We now have a store for beekeepers and honey lovers.
If you don’t follow us on social media, you may have missed the big news that we’ve opened a physical store at 405 E Main Street in Tomball. After 5 years of trying to meet the local demand for local honey, we realized that we need to think bigger than just ourselves to solve this problem. In 2016, as beekeepers we sold over 2000 pounds of raw, chemical-free honey from Cypress, Houston, Katy, and Tomball, but our customers continued to ask for more. Rather than continue to grow our apiaries and try to meet this demand, we’ve decided to take a leadership role in the local honey market. We want to enable more property owners and gardeners to begin beekeeping as a hobby and business.
At our new store in Tomball, we sell our honey, but we also now supply beekeepers with the hives, tools, protective gear, and even the bees necessary to succeed at beekeeping. This spring, we sold starter kits and nucleus bee hives to new beekeepers. We will soon begin classes at the shop to show new beekeepers how to inspect and manage their hives, how to raise quality queens, how to brew beer and mead with honey, and how to prepare their hives for winter. If you want to get in a hive with us, to see if this is the hobby for you, sign up for our Introduction to Beekeeping class.
Most importantly, we want our new store to be the hub for local honey in our community. We have a new 18-frame extraction line where we’ll extract honey from backyard beekeepers, bottle it, and even buy it to sell in our store. Our goal is to enable enough hives in the area, so local honey customers can buy truly local honey year-round. We hope to see you soon at the shop, at one of our classes, or at the market!
I saw this redbud tree in full bloom yesterday as we were walking through Old Town Tomball. The redbud and the dandelion are sure signs of Spring here in Texas, so it’s clear that our beekeeping winter vacation is over. We were so busy in 2016 that we haven’t had a chance to publish updates to our blog or update our website for the year.
To recap 2016, we set a goal to harvest a ton (yes, 2000) pounds of honey, and we exceeded that goal. With our increased production of honey came an increased presence at the local farmer’s markets and a chance to meet more customers. Every single interaction with one of our customers reinforced the thought that we’re providing an important service to our community through our beekeeping and our honey.
For 2017, we want to take a leadership role for beekeeping in NW Houston. We plan to increase our honey production again, we’re helping to fight HB 1293, which is a poor attempt to update the Texas agriculture code, and we want to help more backyard beekeepers successfully harvest honey.
We are thrilled to announce more news soon, so please stay tuned!
Many of our customers tell us we have the best honey they’ve ever tasted. Many of you may like our honey from trying a sample at a farmer’s market or from interacting with us during a swarm relocation. You may not know how special our honey truly is. We believe that our honey is not only the best tasting, but that we put more attention and care into the production of our honey than any other honey producer in Texas.
As we approach the first significant harvest of the 2016 honey season, we want to share the reasons why our honey is special. Each day, we’ll add a reason why our honey is special, until we’re ready to sell honey at a farmer’s market or at one of our partner sites.
Day 1: Our honey is special because we are beekeepers.
Believe it or not, some folks selling honey don’t actually have bees. They buy buckets or drums full of honey from a commodity distributor and fill bottles. They can’t tell you how old that honey is, where it came from, whether it has been chemically treated, or whether it truly is pure honey. At BZ Honey, we take care of our bees so they’ll provide us with the honey we bottle and sell to you. We check each hive every week to ensure its health, control swarms, and to maximize colony growth. It’s a simple model, but by working with our bees, we can tell you anything you need to know about our honey.
We started as backyard beekeepers and kept increasing our hive count because we love what we do. This is our special calling, to provide pure, local honey to the NW Harris County communities.
Day 2: We manage our own hives.
We continue to grow, but we’re still able to personally manage all our hives. We inspect each hive every 7-10 days during the swarm season to ensure our colonies have room to grow to keep them from swarming. We also ensure that each hive has a healthy queen to lay eggs and determine when we can harvest honey. Sure, the protective gear gets hot, we take an occasional sting, and the boxes get heavy, but this is how we ensure the health and check the status of each of our colonies. One day, we may have enough hives that we need to hire additional beekeepers, but today every bee is cared for by a member of the BZ family.
Day 3: Our bees spend the entire year in NW Harris County.
