AUSTIN (KXAN) — Buyer bee-ware: these license plates will result in research and education.

The Texas Honey Bee Education Association launched the Texas “Love Honey Bees” license plate on Tuesday, Sept. 1. and is banking on Texans’ purchases to pollinate their pockets so they can preserve and protect honey bees.

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

The license plate is available for sale online and at county tax assessor offices. Each costs $30 per year in addition to regular registration costs. You can order the license plate at any time and the cost will be prorated.

From each purchase, $22 will go to the Texas Honey Bee Education Association. That portion funds youth and beekeeper education programs, information resources for farmers and the general public, along with research programs to improve honey bees’ health and longevity.

Local perspective

Local beekeeper John Swan, who’s been at it professionally for five years, believes the license plates are the bees-knees.

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

“I think it’s great actually… This gives everybody access to a way they can help support education and research and funding for honey bees and support them without having the need to take care of a hive themselves.”

You can learn more practices to “love honey bees” on the education association’s resource webpage.

Education goes a long way in the world of honey bees “by utilizing best beekeeping practices, planting flowers in public spaces, and utilizing pesticides and herbicides only when necessary and not when honey bees are foraging,” Texas Beekeepers Association President, Ashley Ralph said in a press release.

Swan agrees. For him, the importance of honey bees is overshadowed by fear of the insects.

“People still have that fear of a flying, stinging insect. They associate them with wasps sometimes. So really, anything we can do to… help educate people on honey bees, make them know [not to] spray them with pesticides. They’re actually very beneficial, we need them, and for the most part, they’re not gonna cause any harm to you or your family.”

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

An importance that affects us all.

“They’re responsible for all of the types of food we eat. And it doesn’t matter necessarily if you’re a pure carnivore or if you’re a vegan. They’re responsible for the food chain and… how that all kind of comes together…”

The impact of honey bees dying off could be catastrophic, Swan said.

“Losing bees means losing a minimum of a third of all the foods that we hold dear: nuts, fruits, vegetables – all of these things are usually pollinated by honey bees and/or our native pollinators.”

Some fallout is already felt.

“The queen bee, for instance, she should be able to live up to five years. And in recent studies, one to two years is now the average, and a lot of that is due to these types of things we’ve been doing: eliminating their natural food sources, treating everything with pesticides. It comes back and has these systemic effects on the bees.”

Texas has an estimated 5000 beekeepers. Each provides pollination services and honey to other Texans. If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper, you can visit the beekeeper association’s website.

Pandemic pivot

“It threw up a lot of challenges for us,” Swan said.

Both associations had to get creative and find ways to get information out while educating the membership together without actually meeting in person. Normally they have a big conference and convention every year. However, they had to cancel both: June and November. To pivot to the pandemic, they created an online, virtual conference that’s gonna be open to anyone who wants to join. There won’t be any physical aspect to the learning but they can still receive the same quality of education, safely, Swan said.

“There are a lot of people, you know, that’s disappointing to them because sometimes that’s the only networking they get… but in this time, we all gotta do what we gotta do to keep everyone healthy and safe.”

The virtual convention will be held on Saturday, November 7. It’s an online symposium. Registration will be available on the Texas beekeepers’ website in the near future.