Texas Honey

Texas Honey
Texas Honey - Credit: BeeWeaver Honey Farm

The Texas honey industry is one of the largest and most productive in the United States. Though Texas has taken somewhat of a negative hit in recent years. This is mainly due to the fact that the European honey bee has been in decline across America since the 1950s as a result of agricultural intensification, diseases, parasites, and pesticides. 

Weather and loss of habitat are also significant factors in honey production decline. Unrestricted development, loss of natural forage, droughts, freezes, tornadoes, and floods are all contributing factors.

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    When Did Texas' Honey Production Begin?

    The Texas Beekeepers Association was formed in 1880, however, beekeeping has been around in the state long before that. The first person to become interested in the commercial possibilities of beekeeping was Wilhelm Brukish.

    He moved to Texas in 1842 as a member of the German colony of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. Wilhelm introduced the box hive with removable frames that later replaced the pioneer log gum hive. He also wrote a book on beekeeping.

    In the 1860s began the importation of Italian queen bees and by 1945, 97 percent of the bees in Texas were of that strain. The first annual Uvalde Honey Festival was a celebration of the 114th anniversary of this small town’s having been named the “Honey Capital of the World,” at the 1905 World’s Fair in France.

    It was a title that had been given with good reason, given the quantity and quality of the honey that came from Uvalde. The 2019 festival was a tremendous success and brought a level of attention to the beekeeping and honey industries that really had never before existed.

    A family of beekeepers and owners of Texas based honey farm looking in a bee hive together - Credit: BeeWeaver Honey Farm

    How Much Honey Does Texas Produce?

    Texas honey bees are managed for four commercial interests:

    • Honey production, which is sold in bulk to wholesalers
    • Pollen production, provided to the health industry
    • Queen bees, marketed to commercial beekeepers and hobbyists
    • Contract-pollinated crops, honey bees are farmed out to help pollinate melons cucumbers, alfalfa, sunflowers, and vegetables are grown for seed

     

    While there are more hobbyists than commercial bee workers in the state, it is the commercial industry that produces virtually all of Texas’s official beekeeping activities.

    According to USDA reports, in 2019 Texas produced 7,560,000 pounds of honey from 126,000 honey-producing colonies.

    What Are the Main Types of Honey Texas Produces?

    The many different brands of honey produced in Texas all have their own distinctive flavor, which results from the biome (areas of the world divided by similar climate, soil, plants, and animals) where the honey was produced. Flowers and plants from a specific biome produce the pollen and nectar that attract bees to visit them.

    Texas is divided into ten principal plant-life biomes, and each has its own unique plant life, terrain, and weather. In order for a beekeeper to produce one specific type of honey, he has to work within a very narrow window of time. There are numerous factors that can cause honey bees to pollinate various flowers in both a short period of time and over greater distances (up to six miles), something that happens when blooms are scarce.

    If an area experiences either quite a bit of a lack of rainfall, the result might be some species of flowers or plants blooming too early or in too scarce a quantity. Combine these factors with the size of the state, and it’s possible to experience various flavor profiles of honey within reasonably short distances, with the flavors of some florals being mixed with others.

    The following is a list of some of the most common Texas monofloral honey:

    • White Brush honey: vanilla scent and a flavor that can be described as smokiness.
    • Wildflower honey: vary in colour and flavour annually, depending on weather/blooms and region.
    • Alfalfa honey: white or extra-light amber, it has a mild flavor and a beeswax scent.
    • Blueberry honey: light amber and smells like a combination of green leaves and lemon. It tastes somewhat ‘blossomy’ floral and has a gentle aftertaste.
    • Cotton honey: the sweetest of the Texas honey, with a pure honey taste.
    • Huajilla honey: white or very light amber, most likely the lightest-colored honey in Texas. It has a mild citrus flavor and is known for its pleasing scent.
    • Mesquite honey: dark amber, thick, and smells of mesquite wood, mildewed grape, and brown sugar.
    • Orange Blossom honey: white to extra-light amber with a flavor and scent of orange blossoms.
    • Sunflower honey: yellow amber in color, relatively sweet with a nutty taste.
    • Vetch honey: water-white, has the flavor and pleasant aroma of the vetch flower.
    • Tallow honey: dark amber and rich, it tastes warm and spicy and has a unique aroma.
    Texas Honey - Swarming Bees
    Beekeeper taking the screen off a load of bees - Credit: BeeWeaver Honey Farm

    Is Texas Honey Produced Year-Round or Seasonally?

