The Layman’s Guide to Native Texas Bees

If you’ve been in Texas for more than a few minutes, you know that there are a considerable array of winged flying creatures. Here is a guide to help identify which pollinators are hanging around your backyard:

Texas Bumblebee.jpg

BumbleBees:
These big boys are one of the easiest species to pick out. They’re the most prominent species of bees in Texas with big yellow and black stripes and fuzzy bodies. Their hairiness allows them to be excellent pollinators. Their “Pollen baskets,” which is the hair on their legs, will enable them to get the most amount of pollen attached when they land on flowers. Bumblebees are also characterized as one of the only Texas Bee species that nest in a colony.

Carpenter Bee.jpg

Carpenter Bees:
Carpenter Bees look very similar to the famous Bumblebee with one significant aesthetic difference, Shiny black abdomens and their propensity for all things wood. These solitary creatures only have one active bee in their nest at all times. They pick weathered wood to create small round holes to lay their eggs in, usually on siding, fence posts, decks or eaves. Although they are destructive to property, these bees are not aggressive and don’t often attack unless handled or provoked. Carpenter bees typically get their nectar from the bottom of the plants. Unfortunately, this makes them weak pollinators since they don’t have as much contact with the flower pollen as the Bumblebee.

Squash Bee.jpg

Squash Bee:
Like most native bees, the Squash Bee is solitary and nests mostly in the ground. Squash Bees have evolved to hunting at times of near-darkness due to their enlarged Ocelli (eyes) that let in more light. You will see Squash bees around during sunset or sunrise when other bee species are nesting. 2/3rd’s of all commercially grown squash is due to Squash Bee pollination.

Leafcutter Bee.jpg

Leafcutter Bee:
These exciting insects have a huge set of lips (mandibles) that they use to cut leaves. The Leafcutter Bee nests typically in rotting wood, soil or plant stems. They cut out circles from leaves and line their nests with them. These bees are very passive and will not attack unless extremely provoked. Leafcutter Bees are imperative for commercially grown Alfalfa pollination in the United States

Sweat Bee.jpg

Sweat Bee:
These bees have a unique attraction to the salt in animal or human sweat. They are known to land and “lick” off sweat. They are the smallest of the Texas Bee population. Sweat Bees are only ½ - ¾ inch and can range in color from a dull/metallic black to metallic green, purple or blue. Sweat Bees are very parasitic. They will infiltrate the nests of other bees, destroy the existing eggs, and then lay their eggs to be raised by the unsuspecting foster bee.

Mason Bee.jpg

Mason Bees:
Mason bees make up 25% of the world bee population and a large portion of the Texas bee population. These solitary natives make their nests using mud or other materials, in between rocks or on the ground. They are great cross-pollinators and are an alternative for beekeepers that are allergic to HoneyBees. Since their venom is exceptionally mild and they are so docile, they rarely sting.

Next time you’re sitting enjoying a drink on a patio or working in your garden and see a friendly flyer, hopefully, this guide can help you distinguish which kind of species it is.

Colony Collapse Disorder: What You Need To Know & Why Bees Need Help

Pollination by Honeybees contributes to at least 30 billion dollars worth of U.S Agriculture. They are one of the most critical pollinators in the world. Honeybees contribute 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed up to 90% of the world. Just to put that into more simple perspective: 1 out of 3 mouthfuls of food in the American diet are because of bees. So pretty much, if the bees go, we are going to have a rough time.

Beekeepers world wide reported steep declines of their bee populations starting in the early 2000’s with no known culprit until late 2006: Colony Collapse Disorder.(CCD)

Known by many other names in the past, (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, may disease or autumn collapse), CCD is a scourge to the modern Honeybee population. In 2015, 42% of bee colonies collapsed in the U.S alone. Both managed honeybee and wild populations have experienced serious declines in the past decade.

Colony Collapse Disorder is specifically defined as a dead colony with no adult bees and with no dead bee bodies, but with a live queen, food sources (honey, pollen) and immature bees  (pupae, eggs, larvae) still present. The scientific community has yet to agree on a cause for CCD but they have an idea of contributing factors. Scientists believe that CCD has a more synergistic cause that a single point of origin. Here are a few of the main contributors:

Pesticides:

Neonicotinoids are a commonly used pesticide for corn and other widely grown agricultural crops. Honeybees may be affected when these pesticides are used for seed treatment since they work their way up the plant into the flower. The neonicotinoids are secreted as a residue in the pollen and not only affect the bee that comes into contact, but the whole hive when the bee returns. The EU has taken an active role in isolating and banning three neonicotinoids that they have proven to be an acute risk to honeybees. The U.S has established the Save America's Pollinators Act of 2013, which is currently up for review in the House of Representatives.

