- By: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact: Mark Dykes, 979-845-9714, email@example.com
Beekeepers are as busy as their bees this spring
COLLEGE STATION — Beekeepers have been making their annual rounds pollinating crops for Texas producers, according to Texas Apiary Inspection Service chief inspector Mark Dykes, College Station.
Dykes said beekeepers typically trek to California in early February for lucrative almond pollination jobs before returning to Texas to pollinate spring crops and build up their hives.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service estimates there are 85,000 beehives in Texas and 120,000 migratory hives that pass through the state.
“Every operation is unique,” Dykes said. “Some do pollination. Some do a combination of honey production and pollination and others do just honey production. Some just sell queens and beehives. There is a little bit of everything.”
Beekeepers take hives to central Texas to pollinate apple orchards and watermelon fields. Some take their bees to cotton fields around the state, which is good for honey production. Others travel to southeast Texas where abundant Chinese tallow trees provide bees forage for honey flow, Dykes said.
Some beekeepers even head to the Dakotas for the spring honey flow. Prior to leaving for the Dakotas many of the beekeepers split their hives to increase hive numbers. Beekeepers split them and add a queen to create a new hive, he said.
Pollinating fields can be good business because of the demand from crop producers, Dykes said. But hive fees vary.
Beekeepers can charge up to $190 per hive in the California almond fields, while they might receive up to $70 per hive to pollinate watermelon fields in Texas, he said.
Dykes said more and more small-scale beekeepers are popping up around the state since the Texas legislature provided an agriculture exemption for beekeeping on small acreage. The influx of interest has created a market for medium- and large-scale bee operations to produce hives to sell.
Small-scale beekeepers may have hives for the tax exemption, as a hobby or to pollinate gardens and produce honey, Dykes said.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “It’s a very busy time of the year for bees and beekeepers.”
The Texas Apiary Inspection Service operates under Texas A&M AgriLife Research.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Some farmers were able to get into the fields to cut small grains for silage and bale hay. A few harvested oats. Dryland corn looked excellent. Pastures and rangeland looked really good. Cool nights slowed Bermuda grass growth but cotton conditions improved immensely. Corn and grain sorghum conditions remained promising. Cattle and livestock remained in great condition as pastures improved and all stock tanks filled. Fruit trees looked to be full of fruit due to the light winter and good rains. Temperatures rose to the upper 80s and lower 90s. All counties reported good soil moisture and good overall crop, range and pasture conditions. Livestock were in good condition in all counties as well.
ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions remained favorable for producers in portions of the district as soil moisture content remained adequate. Pastures were in good condition and livestock had plenty of grazing. Some ranchers took advantage of the wet conditions and grubbed mesquite trees. Winter wheat has about played out as producers continued to graze fields off. Cotton farmers continued to clean up fields, list up beds and prepare for planting. Some cotton acres should be planted within the next few weeks. Good soil moisture and forecasted rain had producers anxious to start planting. Fewer planted cotton acres were expected because of low cotton prices, but some producers expected to plant crops because there were no other options. Wheat was maturing well throughout areas that received adequate moisture.
COASTAL BEND: Weather conditions were favorable in some areas but other areas needed additional rainfall for row crops and pastures. Most fields were progressing well as corn started to tassel, grain sorghum neared the boot stage and cotton was nearly squared. Rice and soybean planting resumed. Sugarcane aphids were reported in a few sorghum fields. Herbicide applications on pastures and hay were applied and cotton fields were sprayed for fleahoppers. Pecan producers were spraying insecticide for pecan nut casebearer control. Livestock were in good shape and cattle remained in good to excellent condition as cattle prices waned some. Cattle inventories were higher than last year and demand was still fairly strong.
