The months have been flying by. I can hardly believe that the year is half-way through! The honey flow is upon us and I have had the exciting task of catching a few of my own swarms. My bees have split themselves and I have now upgraded to 6 hives. Most of the honey from our first harvest in 2004 was from Indian Blanket flowers. It tasted very good! I’m eager to find out what this year’s honey will taste like.
This has definitely been a very busy last couple of months! Thanks to all of you and TBA Honey Queen Chair, Shirley Acevedo, we were able to raise more awareness of honey bees in Texas! All of the following events included individuals who were truly interested in learning why bees are important to them. They were hungry for information, and most of them wanted to know if there were beekeepers nearby to purchase honey. Some wanted to have a swarm removed, and some even wanted to start beekeeping themselves. Without all of you, this would not be possible. Thank you!
At the end of March, I was privileged to attend the last couple of days of the Houston Livestock Show. We spent those days at the Harris County Beekeepers Booth where they had a wonderful observation hive, a honey display case, a beekeeping video for people to watch, and an amazing contraption called the “Buzzeebo”. The Buzzeebo is a gazebo with a hive inside (screened in) so the bees can fly in and out of the hive. It was a great opportunity for people to see exactly what a hive looks like in an apiary. There were hundreds of people of all ages eager to see the bees and learn more about them. I had a wonderful time getting to know my host family (the Dillons) and the president of Harris County Beekeepers, Don Angle.
The day after the Houston Stock Show, we went to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. That was an amazing experience! Don Angle, who is retired from the Air Force, accompanied several of us: Misti Dillon, Blaire Dillon, Nancy Firstonsworth, Ethan Firstonsworth and me to the base. While there, we had various guides who gave us tours. These included Lt. Col. David Serage, Chief Master Sgt. Randy Bachmann, Staff Sgt. Escobar, Master Sgt. Rice and Commander Ander whose nickname is Serge. All of these men were very welcoming, helpful, and were able to answer all of our questions. We began with a tour of the dorm house, where we saw first-hand what it would be like to live at a base and be ready for any kind of emergency 24/7. The pilots respond to anything from a lost pilot to something like 9/11. We all had a fantastic time getting pictures with the fighter planes out in the hangar. I was very surprised to see how little room the pilot has for sitting in the cockpit.
Shortly after taking pictures with the planes, we had to quickly move over to the side of the runway due to a practice scramble scheduled for that day. We were all given a set of earplugs and earmuffs. The roar of the engines was so deafening that it shook the ground! We watched as two planes flew off into the horizon, disappearing within seconds. That day was an awesome experience, and I thank all the people at the Ellington Air Force Base for the tour and for their time and service to keep the 250-mile radius around Houston safe!
On March 24th, I went to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center with TBA Treasurer, Jimmie Oakley. We spoke to the director, Susan Rieff, about the benefit of having honey bees pollinate the flowers in the garden. After that, Williamson County Beekeepers Association member, Deryn Davidson, who works at the Center, gave us a tour of the garden. She will be working with her hive which the Center plans to add to the garden. I was able to meet a friend of hers who is a beekeeper from England, Maranda Kimberley. It was neat to learn the names of so many different types of flowers I had never seen before. The Center is beautiful. If you are ever in Austin, you would enjoy visiting.
That same afternoon, we drove to downtown Austin to visit the Capitol. We were able to visit all the offices of our local representatives and present them with a bottle of honey and a TBA/Honey Queen brochure. In addition, we visited the office of Senator Florence Shapiro, who we were able to watch on the Senate floor. Overall, I believe it was a very good impression we made upon the Representatives and Senator as we promoted awareness of the Texas Beekeepers.
That evening, we attended the Williamson County Area Beekeepers Association (WCABA) March meeting. We awarded the past and new scholarship students with their certificates. The new WCABA 2009 scholarship students are Paul Exley, Jared Rutherford and Colter Chase. Congratulations! It was really cool to see some of the kids I know from my speech and debate group at WCABA. One of the students was Nathan Exley, who gives a speech on honey bees during the speech and debate competitions. He is now going to nationals to compete. I had a great time after the meeting getting to know more beekeepers and assembling frames for the new scholarship students. Thank you, Kay & Jimmie Oakley, for hosting me.
On March 26th, I got to do a local event at the McKinney Fire Station for a group of Girls Scouts (Daisies), who were studying flowers and insects. There were ten of them ranging from about 7 to 10 years old. They had many questions after the presentation and loved the Bit-o-Honey candies we handed out afterwards. Thanks to Judy Buckner, CCHBA member, for going with me to help.