Varroa Mites: 

The Varroa destructor or “vampire mite” is one of the deadliest Honeybee killers due to the viruses they carry into the hives, and their parasitic nature. Deformed Wing Virus and Acute Bee Paralysis are just a few of the deadly diseases these mites can infest a whole hive with. The Varroa Mites don’t have a preference, they will prey on all types of honeybees (workers, nurse bees, larvae) which make them a huge threat to the bee population

Antibiotics + Miticides:

Most beekeepers that have had losses due to CCD report using Antibiotics and Miticides within their apiaries. Unfortunately the lack of uniformity in what type of chemicals they use make it hard to find a single culprit for the population loss. 

Malnutrition, poor quality queen bees (not producing enough babies) and starvation are other contributing factors. Long story short, Bees these days have a lot of obstacles in their way. Understanding these obstacles, staying informed and spreading education is one of the ways you can help save them.




The Real Deal With Honey

Honey has been used in medicine in cultures around the world for thousands of years. It’s many health benefits have led scientists to continue to integrate it into Ayurveda, eastern medicine, and even some western medicinal practices. Here are a few of the numerous health benefits of honey:

Honey Nutrients:

slow-motion-of-biological-and-genuine-honey-drips-inside-a-jar-honeycomb-dripping-honey-black-background-and-a-wooden-table-macro-close-up_rvexq2dnfx_thumbnail-full03.png

Nutritionally, Honey is a contains all the types of sugar: Fructose, Sucrose, Glucose and Maltose. Honey contains virtually no Protein or Fat but is a great source of Carbohydrates. It is not a great source of Vitamins but contains almost all the Trace Minerals with predominantly high levels of Potassium and Folate. Honey also contains all essential and nonessential Amino Acids and enzymes

Honey Antioxidants:

Though Honey is not rich in Vitamins, it is soaked in bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants. The two main bioactive compounds in Honey are Flavanoids and Polyphenols. These compounds contribute to the antioxidant value of Honey by acting as Antiinflammatory, Antimicrobial and Antiproliferative agents. 

Honey and Disease:

Honey has been proven to reduce factors contributing to heart disease and metabolic disorder. It is also an active ingredient in most Traditional and Eastern medical practices for Upper Respiratory Diseases/Infections, specifically in children. 

High Cholesterol plays a major role in Atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque within the arteries) and is a key player in heart disease and strokes. Honey actively lowers LDL cholesterol (the BAD kind of cholesterol) and can drastically increase HDL (The good type of cholesterol that cleans arteries). 

Adding honey to tea, or even using honey by itself, is an effective way to suppress coughing, and act as an antimicrobial/antibacterial agent in fighting respiratory infections. Honey helps with the physical symptoms and unlike over the counter medicine, does not have any side effects. 

Honey and Wound Healing:

Topical honey treatment goes all the way back to early history with the Ancient Egyptians. Honey is extremely antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial so it is a perfect wound healing agent. Medicinal honey (Manuka) is a great topical treatment for different severity levels of burns and also is beneficial for infected post-surgery wounds. It nourishes the skin to increase new skin cell regeneration while killing all of the necrotic tissue and any outside contaminants. 

So there you have it, Honey is an incredibly versatile and interesting compound that tastes delicious and helps nourish our bodies.


Bee Conscious™ Small Business Spotlight: Bee Friendly Austin & Texas Honey Bee Farm

Just a few of the 150 hives living at Texas Bee Honey Farm

Just a few of the 150 hives living at Texas Bee Honey Farm

Nestled into the hills of South East Austin is a beautifully buzzing haven, which serves as a home for 150 thriving bee colonies. Tanya Philips and Chuck Reburn started Bee Friendly as a Backyard Apiary in 2013, but after their hobby became more involved, they officially launched the Bee Friendy Austin Foundation. Bee Friendly exists to increase awareness of the value of bees, educate beekeepers, encourage good hive management practices, and to support scientific research and education. Bee Friendly partnered with BeeWeaver, created the Texas Honey Bee Farm, and now offer classes, demos, Queens, and equipment for beekeepers.

This past week the staff here at Meridian Hive took a road trip down to the Bee Friendly farm to show our appreciation in its involvement in the community, and volunteer some of our time.

