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That smoky smell isn’t from my bee smoker… sadly our part of Texas is on fire. Even if some parts of the prairies, hill country, big thicket, and south Texas brush aren’t a part of what is or has been on fire – it is burned by the record drought and heat. Burned up from no rain and temperatures over 100 degrees for almost that many days. Every Texan, Texas animal and Texas plant has felt the effects of the worst heat and drought in history.

Bees and their keepers are no exception, obviously. Instead of making several loads of Texas Wildflower Honey we fed sugar syrup to keep our hives alive. We’re accustomed to having our colonies recover during May and early June from us harvesting bees and queens earlier in the spring. But they didn’t build back up because there was no pollen flow and no nectar flow. Instead of making splits and increasing our numbers we worked to sustain what we had. Facing relentless 100+ degrees day in day out (temperatures soared over 90 by 9am) somehow our hives mostly managed to survive, but it was and is a miracle. The world and our ecological foundations are shifting. Transformational change seems to be upon us.

To make it this far the bees had to be tough. To make it to next spring, they will have to be amazingly hardy. Even if Texas receives above normal rainfall for the next 5 months, nothing would change for the bees now. They’ll have to make it to the first pollen flows in spring. Meanwhile, trees, shrubs, vines and grasses are struggling to stay alive, if they have not died already.

On the upside, any hives that thrive in these conditions will be a great foundation to build a breeding program in 2012. Hives that thrive on less and do more with little can only make apiaries stronger. And this is our silver lining from 2011.