Beekeeping In Texas – An Essential Guide For 2024

A female beekeeper on a ranch in Texas holding a frame from her hive

Beekeeping starter guides are easy to find online, but information varies by State in the United States. You need local advice for info like registration requirements and seasonal hive management.

That’s why we produced this free resource. It provides a top-line overview of beekeeping in Texas. Get practical advice and links to other useful websites that will help you get started.

Is Texas a bee-friendly state?

Beekeeping in Texas is a popular hobby. Annual surveys of colony numbers consistently find the state ranked in the top few positions. Texas enjoys a rich diversity of crops due to its size and wide range of habitats.

Local communities, farmers, and policymakers understand the importance of honey bees. This makes the Lone Star State an excellent location for beekeeping.

Texans looking to start beekeeping will find they live in a bee-friendly location. Beekeeper-friendly legislation, expansive foraging conditions, and experienced local knowledge contribute to bee yard success.

Bees in a field of bluebonnets next to a river in Texas
Bluebonnets in Texas are a favorite for pollinators.

Beekeeping registration

Understanding your legal requirements for keeping bees in Texas is essential. Conduct research before investing any money. That way, you’ll know what you can and can’t do.

Beekeeping is regulated at the state and local levels. The state agency is the Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS). You must also consult local laws to determine whether bees are allowed on a property.

In Texas:

  • Apiary registration is voluntary regardless of how many hives a beekeeper operates.
  • There is no fee to register hives in Texas.
  • Apiary locations are a trade secret in Texas, so information is kept between TAIS and the beekeeper. Location data is never shared.
  • Beekeepers do not need to renew their Apiary Registration annually.

Health inspections are requested by the beekeeper. They usually involve an apiary inspector assessing a percentage of the operation for signs of pests or disease.

If no disease is found, a Certificate of Inspection is issued. Inspections are not mandatory for selling bees or queens; however, non-inspected beekeepers must provide a self-generated health affidavit stating their bees are believed to be disease-free.

The service also handles emergency inspections at no cost, particularly for suspected foulbrood disease cases. It also manages permits required for transporting honey bee hives into, out of, and within Texas.

Hive identification is required by affixing the beekeeper’s name and address or a unique Apiary Equipment Brand Number on the hive boxes. Registration and brand application are one-time processes, and the brand number is not publicly shared.

Beekeeping regulatory costs in Texas

Beginnner beekeepers have minimal administrative costs. Here are some costs you’ll face as the apiary develops into a comercial business.

Importation Permit$100.00 for each state the beekeeper is bringing bees from
Exportation Permit$75.00 for each state the beekeeper is shipping bees to
Intrastate Permit$35.00
Bee Removal Transportation Permit$35.00
Apiary Inspection (requested by beekeeper)$75.00
Queen Breeder Inspection$300.00
Extra Copy of Permit (official)$10.00

Important: While we try to keep this information up-to-date, it can change anytime. This is general information and not legal advice. Visit here before starting beekeeping.

9 sources of forage for bees in Texas

  1. Alfalfa: this crop makes a tasty garnish, but it is also a source of food for livestock. Alfalfa is an excellent source of forage for pollinators.
  2. Cotton: in the Cotton State there are vast crops of cotton providing pollen that bees use for protein. While this crop doesn’t need pollinators for fertilization, research has found they increase cotton boll size and profits.
  3. Sunflowers: sunflowers are not only attractive to humans but also to a variety of pollinators. Their large, bright flowers are a rich source of nectar and pollen. They are found in the state’s North in areas like Rio Grande Valley and Lubbock.
  4. Pumpkins, squashes, and melons: these plants produce large, colorful flowers that attract pollinators. Pumpkins comprise 8,000 acres in the West Texas region.
  5. Citrus fruits: in the United States, the Alamo State is the third largest producer of citrus fruit. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, kumquats, and lemons grow commercially in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. These trees produce fragrant flowers that attract various types of pollinators.
  6. Berries: Crops like strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are paradise for honey bees.
  7. Wildflowers: While not a traditional crop, Texas has vast fields of wildflowers such as the Bluebonnet, the state flower.
  8. Pecan Trees: Pecan trees are native to Texas and are found in almost every county. They are also grown commercially, with the state producing the second highest volume of nuts in the U.S.
  9. Sorghum: this crop, particularly the sweet sorghum variety, can be a good nectar source for honeybees. Texas grows almost two million acres of this crop for food, livestock forage, and energy.
Sorghum crops on a sunny day in Texas
Sorghum crops provide forage for honey bees.

