First, some history--- the original African bee from Pretoria, South Africa, was one of the world's great bees. Hives commonly produced 400 lbs. of honey a year! They fared well in temperate climates. When they were brought (perhaps unknowingly via a ship) to Brazil, some swarms "escaped" and started interbreeding with local European bees. This produced an antagonistic, defensive hybrid. That was decades ago. They spread out and traveled up South America, through Central America to Mexico finding their way to the southern United States. Yes, have had Africanized bees for years now..and they are not going away. The only thing that halted them was very cold weather, but hybridizatoin changes
things. In our operation, we re-queen our hives with "Cordova" (Italian queens) & other European queen cells annually. We also make our nucleus (baby) hives with these cells. Our hives are all flying in near proximity, so the virgin queen (hatched from the queen cell) is most likely going to meet up with our European drones. In other words we keep introducing gentle, European genetic traits into our colonies. It is ongoing.
Personally, I respect many traits exhibited by the Africanized hybrid bee. They are much more mellow than they were years ago. They are mite & disease resistant, they hatch out 1 to 2 days quicker than European bees, & they are very good pollen gatherers. But, they do like to swarm..and it is very difficult to make a crop of honey if you keep losing your bees to swarming.
It is devastating & depressing. It is certainly related to the incipient viruses taking advantage of a challenged colony; one that has a compromised immune system which, in turn, is related to diet and the presence of varroa mites. We have had some tough losses, but when we got the mite population in check and started to introduce new queens more often, the general health of our bees improved. we also introduce new wax (foundation) every year.
Plant bee-friendly flora that is native to your area! Provide fresh water outside your home for the bees and all our critters. Do not use chemicals on your lawn & garden. If you must battle, keep the bees in mind. Bees usually do not forage at night. Lastly, urge your local Parks & Recreation Department & Transportation Department to plant bee-friendly, self sustaining shrubs and trees. Mesquite has saved our bees from summer drought and brutal heat. Vitex , Crepe Myrtles and Mountain Laurel are also great survivors and good nectar producers. Personally, I love Goldenrod and desert willows. They are indigenous and beautiful in the fall.
If you are looking for additional native plants you can view our postings on our Facebook page. We regularly post information on plants that are great for pollinators and post additional resources about free courses around Central Texas that can help make gardening easier.
Texas wildflowers produce a wonderful array of pollens and nectars with unique individual tastes and qualities. In brief, after the bees collect the nectars and return to the hive, the nectars are dehydrated into honey by the bees fanning their wings. It is then stored in the hexagonal wax cells and sealed (or capped) with wax by the bees when it attains its proper moisture content. It will feed them over the winter.
When you think that flowers secrete nectar to entice honey bees (and other insects) to help them cross-pollinate by carrying pollen grains from one plant to another as they forage, you realize that honey is part of a wonderful and almost magical process.
Keeping bees in Austin since 1975
Raw honey has not been heated or filtered, which allows more of the natural taste and nutrition of the nectars, beeswax, pollen and propolis to be experienced. Propolis is the resinous mixture that bees collect from tree buds and sap flowers. It is used as a sealant in unwanted cracks and crevices to protect the hive. Raw honey is stable and can be stored indefinitely. It may crystalize, but this does not lessen the taste or nutritional quality of the honey. If your honey does crystalize, simply put the jar or container in a pan of warm water on low heat, and it will slowly liquify without destroying the nutritional values.
Good Flow Honey Co.