A couple weeks later on April 4th, I went with CCHBA member, Michelle Pryor to the Heritage Farmstead in Plano to work a beekeeping booth there. We had an observation hive that many people wanted to see, as well as, local honey for sale. It was fun to go back and visit with people we had met the previous year. It was a
beautiful day and we had a great time.
The Denton Organic Gardening Club was next on the list, so, with the assistance of TBA Honey Queen Chairperson, Shirley Acevedo, I gave a presentation about the benefits of honey bee pollination and how to organically keep a hive. This was one of the more challenging events due to the detailed questions people asked. They were all very interested in knowing different organic ways to treat the bees. Some Maryland beekeepers were there as guests of a Denton family.
Next, was the Earth Day Festival in Sherman that I attended with Shirley Acevedo. There was live music, eco-friendly venders and miscellaneous workshops that people could attend. We gave a beekeeping workshop and sold my very first batch of creamed honey! This was a wonderful family event, so we had many children fascinated by the observation hive. One little girl asked me if she could take one of the bees home to keep as a pet. There were 100 to 200 people attending this event, which turned out to be a great success.
It was exciting to attend the National Honey Board Meeting in Austin with TBA member, Kim Lehman, on April 23rd. (Thank you so much for hosting me, Kim!) The National Honey Board works at promoting the fact that pure honey does not have any additives. They are sponsoring the “Honey, Honest to Goodness” promotion at
several (5) Minor League Baseball parks again this year. The evening after the meeting, we were able to go to the Round Rock Express game, which is one of the sponsored teams. It was Honey Night, and the radio announcer, Mike Capps, gave Clint Walker (NHB Member) of Rogers, TX, a lot of free radio air time to talk about beekeeping and natural honey (nothing added). Clint threw out the First Pitch and we got to hand out honey sample bottles to visitors after the game. We had great fun!
On April 27th, I went with Harris County Beekeepers Association (HCBA) President, Don Angle, to the Wabash Feed and Antique Store where they sell
beekeeping supplies. After taking a tour of the store, we went to lunch with the owner, Betty Heacher, who is interested in starting her own hives. The Wabash is a very convenient place for Houston beekeepers to buy their supplies and maybe even a few interesting antiques or a peacock. Then on April 28th, I went to the HCBA April meeting to crown the new Harris County Honey Queen, Rebecca Hollington. She also works at Wabash. Congratulations, Rebecca! Thank you, Misti
Dillon and family, for so generously hosting me.
It was back to Houston for me on May 16th for the Pasadena Strawberry Festival, where they have the world’s largest strawberry shortcake! The cake was 1905 sq. ft., covered with more than a ton of strawberries, glaze and whipped topping. I attended with my brother Caleb, Don Angle, Rebecca Hollington, Jeff Ballard and Rebecca’s boyfriend, Zach. We had an observation hive at our booth. There were many other vendors and several hundred people attending. We had a great time giving out honey samples, selling honey and answering questions for the people
looking at the bees.
The next day, Caleb and I went to NASA in Houston for the Level 9 tour with Jeff Ballard and Rebecca Hollington (Harris County Honey Queen). The NASA tour included pretty much everything but a ride in a rocket! We were able to eat in the cafeteria with the astronauts and check out the 50-foot deep pool that holds a life size model of the Space Station for the astronauts to work on so it gives them an anti-gravity effect. We were able to look at another life-size model of the station out of the water, sit in the old mission control room, watch live footage of the astronaut out in space working on the Hubble Telescope, and to top it off, look at the Saturn 5 Rocket which is taller than the Statue of Liberty! We had a fantastic time thanks to HCBA member, Harry Reichart (who previously worked at NASA) and who organized the tour. That was a “blast”! Thank you Mr. Reichart!
The following night, after eating some wonderful honey ice cream at a little place called the MOOHIVE, I attended the Houston Beekeepers Association May meeting with HBA program coordinator, Donald Burger. I gave a presentation about the Honey Queen Program and the scholarship program which Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Association does every year. The Houston Beekeepers Association had many wonderful questions, and I had a great time getting to know them! Thank you to the Dillon family and to the Burger family for hosting both Caleb and me during this visit to Houston. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with all of you beekeepers!
My brother Caleb and I graduated from high school on Saturday, May 23!! When I was little, I thought the day would never come… Sometimes folks ask if we are twins (though we are not), since we did the same grade together.
I am VERY exited to have graduated and to be your Texas Honey Queen!
Nicole Pettibon - 2009 Texas Honey Queen