After a warm welcome, Tanya and Chuck ushered everyone inside the gift shop which was filled to the brim with a wide variety of bee paraphernalia:

Artisinal Honey made at the farm (my favorite was a Huckleberry Whipped Honey)

Bee Jewelry

Candles

Body Care Products

Hives for sale

Bee suits

It was like a bee lovers paradise!

Chuck (in blue) giving us a great bee lecture

Chuck (in blue) giving us a great bee lecture

Once we all got settled in, Tanya and Chuck gave us a crash course on beekeeping. We learned about the inner workings of Bee Hives, what they teach in their beekeeping classes and the valuable message Bee Friendly promotes.

After we asked a few questions and shared some laughs, we went to work constructing wooden hive drawers (Langstroth Hives to be exact). Typically these drawers are stacked and used as aids in which bees can build their hives. These particular hives will also be primed and used as canvases for local artists during the Annual Tour De Hives. This fundraising event allows local artists or amateurs to show off their talents through hive decor!  On Saturday, August 17th be sure to make it out to Bee Friendly and vote for your favorite! There will also be guest speakers, Mead & Honey tastings, local vendors, silent auctions, and more! Come and support the Bee Friendly Foundation.

Our finished Hive drawers and volunteer certificate!

Our finished Hive drawers and volunteer certificate!

The plethora of knowledge and experience at Texas Honey Bee Farm creates a beautiful atmosphere for supporting and learning about our favorite insect: The Honeybee.

SVG_0032.JPG

When a Chance to be a Guest Judge Comes Up...Go for it!

I had the honor and pleasure of participating as a guest judge for the Australian Amateur Brewing Championships in Perth, Western Australia this weekend. Not only was it my first ever judging experience, but I got to taste some great beers and meads from the best amateur brewers in the country; and I got to meet some really great guys during and after the session.

Mead Judging - AABC.jpg

The competition organizers paired me up with two nationally ranked BJCP judges. This allowed me to offer my impressions of the beers and meads while receiving valuable insight into how the technical evaluations were finalized for scoring. Any nerves that I brought to the table quickly dissipated as I realized that years of sampling, drinking and hanging out with my team of aficionados at The Hive has positioned me to offer valid judgment on beers and meads. I was in my element and thought I held my own - a proud Apprentice!

We started off with Amber and Dark Lagers - a wide-ranging category that covered 18 different beers across eight styles. We progressed methodically through them and only occasionally differed in scores to a point that required a lengthy and technical discussion. I loved being able to hear the judges state their case for raising or lowering the score, and at the same time, I tried my best to explain the rationale behind my particular score. Those few instances provided me with the best insight and education during the event.

After a very quick lunch break, it was time to move onto the Mead Category. The Aussies brought some excellent offerings across a wide variety of styles to the nationals. We experienced some awesome traditionals, bochets, big fruit bombs, and some very interesting entries in the  “other mead” category. Some of the honeys used were quite unique. One in particular really stood out for me and I was told it was leatherwood honey from Tasmania (it wasn’t actually listed on the entry – so I’ll have to trust my newly befriended Aussie judges).

Overall, the experience was one of a kind and I’m thankful to Sean from Erosion Meadery for the invite. I can honestly say that I now have the bug and will start working towards improving my education and training to become a judge sometime in the future. If you ever get the chance to be a guest judge, I recommend you go for it. Thanks Mike for talking me into going.


Cayce Rivers is the head of Finance, Sales and Marketing for Meridian Hive. While not technically qualified to handle any of those areas, his 20 plus years in the corporate world provides a wealth of ammunition to allow him to fake his way through most of it. He brings a balance of extraordinary vision, sharp focus and practicality to help the team reach seemingly unachievable goals.

Cayce Rivers Director Finance Sales Marketing.jpg

Top 5 Things to Look for in Your Mead

Whether you're tasting your buddy's home-brew or trying out the latest release from your favorite meadery, look for the following characteristics of a great mead.

1. Balance - Meads can be made with a wide range of alcohol content, sweetness levels, acidity and tannins. Regardless of the level of any of those, a great mead must have balance across all components. No single element should be overly conspicuous or dominate the flavor profile.

A Picture Depicting Balancing Rocks - deniz-altindas-38128.jpg
 
A Picture or a woman smelling the aroma of flowers - danielle-marroquin-16121.jpg

2. Aroma - you should find a pleasant and inviting aroma that is not dominated by an overly strong alcohol smell.

3. Sense Transition - The mead should have sufficient complexity to guide your sense of smell and taste. Similar to balance above, the transition must be continuous and smooth with the aromas providing a roadmap to the flavors inside.