EAST: The region was wet and the ground saturated. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were adequate to surplus. Pasture and range conditions were mostly good. Pond levels were up. Continued rainfall was hurting grass, pasture and crops in Houston County. Corn conditions were poor and more rain was expected. The south end of Cherokee County received up to 8 inches of rainfall. There were also tornadoes that destroyed fences, barns and working corrals for some individual producers. Panola County producers had forages transitioning from cool-season to warm-season but with nighttime temperatures still remaining in the 50s, the warm-season forages were not doing much. Counties in the northeast area of the region were drier. Gregg County producers continued with applications of herbicides and fertilizer. Producers in Smith County began to cut and bale hay in some areas. Winter pastures looked good in Wood County. Some producers were making haylage out of clover and winter pastures. Farmers were working and planting their gardens. The cattle market dropped for 500-pound calves and lighter but was slightly up for larger calves. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Spring cattle work was still underway in Smith County. Fly control for livestock continued.
SOUTH PLAINS: Light rainfall across the county amounts ranged from a trace to 0.25 inches. In Bailey County, planting continued and silage harvest began on winter forage crops. Subsoil and topsoil conditions in Cochran County still needed additional moisture. Producers were planting and irrigating. Pasture, range and winter wheat were in fair to good condition. Floyd County producers received some light showers that amounted to a few tenths of an inch. Producers continued to plant corn and should start planting cotton soon across most of the county since temperatures have been warmer. Generally, the district needed more moisture to help crops get started. Cotton planting began in Garza County. Cotton acreage was expected to be close to the average of 42,000 total acres. More rain was needed to wet the topsoil for cotton planting. High winds caused topsoil moisture from recent rainfall to dry out. Range and pastures were in mostly good condition but rainfall will likely be needed to sustain warm-season grass growth. Livestock were in mostly good condition. Hockley County received traces of rain and experienced high winds with cool night temperatures. Cotton planting should start in earnest soon. Lubbock County continued to experience warm, windy weather. Widely scattered very light rain showers occurred. Planters were rolling in cotton, corn and sorghum fields. Dryland wheat was turning color. Lack of rainfall during grain fill was expected to limit wheat yield potential in most fields. Scurry County did not receive any rain. Rain was needed for all agricultural producers there but the outlook was still positive. In Swisher County, farmers were busy planting corn, cotton and some early sorghum. Most were optimistic that the recent rainfall events would enhance seed beds, however, many farmers have been pre-watering fields since late March. More wheat was harvested in Swisher County but producers were concerned about the late freeze after some rust and white and blank heads were found. Some producers were adding cattle because of lower cow and feeder prices. Winter wheat in Yoakum County was 100 percent headed and most fields were cut for hay already. Producers began to plant peanuts and had possibly 5 percent of the crop in the ground.
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near average and moisture was received in some areas of the district, ranging from a trace to a half inch. Corn and potato planting were very active in Dallam County. Other fieldwork included application of herbicides and swathing and baling wheat hay, plus other field preparations. Alfalfa was progressing well and the first cutting will begin soon. Wheat was mostly headed and doing well after April rains. Cattle were being moved to grass and pastures, which looked good with fewer weeds compared to last year. Spring calving was winding down for some producers. Spring breeding season will begin soon. Horn fly numbers were increasing rapidly. Planters in Deaf Smith County were busy in corn, cotton and grain sorghum fields. Grain sorghum producers planted early hoping to avoid effects of sugarcane aphids. A few early planted corn plants started to peek through the ground and irrigation pivots were watering the new plantings. The winter wheat crop suffered through disease and rust issues with planes applying fungicides as fast as they can. However, the crop looked fairly good due to recent hot, dry winds and the dryland crop was still progressing. Stripe rust was a major problem in Lipscomb County winter wheat. About 15 percent of winter wheat crops in Moore County were destroyed by hail. Wheeler County producers were swathing dryland wheat for hay as yields looked marginal due to lack of rain. Native and improved pastures were greening up nicely and forage conditions improved. Cotton planting was expected to begin soon. Cattle were in good condition. Rangeland and pastures were mostly fair.
