Honey Bees, and Why They’re Essential

Bees are a common insect. Many people are allergic, and many more are simply afraid of bees. However, bees play a vital role in our ecosystem. Unfortunately, there are in danger because of loss of habitat and pesticide use.

At Sweetbriar Rose, we have been beekeeping for years. We currently have six individual honey bee hives. Bees are incredibly fascinating creatures, and we sincerely believe everyone should take steps to save them.

However, if you don’t know much about bees in general, or honey bees specifically, you won’t understand the urgency in trying to save them. Here is some excellent information on these useful creatures, and why honey bees need to be protected.

All About Honey Bees

Honey bees are well-known, but only make up a small percentage of bee species. They are the only group of bees in the Apis genus. They produce and store honey, which is liquefied sugar. They also build nests or hives with wax that is secreted from worker bees. 

Honey bees are 15 mm long. Typically, their bodies are oval-shaped and banded with varying shades of gold, brown, and black. The banded colors are intended to help the bee survive by warning off predators.

Honey bees’ bodies are segmented with a stinger, legs, antenna, three segments of thorax, and six segments of the abdomen. On the head, there are eyes, antennae, and a mandible, or jaw. The thorax areas are for the wings, legs, and control of movement. Finally, the abdomen includes the reproductive organs and stinger.

If a bee is in the wild, the hive will typically be built in a hole of a tree or on rock crevices. In captivity, a beekeeper will provide boxes with removable frames for the bees to build on. Worker bees excrete wax from a special gland. A worker bee will excrete the wax, chew on it to soften it, then mold the wax into cells.

A hive is built to store food, which is honey, and for protection during cold months. Honey bees do not hibernate like most other bee species. Honey bees will huddle in their hive for warmth and eat stored food. If you have ever wondered why do bees make honey, it is their food.

In the Colony

Honey bees are social, and colonies can grow quite large. Each colony has three different types of bees. There is a single queen, male drones, and infertile female workers. While there is only one queen that can lay eggs, there can be thousands of workers and drones.

The queen honey bee will mate with the male drones. The queen will lay the eggs in the cells of wax in the nest. A single queen can lay as many as 2,000 eggs a day. After the eggs hatch, adult workers take care of the larvae by feeding them pollen and honey for three weeks. The matured bee will chew out of the sealed wax cell.

A male bee, or drone, only exists to mate with the queen honey bees. A drone will die soon after the mating process. Drones are the minority in the colony.

Female worker bees are infertile but are still responsible for many essential jobs in the hive. Younger worker bees tend to the larvae. As they mature, worker bees will begin to store food collected by foraging worker bees. The strongest adult worker bees forage for food and bring it back to the hive.

In the World

Honey bees are found the world over. Because they are so widespread, it is hard to attribute typical behavior to them all. Many people wonder, do honey bees sting? The answer is typically no. Most species of honey bees are considered docile. Africanized honey bees are aggressive and are known to chase humans. However, any honey bee, when thoroughly provoked, can attack and sting a human.

It is most common to see honey bees in the late spring and summer when a new queen will leave a colony with thousands of workers to build a new hive. Also, because honey bees rely on pollen and nectar, late spring is the best time to collect their food.

Pollination

Honey bees have been around for millions of years. For their entire existence, bees have pollinated flowers, so flowers depend on bees for survival. Bees help plants reproduce by transferring pollen, which is the sperm cells of plants, from plant to plant. Pollination is required for the survival of the plant.

Humans reap the benefit of this pollination. Honey bees pollinate many, if not most, of the plants we eat daily. Outside of transferring pollen from one plant to another, bees collect nectar from each plant. Upon returning to their hive, bees make honey from this nectar.

Honey Bee Dance

If you have ever paid attention to honey bees, they often appear to be dancing. These movements serve a purpose; it is how worker bees communicate with each other. The honey bee dance is essential to the survival of each colony.

After a honey bee finds a new food source, she will tell the other worker bees where to find it through specific movements in this dance. A honey bee will either do a round dance or a waggle dance.

The round dance is a circular dance and tells the other worker bees the new food source is within 50 meters of the hive. The waggle dance looks more like a figure eight and reveals the location of the source is farther away. The duration of the dance gives the exact distance.

The dance also informs other worker bees of the direction of the food source by referencing the sun’s position. A worker bee will rotate her body to tell the others which direction they should go from the hive in relation to the sun.

These intricate and fascinating dances are vital to the survival of a colony. There is much we still don’t know about honey bees, though. If you see bees, you should never attempt to interact with them. If there is a nest near your home, call a professional to help. Never kill bees.

At Sweetbriar Rose

At Sweetbriar Rose, we are trying to do our part in ensuring the survival of honey bees, and our way of life for that matter. Without honey bees, we would not have much of the food we love.

Because there are bees on site, you might see a honey bee flying around. Don’t panic. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone, as well. These are friendly bees. They are busy making the honey you get to enjoy.

Stop by Sweetbriar Rose so you can enjoy something made with our local honey, or just sit on the back porch and keep a lookout for some honey bees yourself. We hope to see you soon.

Texas Hill Country Road Trip

Have you ever taken a road trip through the Texas Hill Country? The drive is incredible. The views are spectacular. And the stops are worth the driving in between.