We may deliver an occasional hive to a customer for backyard pollination, but our bees are truly stationary hives. We don’t truck our bees across the country for almond pollination or across the state chasing nectar flows. We put our hives into one of our managed yards and we let them create honey from the nectar produced in a 3 mile radius of that yard. We think this keeps our bees healthy and allows us to deliver truly local honey to our customers. You can actually see and taste the difference in the honey produced by our hives in Spring, Summer, and Fall. We don’t know of any other beekeepers in our area who celebrate the uniqueness of their honey as much as we do. If you still have some dark, Fall honey left over from last year, feel free to finish it off. We have some sweet, light, Spring honey coming to market soon!
Day 4: We don’t put any chemicals in our hives.
Apivar, Apistan, Thymol, MAQS, Oxalic Acid, Fumigilin. This is a list of some of the chemicals that beekeepers put in their hives to control pests. Since beeswax and honey both readily absorb compounds from their environment, we just don’t understand how beekeepers can harvest and sell honey from hives laden with these chemicals. “Here you go ma’am, nature’s original sweetener with a small dose of Apistan.” No, thank you. Our honey is special because we are part of the minority of beekeepers who refuse to use chemicals to treat our hives. Before we even received our first colony, we made a decision to keep our bees and our honey chemical-free. We use sound hive management practices and a focused queen rearing program to allow our bees to manage pests on their own. Every one of this year’s production hives survived winter without treatments and is thriving and healthy, producing surplus honey we’ll bring to market soon.
Day 5: We relocate wild swarms to our managed yards.
We love being able to catch a swarm of bees before they decide to make their home in the eaves or wall of someone’s house. In addition to providing a good service in our community, we put these swarms in our managed yards and use their desire to build comb to grow a new colony. Since swarms are typically led by the old queen from a successful hive, adding these swarms to our yards provides a new genetic line of bees that have survived the fall mite onslaught and winter. We use these colonies to provide drones for open mating with our queens and will breed queens from exceptional colonies. Our honey is special because we encourage a diverse genetic mix of colonies in each of our yards to counter threats from pests.
Day 6: We partner with bee-friendly businesses to host our hives.
To ensure our bees are positioned to maximize nectar forage from certain areas and to provide “neighborhood” honey to local customers, we partner with bee-friendly businesses in NW Harris County. Plants for All Seasons and The Arbor Gate, two of the Houston area’s premier nursery and garden centers, serve as a reminder that homeowners can have beautiful gardens without resorting to harsh pesticides. We maintain approximately 20 hives at each location. These bee thrive off the many varieties of flowering plants at the nurseries and the forage surrounding these locations. Last year, we expanded this model and have positioned hives at Jane and John Dough Bakery, Verdant Tree Farm on Barker-Cypress, and at the Tomball Community Garden at Tomball United Methodist Church. Without the cooperation of these bee-friendly sites, we would be unable provide such a wide variety of honey.
Day 7: We celebrate the diversity of our honey harvests.
Most commercial beekeepers blend the harvests from multiple yards and multiple seasons to produce a honey that is a consistent color and flavor. We think consistent color and flavor destroys what makes our local honey special. When we harvest honey from a particular yard, we extract and bottle that honey separately from any other harvests. We specify the yard of origin on each bottle of honey we fill. If you buy honey that’s labeled “Tomball, TX”, then that bottle only contains honey made from the nectar in a 3 mile radius around our bee yard in Tomball. It may look and taste different than the honey from our Cypress yard or our partner yards. It may also look and taste different than honey from our Tomball yard harvested on a different date. Typically, our Spring honey is our lightest color and flavor, with the color getting darker and the taste more robust as the year progresses to Fall. Each variation is useful and tasty in its own way, so don’t be afraid to have several bottles in your pantry.
Day 8: Our honey is fresh.
We extract honey from our hives as soon as the bees cap the honey cells on the frames. You can see the changes in color during the year as different flowers begin blooming. In late May or early June, we begin our season with honey produced from clover and tallow flowers, producing a very light, sweet honey. Over the course of the summer and into early fall, the seasonal flowers will produce honey with a darker color and more robust flavor until we harvest the dark goldenrod honey in late fall. We often tell you something like, “this honey was still in the hive last Wednesday”, but if we don’t, feel free to ask us. We’ll know and we’ll tell you. That makes our honey special.