A picture of partially full glasses - henry-fournier-68573.jpg

4. Drinkability - Whether seeking out a refreshing draft or a complex and rich still, a great mead will leave you wanting another glass after you finish.

5. Enjoyment - whatever mead you try tonight, it can only be great if it leaves you with a smile on your face.

Author Mike Simmons Mead Makers Biography.png

The Hive goes To The Festival

The last few weeks have been very crazy, exciting and busy for all of us here at The Hive!!

Angi And Mike at Shelton Fest 2017.jpeg

Launching Houston with Favorite Brands, a huge turnout for National Mead Day, installing Thelma & Louise (our new fermentation tanks) and attending "The Festival" presented by Shelton Brothers in Atlanta. Mike and I were the two lucky bees that went!

The Festival weekend kicked off with a Welcome Dinner for industry professionals on Thursday night at Comet Lanes. Unlimited bowling, food and tasty local brews made it easy to connect with fellow craft-makers, to gather, share ideas, inspire each other, and work together to propagate the “not just another beer fest” movement.

Friday and Saturday were designated for the actual Festival. Each day had a VIP session followed by General Admission. An additional Industry Session on Saturday morning prior to the VIP made for a couple of long days. I can’t believe how fast it all went by. 

So many happy faces, so many meads poured, amazing beers, ciders and meads drank, contacts exchanged, old friends re-connected and new friends made. I can truly say we had a great and successful time!

Now back in Austin, my voice still somewhere between here and Atlanta, I slowly start to realize how incredible the fest was. My biggest fear going in was "in this [sour] beer dominant world, can our meads satisfy the crowd in a line up that included many of the finest brews in the world? Will we get any interest at all?" I am extremely happy and proud to say that we did fit in, and I dare say we stood out!

Angi And Mike At Shelton Fest 2017_2.jpeg

We received some great comments, such as..."Mead in a can? How cool!”; “Oh, this is different than what I expected"; "Wow, your meads are delicious" and “Thank you for the great tasting experience”. We had an absolute blast sharing our modern mead with everyone we met.

Thank you Shelton Brothers for putting The Festival together, thank you Atlanta for hosting and last but not least thanks to my Hive family for “making” me go. 😃

Prost!

Meridian Hive Mead In Houston!

The Houston Market has long been asking for our award winning meads and after a few months of self-distribution to test the market, we realized the potential was huge and we needed help to get into all of the best venues across the city. So we started our search for a distribution partner that shared our values and our commitment to bringing our products to Houston's craft scene.

Picture of the We Love Houston Sign.jpg

We are proud to announce our partnership with Favorite Brands. Together we are working hard to introduce our meads into the greater Houston area.

You can already find us at your favorite local grocers and liquor stores like HEB, Total Wine and Craft Beer Cellar; as well as some great bars and restaurants like BJ's, Old Chicago, The Hobbit Cafe and Ship and Shield.

Meridian Hive Bottles and Cans in a row

We continue to expand our presence across the city and encourage you to participate in our growth. How, you might ask?

1. Go to our Mead Finder and look for a retailer or bar near you.

2. If you know of a great fit for our product and it's not on the list, let us know and we'll work with Favorite Brands to get in as soon as possible.

We look forward to becoming Houston's go to craft beverage. We appreciate all of our customer's support and patience as we continue to grow our presence. If you've yet to try our mead, what are you waiting for? 

Join us in the Craft Mead Revolution!

Cayce Rivers Director Finance Sales and Marketing.jpg

Cayce Rivers is the head of Finance, Sales and Marketing for Meridian Hive. While not technically qualified to handle any of those areas, his 20 plus years in the corporate world provides a wealth of ammunition to allow him to fake his way through most of it. He brings a balance of extraordinary vision, sharp focus and practicality to help the team reach seemingly unachievable goals.

So you want to be a mead sales rep....

So you want to be a Sales Rep in the alcoholic beverage industry?

The DFW skyline

This Monday I got up at 5:45AM to grab a big cup of coffee to help me get through our weekly sales meeting that starts at 6AM. We finally finished just over an hour later and then I started prepping for my day - It was travel day!

I was heading up to DFW for a few days to check in with our customers and distributor. I mapped out my route for my account & lead visits and created a call list for my Austin customers. I had to touch base with them while in the car, because I couldn't visit them this week. I packed my suitcase and all product samples I needed for the week. Then I threw an ample supply of stickers, coasters & koozies in the bag to hand out at my glass nights and a festival on the week's agenda.

The plan was to get on the road around 9:30AM so rush hour traffic should have dissolved by then. I knew I probably wouldn't check into the hotel until around 9:30PM at night! A long day for sure, but I'd done it many times in the past.

