Turning Hive Problems into Bee Solutions

Raise your hand if you love fruits, veggies and most other produce? If you don't want to see your favorite type of berry or apple or squash go away, you may want to help honey bees do their job of pollinating said crops.

Though learning about colony collapse disorder (or the reason bees keep disappearing) can easily turn into a spooky, post-apocalyptic scenario, the reality is bees are considered a keystone species, any "plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions."

We need them to pollinate all the things we love to eat. So it stands to reason that instead of panicking next time a bee buzzes into your personal bubble — don't swat at it. Or, if you stumble across a hive: A) get inside and leave them be, and B) call the Bee Czar.

Born Walter Schumacher, this bee whisperer of sorts heads the American Honey Bee Protection Agency out of Austin. With bee crews — not to be confused with worker bees — across the state, Schumacher is trying to lend honey bees a helping hand. The nonprofit offers removal and relocation services at a suggested donation depending on driving distance, equipment needed and hive size. The other recourse, which Schumacher vehemently advocates against, is hiring an exterminator.

"It's a $40 million industry to kill honey bees," Schumacher said. "Death is their business."

He and his San Antonio crew relocated 10 beehives to the Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade, where the bees are "essentially paying rent to the hotel by producing honey," Schumacher said. The hotel then uses the honey in its restaurant or sells it at the gift shop and proceeds go back to saving more bees — paying for gas, boxes and labor. At least 30 beehives have been saved so far.

The American Honey Bee Protection Agency's other main tenet is education; classes are offered through Austin Community College and more are in the works in cities where crews are located, including Dallas, San Antonio and Kerrville.

The education trickles down to organizations like SA's Green Spaces Alliance, led by executive director Julia Murphy, which help rehabilitate beehives (and more than 300,000 bees) on 31 acres of land. The organization will host its annual gala (a Sweet Honey Soiree this year) on October 1, and the honey cultivated from the hives will be gifted to attendees.

"The function of pollination is essential to our livelihood — the bees are an unsung commodity," Murphy said.