NORTH: Topsoil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the counties. Over 7 inches of rain was received from storms that rolled across the county. The heavy rains put a stop to most farming activity due to wet fields. With all the rain, pastures were doing very well and winter annual pastures were maturing. Bermuda grass pastures were starting to grow as temperatures warmed into the 80s. Some crop fields were standing in water and had turned a pale green to yellow color indicating too much water. Cotton planting remained on hold. Some producers started cutting hay but rain was in the forecast. Cool night temperatures suppressed warm-season grass. Stable fly populations increased. Livestock continued to have foot problems due to excess rain. Feral hog activity was very high.
FAR WEST: Culberson County had windy conditions and rain reports ranged from a trace amount to 0.05 inch. Wheat crops in Glasscock County were maturing early due to high winds. Corn and sorghum was up and looked good. Producers in Pima County have been planting acala cotton and a few producers started planting upland seed. Overall soil moisture was good but another good rain would help planting. Pastures were green and looked good. Howard, Hudspeth, Reagan and Val Verde counties reported warm weather conditions. Presidio County had low humidity and high winds, which created high fire danger. Cattle continued to receive supplemental feed and were consuming large amounts of minerals. Reported cattle deaths from mustard weed have slowed and stopped in some areas. Conditions in Upton County were warm and windy. Winter wheat has headed and was starting to dry out. Some fields were expected to be ready to cut soon. Cotton planting was expected to begin in coming weeks. Spring sheep shearing finished with shipping of lambs was expected to start in late June. Ward County conditions were cool then warm and windy with no rain. Conditions in Winkler and Loving counties were dry but rain was forecast. Ector County received light, scattered showers and windy conditions. Overall, pasture and range conditions across the district were good but topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions were short.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were warming up. Strong windy conditions continued to dry out range and pastures. Showers were reported in a few areas but not enough to flood fields. Warm, sunny conditions allowed some producers to finish up planting and other field activities. Growing conditions were good. Subsoil moisture was expected get cotton crops off to a good start. Most summer annuals were planted. Spring seeded hay crops were being planted as fields dried out. Some sorghum sudangrass was planted for hay purposes. Producers cut and baled some grain fields. Row crop producers continued to prepare fields for cotton planting, which should begin soon. Wheat crops were progressing and looked very good. Harvest was nearing. Strong winds and storms may have damaged some of the standing wheat crops. Range and pastures improved, but weeds were abundant. Weed treatments and fertilizers were going out rapidly on improved pastures. Warm-season forages and grasses were growing well. Spring green-up had range and pastures in good condition. Stock tanks were full. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Ranchers let animals into oat fields. Cattle were fat and prices remained steady. Producers shipped several loads of yearling cattle that were heavier than expected. The pecan crop looked heavy.
SOUTHEAST: Brazoria County was spared from more rain but continued to deal with water from the recent rains. No rice was planted in Chambers County. The ground was still wet, but it was slowly starting to dry. More rice will be planted soon if the rains hold off. In Fort Bend County, the livestock were in good condition. Dry field conditions allowed row crop producers to fertilize and spray fields. In Montgomery County, winter annuals reached maturity and were ending their growth pattern. Wet conditions slowed pasture cleanup to promote summer grass growth. Waller County didn’t get any rain, but parts of the county continued to have standing water from recent rains. Brazos County experienced cooler than normal morning temperatures. In Harris County, most pasture and croplands were still retaining water. Most areas were in poor condition after the recent flooding and severe rainfall in Harris and surrounding counties. Great weather conditions allowed producers to work in fields in Grimes County. Rainfall levels in Hardin County were 6 inches above the normal for the year. Dams located north of the county were opening flood gates, which caused more localized flooding. A break from rain for several days was good, but more rain was forecast. Soil moisture levels throughout the district varied widely, mostly in the adequate to surplus range, with surplus being the most common. Waller, San Jacinto and Liberty counties reported 100 percent surplus. Lee County reported 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, mostly from excellent to good, with fair ratings being the most common. San Jacinto reported 100 percent excellent and Lee County reported 100 percent fair.
