“Beekeepers tend to be 60 to 70 years old, and cannot continue to keep bees forever,” said Michael Kelling of Brenham, president of the Central Texas Beekeepers Association. “So we are trying to get the youth interested in beekeeping because of beekeeping’s importance to our world.” Photo by Sarah Beal
Tastes like Texas
Growing new beekeepers
For generations, children have helped raise large animals on family farms in Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s service area. Now they’re learning to care for small honeybees, too.
“Beekeepers tend to be 60 to 70 years old, and cannot continue to keep bees forever,” said Michael Kelling of Brenham president of the Central Texas Beekeepers Association. “So we are trying to get the youth interested in beekeeping because of beekeeping’s importance to our world.”
Each year, 10 to 12 students meet monthly to learn about beekeeping in the association’s two-year youth training program. In March, when they graduate, they receive a protective beekeeping suit, bee boxes and frames to assemble their first hives, and a 3-pound package of bees that contains a queen and around 10,000 worker bees. “This is about $700 worth of equipment per student,” Kelling said.
While designed for young people in 5th through 12th grade, the program is open to anyone. Tim Elliott is the association’s youth program director. Get more information at centraltexasbeekeepers.org.
Leave hive removal to the pros
Beekeepers may enjoy time with their buzzing buddies, but regular Central Texans aren’t as fond of bees that take up residence in or around their homes, backyards or barns.
Take some advice from the experts: call a professional handler to get rid of unwanted bees. Home or business owners who try to exterminate a beehive can suffer injuries and leave behind honey that will just attract ants and other pests.
“The last removal I did, I recovered about 2 gallons of honey. But hives could have much more,” said Darren Orsag, who runs LeeCo Honey in Lexington. “Imagine what would happen if you dumped a few gallons of honey in your home.
“A strong hive will have tens of thousands of bees. If all you bring is a can of wasp spray to kill the hive, at best you’ll make them mad and at worst you or others in the area could be injured,” Orsag said.
Orsag has been working with bees for a couple of years. Even though he removes offensive bees, he is a big bee proponent, with 11 hives of his own, and a supporter of local honey.
Get more information about beekeeping from the Texas Apiary Inspection Service, a state agency administered by Texas A&M University. Go to its website, txbeeinspection.tamu.edu, and click on the “bee removal” tab.
Suiting up for bee duty
Safety suits for beekeepers look something like the bulky head-to-toe outfits worn by space-walking astronauts or hazardous materials clean-up crews. But the white, mummy-like ensembles are essential protection from a barrage of bee stings.
Fortunately, “most beekeepers are not allergic to bee stings,” said Jesse McDaniel who keeps bees on his farm in Carmine and sells his honey at his Electric Motor Service shop in La Grange. “I get stung almost every time I work my bees, three or four times per week, so 10 to 15 times per week,” he said. “Most of the time I get stung when I take the suit off, and the bees are still crawling around.”
The best solution for a sting is to remove the stinger as soon as possible “because it continues to pump poison into you, like a beating heart, even after the bee has been removed,” McDaniel said. He uses honey on the injury, but other beekeepers prefer ice, ointment or antihistamines.
“Beekeeping is not a gentle hobby,” said Mike Mathews, president of the Fayette County Beekeepers Association.
Mike Kelling, president of the Central Texas Beekeepers Association, offered a description of a suit that’s new to the market: It has two layers of cloth like tulle, a fine mesh. “The wind blows through this new suit, but it's so thick that the bees can't sting through,” he said. “It makes it easier for (beekeepers) because it’s so hot out there. The regular cloth suit costs about $75, and these new ones are a bit more expensive, around $200.
“But it makes beekeeping a lot nicer, especially in the Texas heat,” Kelling said.
Want to learn more about beekeeping?
Six bee facts
« Return to News
For more information about news stories, please contact:
Manager of Public Affairs
Manager of Marketing and Communications