Equipment and hive setup

Newcomers to beekeeping need some basic equipment to get started. Below is a helpful starting list of essentials:

Protective suit: A beekeeping suit combined with gloves and veil will protect you from most stings. Seasoned beekeepers may choose to go without, but we advise beginners to wear full protection.

Beehive: You can’t raise bees without a hive. They come in varying designs, sizes, and price ranges, so research to find the best option for your bee yard. Langstroth, Top Bar, Warre, and Flow Hives are all worth considering. Here’s our rundown of hive designs worth considering.

Tools: The hive tools is a simple, low-cost device for many beekeeping tasks. Bee brushes, smokers, frame grips, and queen excluders are also items to include in your arsenal.

Read our article on the costs to get started beekeeping for more details.

A selection of beekeeper tools on a white background

Getting started with bees

After getting the bee yard organized, you’ll need bees. Consider reaching out to local beekeeping clubs for advice and supplier recommendations.

The Texas Beekeepers Association is a great starting point, offering contacts and advice. Local clubs may offer courses about getting bees and info on sellers. Refer to our list of clubs down the page for more details. Jump down to clubs>

Here are some popular ways to get bees:

1. Nucleus Colonies (Nucs)

Nucs are a small, fully functioning colony that includes workers, brood, food stores, and a laying queen. They’re ideal for beginners and have a good chance of success, but they cost more.

2. Packages

A package includes a few pounds of bees and a fertilized queen. This option is cheaper than a nuc, and there’s less risk of spreading disease. However, you’re introducing the bees to unfamiliar comb, so there’s a chance they could abscond. 

3. Capturing a swarm

Swarms are a cheap way to acquire bees, but require some expertise to catch. We don’t recommend this option for beginners. Learn how to catch swarms here.

Where to place your hives

Placing hives in the right spot will greatly help your bees.

Locate them somewhere that gets morning sunlight to encourage early foraging activity. Damp gullies should be avoided. Try to offer the hives partial shade as it helps the colony on sweltering summer days.

Protection from harsh weather conditions, especially strong wind, is essential. Ensure the site is easily accessible year-round for hive inspections and honey harvesting.

Seasonal management

Beekeeping in Texas is a year-round commitment, with tasks varying each month. Click a month below to get more details on what needs to get done.

Note: Texas is a big state with contrasting climates. You should also check beekeeping calendars targeted at your local area for more accurate advice.

Inspect your hives for colony strength and resources in the first week of January, preferably on a warm day. You can supplement their diet with pollen patties and sugar syrup to boost early brood production.

Avoid inspecting brood at this time, as it won’t be present.

Hive strength is measured by the number of bees on the top bars when the hive is opened. Feed bees pollen patties based on hive strength:

  • a whole patty for 8-10 frames of bees.
  • half for 5-6 frames.

Early feeding helps colonies survive winter resource shortages and supports expansion when pollen becomes available towards the end of the month.

Hive expansion and resource depletion make January and February critical for survival, especially during cold snaps. To prevent losses, keep feeders full, checking only on warm days.

  • Order package bees if you haven’t already.
  • Clean and store equipment.
  • Read and research for the coming season.

February brings mixed winter weather, with freezing days followed by warmer periods. Stay vigilant and keep feeders full to prevent losses.

Honey flows begin this month thanks to fruit trees and early bloomers. Keep feeding even when these resources are available. Hive survival can be most challenging this month due to freezing weather and early hive expansion efforts. 

  • Feed pollen.
  • Consider expanding entrance.
  • Monitor Varroa mite counts.

March typically brings warming weather and a bloom of wildflowers. This is the month for grafting, cell building, hive splitting, early swarms, and adding the first hive supers.

It’s also the time to recover winter losses by splitting your hives. Hive splitting not only replaces lost hives but also controls swarming.

Hive and queen propagation is critical during this period. Swarm cells can be beneficial or harmful depending on how you manage your colonies. Always feed up to the time of supering a colony with honey supers and continue to feed new starts to encourage brood expansion.

April sees an increase in the honey flow as wildflowers continue blooming and plants like privet hedge start flowering.

Extract the first excess honey around mid-May, ensuring the frames are well capped. Use a honey refractometer to ensure moisture levels have reduced sufficiently.