The drive only took around two and a half hours before I stopped at the first retail account in Arlington. From there I traversed the city, visiting other bars, growler bars and more retail accounts (as well as some prospective new customers). The last stop before heading to the hotel was reserved for my glass night at a bar. I planned extra time for dinner and a drink (or two)!

DFW Traffic on the road

Of course the day never goes as planned. The second bar manager was not in - That's ok, I left my card, our product info sheet and planned to call or email later. And I don't recall if it was normal traffic or some closed road due to construction, but I got delayed on the way to my next stop. I also chatted longer with the manager there, causing my schedule to slip even more. Then I had to wait because there was a line of other reps at the bottle shop. If I just had some time to stop into the bar I just past that looks like a great potential customer...maybe tomorrow.

While on the road, I got a call from our Delivery Team about issues with receiving at a major customer that I needed to help with. And our South Austin Rep called to confirm we finally got set up as a new vendor at a new big account so he can start selling them our mead. Then I realized I had missed my turnoff...where was I?

I really want to know how people could do this jobs years ago and be anything close to efficient. Thank goodness for GPS.

At 5PM... stuck in traffic again...didn't make it to this last Whole Foods because I know the buyer left at 5, dang it. And I couldn't go in to sample the bar manager at the restaurant either because the dinner rush was about to start... hmmm... good thing there was a bar close by. I stopped in there to get some administrative work done before heading to the bar for my glass night starting at 7pm. That should keep the boss happy and off my back!

So, why do I go through all off this?

Angi Sales Manager giving a thumbs up sign

Because I love craft mead/beer/cider and I love to help spread the word to a new audience and hopefully win a few over from the dark side. 

There are a few bad days where I get up on the wrong side of the bed, but I still put on my best face for our existing and soon to be customers.  Some days I drive home with zero sales for the day wondering if I've lost my touch and what my boss will think. It's a good thing the majority of the time I'm getting new orders and new accounts and having a lot of fun.

I do this because, even though I complain sometimes and it can be exhausting, I really do love doing this. I love meeting new people, making new friends, seeing the pleasantly surprised faces of my new customers and hearing them say -
Mead. Who Knew?

Support your local mead rep.

Drunken Pecan Pie with bounty mead

Pecan Pie next to a bottle of Bounty Mead

Our “in-house chef”, Robert already posted his recipe for a main course, Oven Braised Brisket. If you really want to show off your mead infused recipes, try this Pecan Pie for an indulgent dessert?

At Christmas time last year I wanted to make something special as I had family visiting from overseas. I really wanted something typically American, and Southern to be more precise; so I couldn't think of a better choice than Pecan Pie! For the “special” part of the recipe, I decided on Bounty, Meridian Hive's bourbon barrel-aged Apple Mead. The idea of the Drunken Pecan Pie was born.

I chose Bounty to add to the warmth and richness of the pecan pie. The honey and apple character bring a new flavor dimension to this age old classic.

For the Crust:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup ground pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold butter
8 tablespoons Bounty

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, pecans, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add Bounty and let it sit for 1 minute. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out on the floured surface into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick. Gently fold the circle of dough in half and then in half again so that you can lift it without tearing it, and unfold into a 9 by 2-inch deep-dish pie pan.
 

For the Filling

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup or ¼ dark corn syrup and ½ cup honey
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 to 2 cups pecan halves
2 tablespoons chilled Bounty

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, eggs, pecans, and Bounty, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell, and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until pie is set.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Serve a slice to each guest, pile on your favorite vanilla bean ice cream and don't forget to pair it with a generous pour of Bounty. Enjoy!

 

Angi Sales Manager.jpg

Angi Wilkes is Meridian Hive’s Brand Manager and key woman in the field, meaning she mostly drives around listening to music in a car full of mead . You might be thinking “Hey, that sounds like a pretty cool job, how can I get that job?” The answer is that you can’t because we just told you that’s Angi’s job. We actually don’t see her as often as we'd like, but we really like it when we do. She can hang with the best knurds on all beer, wine and mead topics; and she's clever, funny and pretty awesome (even if she's not from around here).

meridian hive makes The Mazer Cup, just

As the Mazer Cup weekend approached, the team arrived in Denver a couple of days early to prepare for meetings with potential distributors, visit and sample products to potential customers, do some sight seeing and visit with old friends. All of those things were going according plan until, out of the blue, we got a call from the Mazer Cup staff at 3:15 PM on Thursday (the day before the judging started) - our entries had not arrived at the competition venue.