By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal
From Thursday to Saturday last week, more than 300 beekeepers and bee and honey enthusiasts embarked upon the Bell County Expo Center for the Texas Beekeepers Association 2015 Annual Convention. The convention was four days of everything there was to learn about the art and livelihood of being an apiarist.
“It’s been great a lot bigger than last year. We love being in Belton,” said Blake Shook, president, Texas Beekeepers Association. “Almost had a record turnout. We bring in speakers from all over the nation. Some of the most respected scientists in the field come out to speak.”
The workshops and speaker panels discussed topics ranging from how to sell honey legally, colony collapse, honey processing and building a sustainable apiary. There were also discussions on the many laws regarding beekeeping, including selling the honey and changes to laws regarding bees.
“It’s been great! We have been in the beekeeping business for two years. It is becoming more popular right now, as people try to find ways to become more sustainable,” commented April May, owner, Busy Bee. “Having bees on an eligible property can make you an ag-exempt property owner, check with your local appraiser for information regarding your county. When we started keeping bees we were frustrated there wasn’t a beekeeping supply store within Central Texas. We had a few hives and we wanted to be able to buy supplies, so here we are with our own supply store for beekeepers.”
Making an appearance at the conference was the royalty of Texas Beekeepers Association, the Texas Honey Queen Program. The Texas Honey Queens . The 2016 Texas Honey Queen was crowned during a banquet on Saturday night of the convention.
“This has just been a wonderful event, and such a great turnoout,” remarked Tabitha Mansker, 2015 Texas Honey Queen. “The Texas Honey Queen program has been around since the 80s.”
Attendees and vendors found the convention to be a great way to network and meet fellow beekeepers and others in the beekeeping industry. Booths were set up with information, supplies and other goods available for purchase or ordering.
“Been great. We have been busy, we have sold a lot of honey. And we have made a lot of connections,” said Domingo Montalbo, production wholesale manager, Walker Honey Farm.
“This has just been a lovely event. A strong crowd this year, it is always a fun event,” remarked, Clint Weaver, co-owner, R Weaver Apiaries. “More new beekeepers every year which is a blessing.”
“First time here for us. I have been excited and such a great turnout. I am looking forward to getting more business from this area,” Kelley Beekeeping, general manager, Sam Ruckriegel. “This has been a great event and a friendly crowd. I met a lot of people.”
Beekeeper’s also had the chance to show off their honey and to earn bragging rights by entering it into a contest. Honey samples were graded by a panel of judges, during a series of blind tests.
“First time I have done honey judging. We were given a blind taste from a black jar on a black straw. We were given a single variety of honey to taste. We judged for first, second and third place. We went through a series of tastings, from single to blended varietals,” said Mary Stanley, president, The Turtle Enoteca, Geletaria, Restaurant. “I learned a lot, and there are so many flavors of honey. And it varies from region to region and season to season. The samples would have different consistencies, finish and feel. One the samples was fermented, which is not allowed, and it was disqualified. But, you could taste the fizz in your mouth.”