* 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.
Honey Bee Swarm in Port Lavaca, Texas, January 29th, 2015.
Yesterday, the first honey bee swarm of the year in Texas was reported in Port Lavaca. This is early for spring swarms, but is not surprising, considering how warm our winter has been. Swarming is the natural act of propagation for a colony of bees in the spring. When a colony realizes it has enough bees and supplies to survive in Spring, the workers collectively begin swarm preparations. Queen cells are built to develop the next queen for the hive and half the workers leave for a new home with the old queen and half the supply of honey.
Beekeepers have developed strategies to prevent swarms because a hive that swarms will not produce a crop of honey that year. We inspect and manipulate our hives weekly during the swarm season to prevent swarms. If we do see swarm preparations, we accept the division of the hive and manually create new hives rather than letting the bees fly away on their own.
If a hive issues a swarm…
Typically, they will find an object (tree limb, fence post, picnic table, etc.) to cluster for a short period while scouts look for a new cavity to call home. They are not aggressive or defensive at this stage, because they don’t have a hive or any developing bees to protect. Hopefully, they don’t find a cavity in a house, like in the picture above, because then they are very difficult to remove. If a beekeeper can find a swarm while still in this clustered, looking-for-a-new-home phase, they can be shaken or brushed into a box and taken to a bee yard.
Deploying swarm traps
Honey bee swarms follow scents to look for a new home. They can smell an area that has been used for a hive in past seasons. We use this to our advantage by placing old hive boxes with old comb in areas where swarms have been seen in the past. By luring a swarm into one of these boxes, we can stop them from building a home in someone’s house and create a new production hive with good overwintering genetics. Once the swarm occupies the trap, we can take it to one of our bee yards and let them grow to a proper hive.
If you have seen honey bee swarms in your neighborhood and would like us to deploy a swarm trap in your yard, let us know in the comments below.
Our first swarm in the Houston area
On March 17th, we captured our first swarm in the Houston area. The picture above shows the softball-sized swarm resting on a potted oak tree. We boxed the swarm and verified a mature queen ready to create a new hive. We look forward to see how well this colony grows this year.
It’s early January and we just had our first good cold snap of the year in the Houston area. Our bees are clustered to share warmth and aren’t venturing out of the hives in the cold, but honey is still on our minds. This time of year, cold and allergy problems usually cause coughs and honey may be the natural cough suppressant you need.
Take a spoon of honey
Growing up, anytime we had a cough, mom would tell us to take a spoon of honey or have some honey in a cup of hot tea. If you haven’t tried this, please do. The simplicity of a honey cough suppressant shouldn’t be underestimated. A teaspoon of raw honey soothes and coats an irritated throat for immediate relief from a cough. Some of our customers also tell us that they want raw honey with active enzymes and pollen to help with their allergies. If you’re looking for something with a little more punch from the addition of ginger and lemon, try this natural cough suppressant from Nurse Barb and the National Honey Board:
Honey Cough Syrup
Zest of 2 lemons = 1 ½ tablespoons
¼ cup peeled, sliced ginger or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup water
1 cup honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
In a small saucepan, add lemon zest, sliced ginger and 1 cup of water. Bring mixture to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes and then strain into a heat-proof measuring cup. Rinse the saucepan out and pour in 1 cup of honey. On low heat, warm the honey, but do not allow it to boil. Add the strained lemon/ginger water and the lemon juice. Stir the mixture until it forms a thick syrup. Pour into a clean jar and seal with a lid.
Note: This can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.
• For children* ages, 1 to 5, use ½ -1 teaspoon every 2 hours
• For children* ages, 5 to 12, use 1-2 teaspoon every 2 hours
• For children* 12 and older and adults use 1 to 2 tablespoons every 4 hours
You can also add Nurse Barb’s Honey Cough Syrup to the following to help your child* stay hydrated and suppress their cough.
• Add 1 tablespoon to 4 ounces of water and pour in a Sippy cup
• Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of Nurse Barb’s Honey Cough Syrup over sliced bananas.
• Add 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup of cream cheese and use as a spread for bread, bagels or toast.
• Add 1 to 2 tablespoons to chamomile tea to help with sleep
Your customer feedback is important to us. As we close out the 2014 season and prepare our hives for winter, we also need to spend some time to prepare for next year. We will grow our business in 2015, but we also want to maintain or even improve the quality of our products and customer service. In order to reach that goal, we need customer feedback on what we did well to earn your business and what we need to improve.
Our bees do all the work of making our honey and we just keep it pure. So even if we can’t “improve” the actual honey, if there’s something you like about our honey from a particular yard, we’d like to know. If you have tried honey from more than one of our bee yards, let us know about any differences that you’ve noticed.
Which packaging do you prefer, the classic Mason jar or the convenience of our plastic squeeze bottles? Do you need more information about our “single locale” strategy? Have we properly explained our sustainable practices? Have you tried our beeswax polish or lip balm?
Each of the products listed on our website has a “Reviews” section, similar to the one in the picture. Please take a minute to provide some customer feedback so we can serve you better in the future.
Lastly, please let us know about our customer service. We hope it’s easy to do business with us. Whether it’s at the Farmer’s Market or through our website, we want to delight our customers and establish relationships to provide you with honey and beeswax products for years to come. If there’s anything we need to know about your experience, please let us know in the comments section below.