    Given the beneficial Texas climate, most of the beekeeping business is ‘migratory’ in nature. Many of the beekeeping operations throughout the state are seasonal in nature for both honey production and pollination services. In the spring, new colonies are brought in to a specific beekeeper, who allows the honey bees to increase during the spring months.

    The colony is then eventually divided, and as winter approaches, some beekeepers can transport their cargo up to the northern part of the state with roughly double the number of colonies. Pollination services, on the other hand, are scattered throughout the state, mostly in the South and West.

    Which Types of Honey Bees Produce Texas Honey?

    Most Texas honey comes from subspecies of the Western honey bee. The most commonly used subspecies is the Italian honey bee (A. mellifera ligustica) because they are the easiest of the honey bees to work with. Carniolan honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica) are also favoured amongst beekeepers. 

    They are able to defend themselves against insect pests and generally produce 15% more honey than the Italian honey bees. Other notable subspecies include the Russian hybrids and German honey bees.

    The feral population, and therefore most Texas bees have Africanised honey bee influence. Africanised honey bees have been in Texas since the mid-90s.

    Texas Honey - Truck
    Beekeeper watering a load of screened bees heading to North Dakota to make honey - Credit: BeeWeaver Honey Farm

    Which Nectar-Producing Plants Are Native to Texas?

    Of all the insects that visit flowers, bees are the most important pollinators, and pollination is one of the most fundamental processes sustaining agriculture and natural ecosystems. In Texas, most plant pollination is carried out by bees.

    Although many people consider any kind of bee to be a pest, honey bees are mostly regarded as beneficial because they pollinate many fruits, vegetables, and ornamental flowers, in addition to honey and beeswax.

    Below is a list of some of the pollinator-friendly plants that are native to Texas:

    Common Name Scientific Name Category Blooming Season
    Abelia Abelia x grandiflora Shrub Spring ‐ Fall
    Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Herb June ‐ Sept.
    Aster Symphyotrichum sp. Flowering plant Aug. ‐ Oct.
    Autumn Sage Salvia greggii Flowering plant Spring ‐ Fall
    Basil ‘African Blue’ Ocimum basilicum Herb Late Summer
    Bee Balm Monarda Flowering Plant Spring ‐ Summer
    Evening Primrose Oenothera macrocarpa Flowering plant Spring
    Fruit Trees Any Adapted Trees Tree Spring

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Texas?

    Below are some of the notable apiaries and honey farms in Texas:

    • Oakley Family Apiaries
    • Two Hives Honey
    • Bee2Bee Honey
    • Prime Bees
    • Moore Honey Farms
    • SweetNes Honey Apiaries & Beetique
    • Honey Grove Apiary
    • Winding Creek Apiary and Bee Supply
    • Lozar Apiaries
    • Timber Creek Apiaries
    • Thrive Apiaries
    • Brown’s Bee Removal & Apiary
    • BeeWeaver Honey Farm
    • Warne bee farm
    • Rose Garden Apiaries
    Texas Honey - Beekeeper
    Beekeeper pouring syrup into a frame feeder in preparation for hiving a package - Credit: BeeWeaver Honey Farm
    Texas Honey - Bee pouring
    Beekeeper hiving a package of bees - Credit: BeeWeaver Honey Farm

    What Environment Is Needed to Produce Texas Honey?

    Texas is an excellent habitat for the commercial beekeeping industry. Most of the beekeeping business is based in the central, eastern, and coastal regions of the state, but the favorable Texas winters allow northern beekeeping operations to continue to function effectively.

    This is especially important, given that honey bee colonies can, in many cases, continue to exist for as long as four or five years even in cold climates, since their winter activities become devoted to producing heat for both the queen and the developing young.

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