Prioritize supering and queen evaluation above extraction. Always add supers before the nectar flow and evaluate the queen situation in each hive two weeks after introduction. If a queen isn’t performing well, replace her.

May often allows extraction of excess honey, weather permitting.

Too much or too little rain can limit nectar production. Prepare for the flow by observing traditional nectar production times. Don’t fall behind in adding supers, and continue to feed small growing hives.

June often signals the end of the spring honey flow in many parts of Texas. At the start of the month, add the final supers to your hives and ensure you have all necessary extraction equipment ready by the second and third week.

Aim to have honey extracted by the last week of June or the first week of July, depending on the weather conditions. Always freeze cut or chunk comb honey to kill moths or beetle eggs.

July is traditionally the peak month for harvesting and extracting honey. It is critical to handle all your supers as cleanly as possible. Ensure they are shielded at the top and bottom to prevent bees and debris.

Transport boxes to the honey extraction facility promptly to minimize exposure. After extraction, place the supers under a shed for a few days to let bees clear the remaining honey, then store them.

If you have surplus honey that isn’t immediately bottled, store it in food-grade plastic containers, such as five-gallon pails or 55-gallon barrels.

Provide a reliable water source if one isn’t available, and be cautious when feeding new colonies. Towards the end of July, prepare for late summer hive divisions and queens.

Be vigilant for small hive beetles and varroa mites.

August is hot and dry. With little nectar or pollen available, focus on hive-robbing control and planning for fall hive divisions if you expand your colonies.

Given the high temperatures, working late in the evenings is advisable. Inspect your queen bees’ egg-laying patterns for quality control.

If a queen proves to be un-mated or defective, replace her.

Ensure that the last hive divisions and queens are sorted. Any subpar queen bees should be removed to ensure only healthy queens enter the final phase before winter.

  • Carry out a comprehensive evaluation of each hive and take the necessary actions.
  • Aim to have an extra super on every hive before the third week to secure around 40 to 60 lbs of honey for wintering.
  • The resources and bees available going into winter will determine the hive’s survival.

During heavy rainfall, nectar could be washed out, requiring supplementation with sugar syrup. The fall flow typically lasts until the first fall frost, but early cold snaps can slow it down.

Post-flow, assess each hive’s readiness for winter, considering the honey quantity and bee population. Hives with nests smaller than a basketball might not have enough bees to survive the winter.

If needed, consider combining two weak colonies and choosing the best-laying queen to enhance their chances of survival.

November is a time for relaxation, as all essential tasks have been accomplished. The next few months will mainly involve weight-checking and attending to any losses.

This is also a good opportunity to catch up with hive and frame building and undertake necessary repairs.

December is a rest period ahead of the new bee season that starts in January. Use this time to reflect on your triumphs and shortcomings over the past year. Try to replicate successes and learn from failures.

Early this month, start planning for new colonies and queens.

Challenges for Texan beekeepers

Texas’s varying range of foraging material makes it ideal for beekeeping. But the state has challenges to overcome like everywhere in the United States.

Each winter, colony losses continue to increase. Colony collapse disorder is a significant problem, and urbanization reduces bee habitats. Pesticide misuse is also a major concern for beekeepers.

While beekeepers provide a home for honey bees, the solution to improving bee numbers requires an holistic approach. Increased planting of pollinator-friendly plants, investment into preserving natural bee habitats, and reduced reliance on chemicals will all help bee populations.

Bee health in Texas

Monitoring bee health is an important responsibility for any beekeeper. Like cattle or goats, bees are impacted by various pests and diseases.

In Texas, some threats include small hive beetle, varroa mites, wax moths, tracheal mites, American foulbrood, and nosema.

  • Small hive beetle: The Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida) is an invasive pest harmful to bee colonies. The beetle’s larvae consume bee larvae, honey, and pollen, causing severe damage. They also defecate in the comb, leading to fermented, unusable honey. SHB can ultimately result in hive abandonment.
  • Varroa mites: These parasitic mites threaten struggling hives, weakening bees and spreading viruses. Regular hive inspections for mite levels are necessary. Chemical treatments and non-chemical methods, such as powdered sugar dusting, can manage mite populations.
  • Wax moths: Wax moth larvae feed on the wax, causing significant structural damage to comb. These pests devastate weak bee colonies, but strong colonies with good housekeeping often keep them under control.
  • Tracheal mites: Tracheal mites (Acarapis woodi) are tiny parasites that reproduce inside the breathing tubes of honey bees. The bee weakens and struggles to fly, leading to premature death. They spread rapidly within bee colonies and can cause significant losses. Read more: what is tracheal mite?
  • American foulbrood: This much-feared bacterial disease is highly contagious and lethal to bee brood. Infected colonies must be destroyed to prevent spreading. Report suspect colonies to the Texas Department of Agriculture.
  • Nosema: A fungal infection that affects the bee’s digestive system. It can be managed through hive sanitation. In some cases, treatment with approved medications may be necessary.