Since we have a few customers that have asked us to notify them when we get more honey, we want to establish a fall honey waiting list process for those that want to “reserve” some and get notified when we have it bottled. This is a non-binding list, so if you think you’ll want some, just let us know.
Please be patient with us as we try this new process this year. We want a fair way to get our honey to the people who have been waiting for it.
Fall Honey Waiting List Process
Add a comment to this post below. You’ll need to provide a name and email address to leave a comment (this is normally required to prevent spam on our website). Your email address will not display on the comment and we won’t spam you or give anyone else your info.
In your comment, tell us which bee yard (Cypress, Tomball, or Plants for All Seasons SH249) you’d like your honey from and how much you’ll want. If you don’t have a preference, just let us know how many pounds you want.
Once the bees let us take their honey, we’ll start working our way down the list, making contact based on the email address provided when leaving the comment (so please make sure it’s an actual email address).
* Comments may require approval, so if you don’t see yours immediately, don’t stress. We’ll get them approved and on the web. Comments will stay on the post as a first-come-first-served list. Depending on how much honey we get and how many people are on the list, we may limit quantities to allow more customers to get some. We’ll try to be fair, so just give us an idea of how much you think you’ll want.
We’ve enjoyed talking to customers at Farmer’s Markets this year. We not only get to teach people about honey and bees, but also learn what customers think about these subjects. Often, while explaining why our honey is so good, we see frustration on our customers’ faces because they just bought some other honey and didn’t know what to ask during that purchase.
You can and should make your own observations about honey before you even begin to ask questions. First, look at the surface of the honey in the container. Bubbles are formed in honey during the extraction process as the honey is removed from the combs, but usually moves to surface and can be removed after resting for 24 hours. Bubbles also form if honey is removed from the hive too early and ferments because of excess moisture. Either way, if it has a thick layer of foam, you may want to consider other options. If the beekeeper lacks the patience to wait for the bees to finish curing the honey or wait 24 hours for the extracted honey to settle, you’re looking at a risky purchase.
If the honey looks good, ask for a sample then start asking questions. To help future customers with that situation, here are:
7 Important Questions When Buying Local Honey
Are you a beekeeper? This sounds crazy, but the honey industry has two main categories, producers and packers. Producers intuitively are those people or companies that own bees who’s hives produce the honey the sell. What’s not intuitive is the practice of packing honey. Anyone can buy a drum of honey, fill jars, and take them to the farmer’s market. That person doesn’t know anything about where that honey came from, so it’s always best to buy from beekeepers.
Is this your honey? Similar to the explanation above, you want to buy from someone with a vested interest in selling pure, unadulterated honey rather than someone selling a commodity.
Do you blend your honey? Most beekeepers blend their honey from all their hives to increase efficiencies in extracting and inventory. Neither of those efficiencies benefits the customer looking for local honey. If you’re looking for a particular varietal (clover, orange blossom, etc.) or honey from a particular area, you want only that honey, not a little of it mixed with everything else. You certainly don’t want some of it blended with honey from the aforementioned drums.
How local is your honey? When talking about local honey, you should reference your town or a neighboring town, not your state. There’s a big difference between Cypress, TX honey, TX honey and U.S. honey.
Do you treat your hives? Did the beekeeper put any chemicals in their hives to treat for pests and diseases? You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but most commercial beekeepers add chemicals to their hives to control varroa mites, small hive beetles, and american foulbrood disease. Bees move honey, nectar, and pollen throughout the hive to support young bees and prepare for storage, so who knows where those chemicals end up?
Do you filter your honey? All beekeepers strain the wax cappings from their honey, but some go many steps further and use microfiltration. This makes their honey visually perfect by removing all wax, pollen, and any other impurities, but it also strips the honey of any local character. Microfiltration also masks the origin of honey, making it easier to sell questionable honey (see items 1 and 2).
Do you heat your honey? Some honey processors will heat their honey to make it flow better through filters, tubing, fillers, and into the final containers. Just like the saying with maple syrup, honey moves slower when cold. Heating honey does have drawbacks. The aroma of honey is very volatile and heat will drive off that aroma, depriving you of the floral components of good honey. Heat also neutralizes the enzymes that bees add to honey during the curing process.
If the honey looks good, tastes good, and you get satisfactory answers to the above questions, then you’ve found some good local honey. Enjoy!
P.S. – Our answers are:
Are you a beekeeper? Yes, we’ve kept bees since 2012.
Is this your honey? Yes, we only sell our honey.
Do you blend your honey? No, think of our honey as a single-barrel bourbon. All of the honey in a bottle was extracted from hives in a single bee yard from a single extraction day.
How local is your honey? We have hives in Cypress, Tomball, and Houston, TX and our bees can fly to the Farmer’s Markets where we sell our honey.
Do you treat your hives? No, we rely on selective breeding, integrated pest management, and strong hives to keep our bees alive. We don’t add any chemicals to our hives and therefore, don’t add any chemicals to our honey. We sell it to you just the way the bees make it.
Do you filter your honey? No, we only strain it to remove the beeswax from the extraction process.
Do you heat your honey? No, all of our honey processing happens at ambient room temperature, which is colder than the inside of the bee hive.