Day 9: We sell pure, raw honey.
We don’t mess with our honey! We don’t add anything to it. Our bees have done a great job with their recipe, so we don’t need to alter it in any way. We also don’t ever heat our honey. Raw honey has very delicate floral aromas and enzymes which heat destroys. We take our honey from the hives and bottle it, just the way it is.
As we look back on 2015, we’re very happy and honored at what happened this year. We have grown in our knowledge of bees, our product offerings, our number of hives, and in the number of great customers and friends that we’ve made this year. The greatest honor has been our community recognizing our efforts in chemical-free beekeeping, which led to our nomination as a finalist in the Farmer’s Market Vendor category of edible Houston’s Local Hero 2015 survey. Please take a minute to vote for us and help us spread the word about our leadership in the local food movement. Here, we’ll try to summarize our year in review.
The year 2015 began with a very tough Winter for bees. January and February were unusually warm, causing our bees to begin preparations for Spring early. As the populations in our hives grew and some colonies began producing drones for Spring mating, reality set in and we had a hard freeze in March. Some of our hives had created populations that outgrew their stores, so we began with fewer hives than 2014. Also, while the nectar-rich Chinese Tallow Trees were blooming, the Houston area was drenched in rain for 3 weeks, so we did not get the typical Spring harvest to which we’re accustomed. Honey is a seasonal product and bees depend on a variety of factors to produce a surplus of honey to harvest.
We quickly rebounded from that setback. In mid-March, we received our first phone call of the year about a swarm of bees and promptly hived and relocated them. We captured swarms that were looking for homes, swarms that recently settled into a new home, and established colonies in structures. Over the course of the year, we relocated 25 feral colonies into our managed yards. We have created a portfolio of those swarms that you can access via this link.
Our queen rearing program matured this year, providing us with a steady source of healthy, productive queens. When one of our relocated swarms needed a new gentle queen, we had one. When a queen died unexpectedly, we were able to replace her instead of letting the colony raise a substandard emergency replacement. When we needed to split a colony to stop it from swarming, we had a new queen ready to go. Our ability to have queens in reserve enabled us to grow exponentially this year.
We expanded the area where our bees forage by creating new partner yards this year. After our success at Plants for All Seasons in 2014, we created new yards in 2015 at The Arbor Gate, Jane and John Dough Bakery, Verdant Tree Farm, and the Tomball Community Garden. We led two Bee Forums with Angela Chandler at the The Arbor Gate and were guests on Green Thumb Gardening on 700 AM KSEV. We also taught a mini bee class for kids at Jane and John Dough Bakery on Earth Day!
Based on our honey production, we supported 15 market days in 2015, up from 4 in 2014. We now sell our local honey at the Tomball Farmer’s Market and The Farmer’s Market at Bridgeland and can honestly say we have bees close enough to fly to those markets. We also began selling honey through our partners at The Arbor Gate and Plants For All Seasons. We were thrilled at the responses from our customers and partners. We thoroughly enjoyed explaining why honey harvests change color throughout the year and taste different based on locale and loved giving someone their first taste of truly local honey!
We increased our product offerings this year. To minimize any waste from our honey operations, we began rendering our capping wax in a solar melter and produced pure beeswax candles. We also began offering our honey in stick form. To support local backyard gardeners, we provide pollination services in the NW Houston area and offer classes and services to local beekeepers.
We look forward to another great year in 2016 and hope to see you soon!
We truly appreciate what you’ve done for this hive over the past 3 years. You laid your weight in eggs every few hours and over the course of your reign, you easily laid over one million eggs. You have been the backbone of the BZ Honey breeding program and most of the queens came from your eggs or mated with your drones.
Your hive produced over 500 pounds of honey in just 3 years and you are the reason your beekeepers decided to make this more than just a hobby.
The workers had a meeting and we decided that your reign needs to end. You appear healthy and you’re still laying like a champ, but the workers know things the beekeepers don’t, so we’re already raising your replacement. Barbara II will emerge from her cocoon within the next week and assume the role of the queen.
Your beekeepers have decided to put you in a smaller “retirement hive”, to determine if you’re still viable. That’s a lot nicer than the plan we’ve used for thousands of years, but we wish you well.
