Good Morning McKinney!
Friends, today I want to tell you a story about Warne Bee Farm (pronounced “warn”.) In the early spring when I read a book called The Bee Keeper’s Ball–remember I reviewed it here–I became fascinated with bees and how highly intelligent they are considering they are insects. I decided to reach out to a local apiarist, and looked no further than my own pantry to the honey I purchase each week from Local Yocal.
AP Warne kindly invited me out to his family’s home just north of McKinney and into the Honey House, the little house on the family land, where Warne Bee Farms operates. When I asked what got him started AP replied, “My grandfather was a commercial bee keeper in the 1920s, so it probably began with him.” I learned AP’s grandfather also provided bees wax to the military during WWII which was used to coat gun powder on ships because it keeps the ammunition dry and burns clean. Three generations of Warnes have been keeping bees, and AP’s plans for expansion are grand. Apiarists are classified by the amount of hives they control. A Hobbyist has up to 20 hives; a Sideliner may have a few hundred; and Commercialists control thousands. Although he began with 5 nooks (1 queen and a cluster of bees) back in 2000, as of now, AP has about 200 colonies. His goal is to get to a thousand in the next five years.
Like I said before, Bees are fascinating creatures. 90% of the entire colony is female. The hive consists of one Queen, Worker Bees and Drones. The Queen’s sole purpose is to lay eggs–she lays up to 1000 eggs a day! She will live 5-6 years and is larger in size than all the other bees. When AP opened up several of the hives for me to observe and photograph (I stayed in the truck!) his expert eye was able to find her easily. He even showed me the queen’s cell where she was born–the Queen’s is always bigger than the rest. The entire hive is controlled by the Queen and her pheromones. Worker Bees are also female. They will live around 6 weeks in the spring and summer and up to 3-4 months during the winter; they literally work themselves to death. Their sole purpose is to gather pollen from flowers and bring it back to the hive to make honey and royal jelly. They never mate, but are able to lay unfertilized eggs which will become Drones. A Drone is a male bee. Their sole purpose is to mate with the Queen–which they do in flight. Once the mating is complete, the Drone dies.
The pollinating Workers do is what make bees so important to our world. 1 in every 3 bites of food is directly impacted by bees. Local farmers reach out to AP if they need their crops pollinated. In fact, he had recently taken some bees to a Watermelon patch in Comanche a few days before we met. Warne Honey is marked by a sticker stating whether it is local (within 100 miles), or made from bees pollinating Wildflowers, Mountain Cedar, Clover, Alfalfa etc…”Alfalfa honey,” AP tells me “is the sweetest.”
I also learned that afternoon at the Honey House that honey is composed of 2 different sugars: fructose and glucose. FUN FACT: Tupelo Honey is missing the fructose, which keeps it from crystalizing with age and is safe for diabetics to consume. When I asked AP what the deal is with allergies and honey, he explained it all has to do with pollen. For example, if someone is set on only purchasing local honey to combat allergies, then the bees that make that honey only have access to what grows local. If you are allergic to ragweed, and ragweed doesn’t grow locally, then local honey won’t help. You need to find honey made from bees that are pollinating what you are allergic to. Luckily for us, the Warnes have access to honey made all over Texas and even parts of Louisiana.
Friends, there is so much more I could tell you about bees and the Warne Bee Farm, but for now, I’ll let you know where to find them. You can visit their website. You can also find them at the McKinney Farmer’s Market and at Local Yocal.