SOUTHWEST: Precipitation helped maintain good range and pasture conditions, and soil moisture levels were good in the district. Perennial grasses were growing with warmer temperatures and small grains faced intense weed pressure. Wheat harvest was expected to start soon if conditions remained the same. Corn and milo looked good and producers were cutting and bailing hay. Ponds, creeks and rivers continued to flow and maintain good water supply. Livestock remained in good condition, though parasites were a concern due to lack of freezing weather this winter. Horn fly populations continued to rise.
SOUTH: Conditions were beginning to dry throughout the district. Light showers occurred in some parts of the region but not enough to relieve range and pastures from high temperatures or improve soil moisture. Conditions were very favorable in Atascosa County for cattle and crops. No rainfall was received in that area. In Frio County, the weather was warm and dry, and potato and wheat harvesting began. Corn, sorghum and cotton crops were being irrigated. Bermuda grass fields in Frio County were being cut and baled, and pasture and range conditions remained fair to good but were beginning to dry out. Parts of Live Oak County received rain but not enough to make a good impact on the crops or rangeland. In McMullen County, soil moisture levels continued to decline with no rain. Range and pasture conditions continued to decline in quality as forage conditions were beginning to dry up. Body condition scores on cattle remained fair to good. Soil moisture conditions were 50 percent adequate in Atascosa County, 50-75 percent adequate in Frio County, 80 percent short in Live Oak County and 80-100 percent short in McMullen County. Very few crops have been planted in Brooks County. The little bit of planted haygrazer was not doing well because rain amounts were not adequate. Pastures were in fair to okay condition but could soon start showing signs of stress from lack of rain. In Jim Wells County, no significant rainfall was received, and topsoil conditions were starting to dry. Plant stress was not evident yet, but growth and vigor slowed down recently. Corn fields looked great, and yield potentials were good. Grain sorghum and cotton field conditions varied. A good rain event would benefit most crops. Hot conditions persisted in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Crops looked good but needed rain. Soil moisture conditions were 100 percent adequate in Brooks County, 50-100 percent adequate in Jim Wells County, 80 percent short in Live Oak County and 80 percent adequate in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Favorable weather conditions continued for forage production in Dimmit County. Conditions were sunny with low winds. The county needed rain to keep range and pastures green. There was still no rain in Maverick County. Temperatures were around 80 degrees. Coastal Bermuda grass was in good condition, and some farmers had already made the first cut of the year. A cold front brought cooler temperatures to Webb County before temperatures shifted into the 90s. Humidity was high, and range and pasture conditions were starting to dry up despite recent moisture. In Zapata County, hot and humid conditions persisted. There were some sporadic rains but nothing substantial. Topsoil had good moisture but moisture did not reach the subsoil. Mature small grains, side wheat and oats were harvested in Zavala County due to dry conditions. Cotton, sorghum and corn made good progress following irrigation. Carrot harvest was active and expected to end soon. Onion harvest began and was expected to gain momentum. Livestock producers continued to enjoy an abundance of available forage for livestock on native range and pastures. Also in Zavala County, sunflowers were at the blooming stage and crops looked exceptionally good. Conditions were favorable in the Cameron County area. Irrigation continued on corn, sorghum and cotton. Livestock were in good condition. There was a sugarcane aphid problem on sorghum and cotton, and some spraying was underway for both crops. Hay baling continued in select pastureland. In the Hidalgo County area, row crop irrigation was active and citrus harvest was winding down. Conditions were very hot in Starr County. No rainfall was reported. Range and pasture conditions continued to dry as a result, and spring row crops were progressing well. Soil moisture conditions were 90-100 percent short in Cameron County, 80 percent short to very short in Hidalgo County and 90 percent adequate in Starr County.