* March 2017 – Due to the growth of our business, we can no longer provide these services.
Consulting Services for Beekeepers and Gardeners
BZ Honey now provides consulting services to new beekeepers and gardeners who want to attract more pollinators to their gardens. Our first two services, Preparing For Bees Assistance and Bee Friendly Gardening are available with appointments scheduling now. We plan to add future services in the future to keep pace with customer demand.
What if I want to get some bees next year…
That’s the focus of our Preparing For Bees Assistance service. We’ll show you everything you’ll need to know prior to receiving your bees in the Spring. We’ll evaluate your property to show you the best location for your hives, show you the protective gear and tool you’ll need, and show you the hive components you’ll need on hand when you get your bees. In the Spring, we’ll add more services for new beekeepers to help them with their new hives.
I don’t see as many bees and butterflies as I used to…
That’s the focus of our Bee Friendly Gardening service. If you’re not interested in keeping bees, but like to watch them or wish you had more in your garden, we can help you, too. We’ll visit your garden, evaluate your current plantings and show you where to add plants that attract more pollinators. We’ll help you select varieties that work well in our climate, plus provide nectar from Spring to Fall. This service also includes a $25 gift certificate for plants from The Arbor Gate.
If you’d like to see more services from us, please let us know!
* March 2017 – Due to the growth of our business, we can no longer remove established hives.
Honey Bee Removal Gives Bees a Chance
We’ve recently heard some confusion on whether we are a honey bee removal company or just a company that sells honey on the internet. We didn’t realize it when we selected our business name, but some folks think we just sell honey. To clear the air, we are beekeepers. We cover all aspects of beekeeping. During the Spring swarm season, we respond to calls about swarms that are clustered while looking for a new home. Throughout the year, we’ll remove and relocate other colonies that established a nest in an unwanted area, such as a cable box or the eaves of a house. So far this year, we have relocated 18 honey bee colonies to our managed bee yards, most from word of mouth referrals.
You’ve probably heard about the importance of preserving honey bees. One third of our diet is a direct result of a honey bee pollinating a flower, whether it’s the cucumbers in your salad or the beef that fed off grass pollinated by bees. Rather than spraying a colony or letting a cluster move along on it’s own, we relocate the colonies so they can continue to play their role in our food chain.
We don’t charge for swarm clusters
We know most homeowners didn’t want bees to settle in their yard, so we are here to help. Our hope is to catch most of the local swarms while they are still searching for a new home. We were surprised to hear that some local companies have been charging people to remove swarm clusters. A swarm of bees that is clustered in a bush or tree is looking for a new home and will probably leave soon, but their new home will most likely be inside the wall of a house, an overturned bucket, or a utility box. We want to give those bees a chance to thrive in a managed yard, while keeping them from moving in to the wrong location. The next time you see a cluster of bees looking for a home, don’t spray them, call us. We will provide them with a new home of their own.
Flat rate pricing for hives with established comb
If a swarm finds a suitable cavity, they will quickly move in and begin building combs. Once the hive has built combs and is rearing young bees, removing the bees also requires removing all the comb. We cut the combs to fit into frames, vacuum the bees into a box, merge the bees with their comb, and move them to one of our managed yards. Most removals take 4-5 hours, but before we begin any work, we’ll tell you how much we’ll charge ($150-450 depending on complexity of the removal and location). If you have a honey bee colony in an unwanted area, please contact us so we can relocate them for you.
* We are registered with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service and have a permit to allow honey bee transportation between counties.
* March 2017 – Due to the growth of our business, we no longer offer pollination services.
What’s so important about pollination?
For centuries, farmers have understood the benefits of honey bee pollination. In 1917, botanist Burton Noble Gates wrote:
“He may fertilize, and cultivate the soil, prune, thin and spray the trees, in a word, he may do all of those things which modern practice advocates, yet without his pollinating agents, chief among which are the honey bees, to transfer the pollen from the stamens to the pistil of the blooms, his crop may fail.”
