Growing up, one of our founders, Karen, watched her grandfather keep bees on their family cattle farm in Virginia and sell honey and beeswax candles at the local farmer’s market. She had not been up close and personal with a beehive in many years, and was excited about learning a new hobby as a part of building Vista.
Karen read beekeeping books cover to cover and took several classes at the Sustainable Food Center with the knowledgeable local beekeeper extraordinaire Tara from Two Hives Honey. It was in the “Hive Inspection 101” class, where she held a buzzing frame, that Karen really fell in love with the amazing honeybee.
The apiary at Vista was one of the first improvements we made when we bought the land in Driftwood, long before breaking ground on the buildings. We installed 18 hives, most of them young colonies, and installed a fence to keep nosy longhorns away. We partnered with Two Hives to host several intro beekeeping classes, with those 18 hives as teaching material.
Honeybees were always part of the vision of the destination brewery concept.
So many motivations have inspired us to include an apiary: doing our part to save the honeybee population, honey as an ingredient in beer and food, pollination for our farm and wildflowers, connecting our guests with agriculture through education and, prudently, the Texas law which allows apiaries to give landowners an “agricultural valuation” (if you want to know more about that last benefit, shoot Karen an email).
Let’s talk about that first reason. A novel could be written on the plight of the honeybee. Bee colonies in the US have been in decline – to the point of crisis – since the 1990s. The cause is still a mystery to the many scientists who are continually studying honey bee colonies. Loss of habitat & good forage, pesticides, parasites, queen failures….no one knows the true cause of what has been termed “Colony Collapse Disorder”. Many do not realize the crisis that comes with the disappearance of the honey bee. Like, 1/3 of our food supply disappearing. Think of your breakfast without blueberries or strawberries. No more snacking on almonds. Forget an apple pie.
We are trying to do our part at Vista by managing our honeybees without chemicals and buying our queens from reputable breeders/suppliers such as BeeWeaver Apiaries in Navasota, TX. We are looking forward to helping Vista guests to learn more about what they can do, or how to start an apiary in their own backyard (hint: you don’t need that much space!).
Beekeeping is so nuanced, it could take a lifetime to learn why bees do the things they do and how to nurture thriving colonies. So, you will often hear about what the “girls” are up to here on our site and social media, as well as future classes for Vista guests – make sure you’re on the mailing list for special BEE events you won’t want to miss!