If you have never taken a day trip through the Hill Country, now is a great time! In fact, any time is a great time. We have some tips and ideas to make your road trip a trip to remember.

Things to Take In

There are so many things to do in the Texas Hill Country, it would be impossible to fit everything in on a day trip, or even a weekend. Doing some research ahead of time will ensure you get to the things you most want to do.

The time of year will dictate if you want more indoor or outdoor activities. If it is December through early March, or June through mid-September, you will want to be inside more than outside. However, the fall and spring months are mild and perfect for exploring outdoors.

There is nothing like the spring in the Hill Country. Imagine wildflowers along all the roads and fields of color. It is not uncommon to see families piling out of their cars to get that yearly Bluebonnet picture. 

The Fall is fantastic because the weather has finally cooled off, and it is an excellent time for hiking or attending any of the festivals and events that occur throughout the Hill Country. Even if you’re in the colder winter months with more rain or the hot summer months, the Texas Hill Country offers delicious food and drinks to keep you cool and entertained inside.

Outdoor Activities

If you enjoy being active, Enchanted Rock is a must-do on any list. Enchanted Rock is just outside of Llano. The views are unbeatable while you climb the 425-foot pink granite rock, one of the largest like it you will find in America. The view from the top is awe-inspiring as you take in all the Hill Country has to offer. You can camp, picnic, stargaze, or hike on 11 miles of trail, also.

Garner State Park is another excellent outdoor adventure. Garner State Park is a favorite in the Hill Country and the entire state. You can hike or camp, as well as swim or tube the Frio River in this 1,774 acres of beautiful Hill Country. In the summer, check out the summer dances, a tradition since the 1940s.

Another great spot close to Fredericksburg is the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site. This beautiful park offers history, as well as an area for a picnic, fishing, swimming, or viewing the local wildlife, like buffalo, longhorn, and deer. The stop is also educational as you can visit a living history farm and see what life was like in 1918. Don’t miss the wildflowers in spring, or the Visitor Center full of President Johnson history and memorabilia. There are also historical cabins, built by settlers in the 1860s and 1870s. 

You’ve heard the song, so why not put Luckenbach, Texas on your list. Take a trip to a simpler time, enjoy good music and dancing, or pick up something fun at the General Store. Bring some friends and enjoy an afternoon or evening where everybody’s somebody…

Indoor Activities

If you are looking to get inside, check out the National Museum of the Pacific War. Named for Fredericksburg’s own Admiral Chester Nimitz, you can spend an entire day learning the storied history of our battles in the Pacific during World War II. Learn about Pearl Harbor, Japanese culture at the time, and meet some of the heroes who fought so bravely for our great country.

The Pioneer Museum in Fredericksburg is another fabulous indoor activity. The mission of the museum is to preserve and tell the story of the Texas Hill Country. The museum sits on three acres, and you will learn about the history of the German settlers to the area. See historical homesteads, a one-room schoolhouse, a Sunday house, a bathhouse, a barn, a smokehouse, and a fire department.

Of course, there are many wineries along the drive. Check out Wine Road 290 for a list of great wineries to visit. You can also get more information for events happening throughout the year that you will want to check out.

While there are many restaurants around the area, we would love you to stop in and visit us at Sweetbriar Rose. We are open Thursday through Sunday. We serve wine and beer flights, or wine and beer by the glass or bottle. 

Get a made-from-scratch sandwich or pastry all day, or a handmade coffee. Our pastry chef trained in New York City, you won’t want to miss the delectable things she cooks up. We also offer cheese plates, bread by the loaf, soups, and salads, and other tasty snacks.

We have a large building perfect for large groups, or for hanging out with friends. You will find a ton of unique items for yourself or as a gift. Stop by and let the friendliest staff in town ensure you have a great visit. Add Sweetbriar Rose to your Texas Hill Country road trip.

Make Reservations

If you want to take advantage of the Hill Country, several companies can help. Schedule a tour with one of them to ensure you safely get to all the places you want to visit.

Texas Winos offer Texas hospitality and mix in some fun. Each event is like a mini-vacation. The guides are fun and personable and ensure a unique trip each time. There are themed events, and you are encouraged to go all in and make the most out of the day. Check them out and see when their next event is!

With 290 Wine Shuttle, you pay once and get transportation all day. Hop on and off throughout the day at wineries. Spend as much time at each place as you want, then get on the next bus that comes through. For just $29.99 you get access all day to the shuttle. You can also book a private shuttle for larger groups.

There are two routes, the Eastern and Western routes. Pick the wineries you want to see most and book that route. Sweetbriar Rose is on the Western Route so you can grab lunch and a beer between checking out the fantastic local wine!

Vine and Wine Adventures offers a different approach. Their guides will choose specific wineries for each group based on where you will get the best experience, rather than visiting them all. Feel free to make suggestions to the driver. Wherever you visit, you can be assured to taste some great wine and have fun along the way. You can also schedule a private tour to ensure you get to the wineries you want most.

Whatever you choose to do on your trip to the Texas Hill Country, we hope you take some time to visit us at Sweetbriar Rose. For a little more about us, check out our website, or read this blog about what we do. We would love to meet you, and serve you some delicious food and drinks. We love all things Texas, especially the Hill Country.