80% of the crops we consume are pollinated by honey bees. Some of these crops, like strawberries, okra, and grapes, may be pollinated by wind or other insects but produce higher yields when pollinated by honey bees. Other crops, like cucumbers, squash and watermelon, must be pollinated by bees in order to yield crops. Even in leafy crops like lettuce, where we consume a part of the plant not involved with pollination, the next year’s crops are a result of honey bee pollination for seed production.
At the turn of the 20th century, experts recommended every farm keep a few colonies of bees. As our population has migrated to urban and suburban areas and farming has grown more specific than the family farm, fewer farmers and gardeners are willing or able to maintain honey bee colonies.
What is a pollination service?
A pollination service allows any farmer or gardener to reap the benefits of honey bee pollination. With the introduction of new pests, diseases, and stress to honey bee populations, maintenance of honey bee colonies in the 21st century requires more time and effort than it did even 20 years ago. Commercial farmers who value the benefits of honey bees now outsource the pollination of their crops to beekeepers through a pollination service. A pollination service is the rental of one or more honey bee colonies for pollination of crops.
How big is a pollination hive?
For commercial operations we have honey production hives that are 4-6 boxes high and could contain 100,000 bees during the peak nectar production season in May and June. For our Backyard Pollination Service, we use nucleus hives, or nucs, to maintain lower populations and make them easier to transport and place. A nuc contains 5 frames of bees and is a self-contained colony with a queen, brood or developing bees, a few thousand worker bees, and stores of honey and pollen. The worker bees won’t all leave the hive for pollination, since the younger ones are still performing hive duties, like raising brood or grooming the queen. A nuc takes up less than 2 square feet of space.
Do I need to get any special tools or clothing?
No. You won’t need to conduct any inspections or even open the pollination hives. In fact, we lock our pollination hives to prevent pets or curious children from accidentally opening the lid to expose the frames inside. We won’t even open them in your yard. We perform all our inspections in our yards. If you order a hive for multiple weeks, we’ll pick up the old one and deliver a new one every week to ensure you have a healthy hive that will not swarm.
If the nuc is locked, how do the bees get out?
We take advantage of the bees’ natural instinct to go home at night and close the hive the night before delivery. We have a small hole on the front of the nuc with a disc “door” that we’ll open once they’re in place. The bees will establish a flight path to and from that door as they begin foraging in your farm or garden. We pick up the hive in the evening to ensure they’re all home and move back to our yard.
Will the bees bother me in my garden?
For the most part, the bees will not bother you as long as you don’t bother them. Obviously, if you bang on the hive or try to open it, they may get a little defensive. Bees foraging in your garden have nothing to defend and will not sting you unprovoked. If you stand for an extended time in their established flight path for 6-8 feet in front of the hive, you may annoy them and they’ll let you know. Other than that, you shouldn’t even know they’re there.
What about my neighbors?
You probably have some flying insects already between native bees and wasps, so our honey bees will just blend right in. When bees leave the hive to forage, they will quickly gain altitude, especially if they have to fly over a fence. Your neighbors won’t complain about higher yields on their fruits and vegetables and they probably won’t know you have a pollination hive unless you tell them. We won’t announce our presence and we’ll leave the discretion up to you.
Will this hive swarm?
No. We manage our pollination hives to always keep them populated, but always just a little under capacity to ensure they won’t outgrow their hive and swarm. Swarm preparations in the hive take at least 7 days, so we’ll inspect the hive prior to delivery to ensure they aren’t making plans.
Which insecticides can I use?
To keep this simple, none. We ask that you refrain from spraying any insecticides while you have our bees. Insecticides, whether organic, synthetic, natural, nicotinoidal, or systemic, kill insects. Period.
Can I get some of the honey from the backyard pollination hive?
Our backyard pollination hives are not big enough to support extended honey production and the amount of nectar generated by your backyard would be hard to find on a frame of honey. As these hives grow, we’ll remove frames of brood or stores to support our other hives in their respective yards. To find honey from a production hive in your area, please find us at the market or order online.
Why not just get my own hives?
