Central Texas is lucky to be home to one of the only chemical-free commercial apiaries in the country. BeeWeaver Apiaries, managed by Danny Weaver, represents four proud generations of beekeepers and producers. Danny and his wife, Laura, have focused the business on a bee-breeding program that produces mite-resistant bees.
Edible Austin: What inspired the Weaver business?
Laura Weaver: In 1888, my husband’s great-grandparents were given 10 hives as a wedding present from the bride’s beekeeping brothers. Zachariah and Florence Weaver grew their apiary and sold honey from the back of their horse-and-buggy wagon each week at a farmers market in Houston. Their oldest son, Roy, took over the apiary and began producing queens commercially in the 1920s. BeeWeaver’s commercial package bee, queen and honey production business grew under Roy’s son, Binford, and later his grandson, Danny.
EA: Why is the chemical-free approach important?
LW: The varroa mite and other bee pests reproduce quickly, and therefore become tolerant of different pesticides quickly. Beekeepers using chemicals are in a cycle of using stronger and stronger chemicals to kill the same bugs. As we left hives untreated, and bred from surviving colonies, we were rewarded with hives that no longer needed chemicals to kill varroa mites, and hives that were more disease resistant over all. Our bees became hardier and easier to keep alive in a tough world.
EA: What are the biggest threats to pollinators such as bees?
LW: Habitat loss, climate extremes, pesticides and herbicides.
EA: Have you seen an increase in backyard and/or commercial beekeeping?
LW: Because of colony collapse disorder issues [a decline in honeybee populations] being experienced by beekeepers across the U.S., bees have been in the spotlight for several years. This in turn has increased beekeeping interest across the U.S., and there has been an evident rise in the urban backyard beekeeper. I have also seen more women choose to start beekeeping each year.
EA: Why are bees so fascinating?
LW: Beehives are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individual beings that work together as a single organism. The energy and effort of every bee is for the benefit of the colony as a whole. Hives also produce so many useful products for human use: honey, wax, propolis, pollen, royal jelly and the venom used in sting therapy.