Can I keep bees in my backyard in a residential area in Texas?

Beekeeping laws and restrictions vary by location in Texas, so research the rules in your town before starting.

Here is an example of regulations in Austin:

  • The number of colonies permitted is determined by property acreage.
  • Never locate hives within ten feet of a property line.
  • A flyaway barrier, such as a fence, wall, or dense vegetation, may be required, depending on the location.
  • Austin encourages the relocation of hives instead of destruction when practicable. Source>

Commonly asked questions

Do I need to register bee hives in Texas?

Beekeepers in Texas do not need to register their apiary, regardless of the number of hives. If you choose to register them, there is no cost.

What is the best time of year to start beekeeping in Texas?

It is best to begin your beekeeping journey during early spring in Texas. This gives the new colony time to establish itself and store food for the coming winter.

How many hives should I start with?

We recommend starting with at least two hives if you have the budget. This number allows the beekeeper to compare hive performance and also have bees to work with if one colony fails.

Can I make a living from beekeeping?

Commercial beekeeping can be commercially lucrative, but it requires many hives and an in-depth understanding of bee health and honey production.

Some Texan beekeepers derive supplementary income from pollination services. Beginners are advised to start beekeeping as a hobby and gradually expand as their knowledge develops.

Closeup of a bee collecting pollen and nectar on a bluebonnet bloom, and a green blurred background.
A bee collecting pollen and nectar on a bluebonnet bloom.

Fun facts about beekeeping in Texas

  1. Honey varieties: The diverse range of plants growing throughout Texas results in many distinct honey types. Texas honey can range significantly in color, with flavors influenced by clover, mesquite, wildflowers, and more.
  2. Bee friendly city: Austin, Texas became the first Bee City USA in the state. This program encourages cities to create sustainable habitats for bees and other pollinators, which in turn supports local beekeepers.
  3. Bee research: The Texas A&M University houses the Honey Bee Lab, a research lab dedicated to studying honey bees and their diseases. The lab provides education and support to beekeepers across the state.
  4. Honey festival: Texas hosts multiple Honey Festivals throughout the state every year, like the one in Uvalde. Beekeepers, vendors, and honey enthusiasts come together to celebrate the importance of bees and have fun.
  5. Beekeeping schools: Texas has many beekeeping schools and workshops where people can learn the basics of beekeeping, as well as advanced techniques, from experienced instructors.
  6. Africanized bees: Texas has a significant presence of Africanized honey bees, sometimes referred to as “killer bees”.

Useful resources

Becoming a successful beekeeper in Texas is easier with expert advice from experienced beekeepers. Here are some local associations and clubs to enhance your beekeeping game:

Alamo Area Beekeepers
Austin Area Beekeepers
Brazoria County Beekeepers
Central Texas Beekeepers
Coastal Bend Beekeepers
Collin County Hobby Beekeepers
Concho Valley Beekeepers
East Texas Beekeepers
Fort Bend Beekeepers
Harris County Beekeepers
Heart of Texas Beekeepers
Houston Beekeepers
Metro Beekeepers
Montgomery County Beekeepers
Pineywoods Beekeeping
Red River Valley Beekeepers
Rio Grande Valley Beekeepers
Trinity Valley Beekeepers
Walker County Beekeepers
Williamson County Area Beekeepers

Summing up

Beekeeping in the Cowbow State requires continuous learning, but the rewards are great. Beyond personal satisfaction and hive resources, you will be contributing significantly to the state’s crop yields.

Despite challenges like parasites, pesticides, and climate change, beekeeping continues to thrive in Texas. Its diverse climate and vegetation are ideal for the honey bee.

If you live in Texas and want to become a beekeeper, we suggest reaching out to the Texas Beekeepers Association. It offers resources, training, and community support. There are also plenty of local beekeeping clubs that will help.

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