine, it was a “buzzkill” to find a large number of dead bees on the ground when we first checked the colonies. We sent the dead bees and wax to Cornell University for chemical analysis and they confirmed our suspicions that the bees and wax frames were contaminated. While some heartbreaking lessons were learned our first year, ultimately I’m grateful for them. They made me a stronger advocate for the bees and even more motivated to help others avoid this kind of experience.
We discovered how very supportive the beekeeping community is when repairs to our apiary were made possible by local beekeepers. A gentleman nearby heard of our unfortunate situation and generously sold us an entire colony set up, which was Queen right. This colony was from a local removal he had done earlier that year. We then combined what was left of our two hives with his local survivor-stock genetics and we were back on track! Next, our apiary welcomed two more colonies from bees which were cut from a neighbor’s hives. We have been happily thriving ever since. This gave us a unique opportunity to build our apiary with only local, chemical-free bees.
There is always something new to learn or experience when working with an apiary. In 2020, I completed two apprenticeships in order to get more hands-on experience with the bees. The next steps were to work my way through the Texas Master Beekeeper program and Level 1 was completed in the Spring of 2022. In 2023 – I enjoyed serving as the event and marketing chair for Hays County Beekeepers Association which is the largest treatment free bee club in the state of Texas. Now I enjoy sharing what I have learned by offering interactive presentations, workshops and mentoring programs. Our adopt-a-hive membership provides a unique way to share our organic bee products with the financial support needed to keep healthy bees.