Beekeeping is a great hobby for those with the desire to do it. If you want to be a beekeeper, we’d love to help you get started. However, our pollination service is designed to provide a convenient method of pollinating your backyard garden without the time and expense of being a beekeeper. To get started with your own bees, you’ll need:
A colony of bees ($150-$250 from local bee suppliers)
A hive to house them ($250 for a good starter hive)
Protective clothing, gloves, and a veil ($100 or more, depending on quality)
Smoker, hive tool: ($50)
Total – $550+ initial expense for 1 hive
You’ll also need to spend time learning honey bee biology, life-cycles, integrated pest management, and disease identification. You’ll need to spend an hour per week during honey production season building and maintaining equipment, inspecting the hive, managing growth, and preventing swarms. After Spring, you’ll need to ensure your bees have enough stores to survive the Summer nectar dearth. In Fall, you’ll need to ensure they are strong enough to survive the varroa mite population increase and have enough stores to survive Winter.
Get prepared to take a few stings. As beekeepers, you’ll get stung. I get stung every day. It happens.
Have a plan for growth. If your colony survives Winter, you’ll probably want to split it into two colonies to prevent swarms. Do you have room for full size production hives? How about 4? Or 8? If you’re able to manage your hives and stay ahead of pests and diseases, growth is inevitable and the management is your responsibility, lest your swarms take up residence in your neighbor’s eaves.
You can do this, but if you just want better yields on your garden, why not leave all of this to us and just rent a pollination colony.
Will the bees pollinate my (insert plant here)?
Bees are insects, with a very small mind of their own. They will pollinate plants they visit for nectar and pollen. They will visit only one species of plant during each excursion from the hive. They will visit closer nectar and pollen sources to conserve energy. They will be more active during sunny days with little wind. A non-inclusive list of common Harris County fruits and vegetables pollinated by bees is: Peaches, Pears, Strawberries, Prickly Pear, Citrus, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Raspberries, Blackberries, Grapes, Okra, Avocados, Beans, Peas, Cucumber, Squash, Eggplant, and Peppers. We can’t tell them what to pollinate, but if it’s flowering, we can greatly increase your chances.
Where is your pollination service available?
We currently offer pollination service in Northwest Houston. We can easily service areas of Katy, Cypress, Tomball, and Spring. If you’re in other parts of Houston, don’t fret, just get in touch with us and we can probably make it happen.
Did we miss anything?
If you still have questions, let us know in the comments below and we’ll update this page. We look forward to working with you and seeing your garden yields increase.
We are pleased to announce our new partnership with Jane and John Dough Bakery! The Doughs recently opened the doors to their new bakery in Old Town Tomball, where their artisan baking is well known by patrons of the Tomball Farmer’s Market. As we were selling honey at the market last year, we’d see customers with big smiles on their faces, holding huge Philly-style soft pretzels from Jane and John.
Last month, I visited the bakery to get a cup of coffee and congratulate them on their opening. When Jane mentioned she wanted bees at their bakery, I jumped at the opportunity. We placed a small hive with a new queen and officially unveiled it on Earth Day, April 22. We want this hive to provide local honey that Jane and John Dough can use in the bakery. Right now, the hive is small, but with the spring nectar flow about to begin, we expect the hive to quickly establish its brood nest and put away enough honey to last through winter. Once we see that the hive has sufficient stores, we can begin harvesting local Old Town Tomball honey.
Earth Day Activities
As part of our partnership, we participated in the Earth Day Community Work Day at the bakery. Along with officially unveiling the hive, we helped clean the yard and start a new community garden for Old Town Tomball. We brought our observation hive with Queen Daisy for some show and tell and the kids enjoyed finding Daisy and watching her lay eggs in the brood nest. Jane and John also revealed the name of the new queen bee in the hive at the bakery, Queen Wind Dough. We post updates on Queen Wind on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #winddough (it will start trending soon, we’re sure).
We look forward to a good partnership with Jane and John Dough. Their pretzels will take you on a trip to Philly and their Italian Cream Cake is divine. Visit the bakery and we’ll let you know when Wind gives us some honey!
We are happy to announce that this year we are expanding our partnerships in NW Houston to include The Arbor Gate. After a successful season with Plants for All Seasons, we knew that partnerships with natural garden centers allow our partners to prove that their plants thrive without broad spectrum pesticides.
The Arbor Gate is an all-natural, all-organic garden center located on FM 2920, west of SH 249. They have a great selection of plants, yard art, and design ideas for your garden.
We look forward to a great season with our partners and hope to provide you with local honey from your community in NW Houston.