Thirty years ago, the National Honey Board designated September as National Honey Month. The campaign was conceived to educate consumers about the crucial role honeybees play in American agriculture: bees pollinate roughly 80 percent of our agricultural crops and contribute to the genetic diversity of plant species.
There’s never been a more important time to bolster bees; since Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was first documented in 2006, beekeepers have experienced high colony losses and wild honeybee populations are diminishing due to loss of habitat, climate change, pesticide use, disease, and pathogens.
If you’d like to learn more about bees and their honey, several small-scale apiaries in Texas offer tours and classes that vary seasonally. It’s also important to note that many counties and regions have their own beekeeping associations that offer classes and resources.
Two Hives Honey, Austin
Apiarist Tara Chapman has made a name for herself throughout Central Texas as an educator and for selling exquisite honey by the jar and comb. In addition to hive tours, beekeeping classes, and six-month apprenticeships, Two Hives offers family and adult tours, and pairings with other regional food artisans like Texas Keeper Cider and Bee Tree Farm & Dairy. You can also order a selection of Chapman-designed bee houses through Two Hives’ website.
Round Rock Honey, Round Rock and Rowlett
Founder Konrad Bouffard and his instructors—some of whom are Master Beekeepers–offer hands-on beekeeping classes (be prepared to don the white suit) at their apiaries in Round Rock and Rowlett. There are also tours of the Round Rock apiary that emphasize “the importance of bees and bee culture in the 21st century” and include tastings of raw wildflower honey.
BeeWeaver Honey Farm, Navasota
Beekeepers from all over Texas purchase their insects from this eco-friendly apiary that’s been breeding hardy, varroa mite-resistant bees for more than 130 years. Tours, tastings, and classes on a variety of topics, from honey extraction, mead-making, and queen-rearing to introductory beekeeping, are offered in Navasota and at Austin’s Texas Honeybee Farm. They sell beekeeping equipment, and small landowners can inquire about installation and agricultural exemptions through BeeWeaver’s Hive Management program.
Bee2Bee Honey Collective, Houston
Nicole Buergers runs the city’s only “commercial and backyard beekeeping service,” with the goal of promoting urban apiaries. Through its innovative hive hosting collective, metro-area residents and businesses can keep bees in their backyards and on rooftops. Beekeepers coach members in sustainable hive installation and maintenance, honeybee health, and honey harvest, with the option for ongoing hands-on beekeeping lessons. Bee2Bee also helps members facilitate selling their honey harvest online.
Christi Baughman, aka Beegirl, thinks beekeeping is “as much of an art as a science.” The urban beekeeper teaches the holistic aspects of the profession, from bee biology, hive health, and beneficial plants to potential setbacks and the use of non-toxic substances for parasite control. Her 20-hour Art of Beekeeping program has both classroom and hive components.