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Ag Valuation with Honeybees

Agricultural Valuation – aka “Ag Exemption” – with Honey Bees

Do you own 5 to 20 acres? Are you interested in saving hundreds, maybe even thousands on your property taxes each year (especially by preventing rollback taxes!)  ?     Are you a land developer that has properties that need to maintain Ag Valuation until building can begin – years down the road?

If so, having honey bees can help you qualify. We perform agriculture maintenance with our hives to land owners for a reasonable management fee. We do everything to manage and maintain the bees, and once qualified, you reap the rewards that ag-valuation provides for your property for the use of your land.

Have our Honey Bee hives to qualify for an Ag Valuation and leave the Beekeeping to Harmony Hollow Apiary.  Call Rex at 469-251-2BEE (2233) for more information and pricing.

May 2024 – we are adding new customers on an as-available basis – to continue (or start) your ag history for 2024.   New commitment requests will be quoted and filled as livestock are available. (Do NOT Wait til April to ask about hives – it takes time to build up the livestock for each colony).   Requests in late March and April will be filled as available.    State LATE deadline for 1-D-1 paperwork is April 30.

Texas law, effective January 1, 2012, made it possible for beekeeping to qualify for an Agricultural Valuation (commonly called “ag exemption” – see below) on property taxes. This is covered in the Tax Code under Chapter 23, Subchapter D, Sect. 23.51 (1) and (2).

An Agriculture Exemption is not actually an Exemption but rather a Special Valuation. If a portion or all of a property is deemed eligible to receive an Agricultural Valuation, that property will receive a Production Value along with its Market Value. The tax savings that a property receives depends on the current Market Value of the property and what type of Ag Valuation you are requesting. For example, Native Pasture areas may have a lower Ag valuation than Dry Crop areas and generally both are considerably lower than the market value that the taxes would normally be based on.  That is dependent on county.  (Some counties do not differentiate they type of agriculture activity, and have 1 rate for ag no matter the qualifying activity.  Other counties have different rates for different activities)

There are several key phrases and requirements to this law. Sect. 23.51 (1) covers the definition of “qualified open-space land”. Specifics state land that has an established agricultural use history for five of the preceding seven years. Record keeping is critical. Registration and permitting with Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS) helps establish this history. Wording of the law states agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area. Each local appraisal district sets their own standards as the accepted degree of intensity.  Most appraisal districts use a minimum of six colonies (beehives) as a standard. That is the accepted definition of an apiary from Texas bee law under the Agriculture Code, Title 6, subtitle A, Chapter 131, Sect. 131.001 (2).  (Which has just changed as of the 2023 Texas Legislative session- as they removed the number of hives definition).

Size of qualifying acreage is not less than 5 or more than 20 acres. Remember the definition of agriculture use. Losing an acre to a homestead exemption has to be accounted for on acreage. (check with your appraisal district to be sure, though -as I have heard of counties allowing the full acreage without removing an acre for the home)

Also, realize the landowner does not have to own the bees. You may hire the maintenance of bees from a beekeeper who owns the hives.    Again, keep accurate and complete records. The wording of the law states “the use of land to raise or keep bees for pollination or for the production of human food or other tangible products having a commercial value.”

Lastly, it is important to stress the fact that each local appraisal district can set their own standards and requirements for the beekeeping valuation. Please contact your local appraisal district for guidance and minimum requirements.   Some counties may want to see a copy of a bee maintenance agreement or land access agreement as part of your documentation before coming to evaluate your property for ag valuation.  Some require a special report be submitted annually.    Most county appraisal districts now have this information available on the county appraisal district website.

Benefits include:

  • Professional management and maintenance of beehives on your property
  • Annual Beekeeper Registration through the Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS)
  • Pollination for your property
    Contributing to the welfare of the honeybees
  • Annual Report listing harvested (and non-harvested if applicable) tangible products with commercial value.
  • Qualifying requirements for Harmony Hollow Apiary management include:

The site must be suitable for bees and provide the necessary elements for bees to thrive. A complimentary site visit will be scheduled for prospective clients.  A Honeybee Management Plan is included – and lists expectations of flowering plants that the landowner should seed or plant – for the benefit of honeybees and ALL other native pollinators.

Harmony Hollow Apiary must have unrestricted access to the location of the hives at all times.  (For locked properties – I can/will provide a lock to add to your chain of locks on a gate – or you can provide me with a gate code)

A 2-wheel drive vehicle must be able to access the area where the hives are located and park no further than 10 yards from the hives’ location.

Harmony Hollow Apiary reserves the rights of ownership to the bees, the equipment, and the products of the hives.

Honeybee Management Plan

Apiary Registration: As of 1 Sept 2023, Texas Apiary Inspection Service will no longer process “Apiary Registrations” – that has been changed in the last legislative session to “Beekeeper Registration”. The property owner can register as “the beekeeper”, or the beekeeper (if hired) can register as “the beekeeper” for the property. I personally register annually – and can list your property under my registration. The appraisal district MAY have upcoming guidelines listing who THEY want to see listed (either property owner, or hired beekeeper). That registration is NO LONGER FREE. It is now $35 per year.

https://txbeeinspection.tamu.edu/

For areas where you OWN the hives – You may need to pay the TAIS their fee ( $10) for them to issue a “brand ID number” to you.  (Otherwise – mark the hives or the apiary with an identifying name/contact info – which is perfectly acceptable to law enforcement or TAIS)

For hives that Harmony Hollow Owns – our ID number is marked on the equipment.

Your county appraisal district will have the 1-D-1 Application for you to fill out for ag use of your land.   Note:  Placement and management of hives on your land is NOT a guarantee that the appraisal district will approve ag valuation for your property.

We are based near the Dallas, Texas Metroplex. However, we cover a large portion of North and East Texas. Contact us to reserve bees for your property.

Registered with Texas Apiary Inspection Service, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University.   Copy of past transport permits for Harmony Hollow Apiary are available here:   http://www.bohemianutopia.com/permits/ (Note – as of Sept 1 2023 – There are no longer intrastate transport permits issued by TAIS).

I also recommend putting up a sign to warn people about the dangers of agribusiness (farm animals – which includes bees).   Harmony Hollow has signs for locations where we own the bees – and signs are available at a cost of $20ea for locations where the property owner owns the bees)

2024 Honeybee Removal Information

Rex Smith’s Honeybee Removal – 2024

 

*** As of January 2024 – Rex Smith / Harmony Hollow will no longer be performing structural removals of honeybees ***

I am referring people to the following resources for bee removals:

Ft Worth area –
Richard Siegrist – BeeRemovalz.com – 214-864-0695

Dallas Area:
Ryan Giesecke – Honeybee Relocation Services 214-577-9562

McKinney Area:
Pat Kelly – Kelly’s Bees Ness – 540-878-8024

Rockwall / Forney Area
Matthew Garza – 972-977-3351

All other areas of Texas:
Texas Assn of Professional Bee Removers ( TXAPBR.org )

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OLD BEE REMOVAL INFO AND RESOURCES BELOW

If you are in need of having a honeybee swarm picked up, or a full colony of bees removed from a structure – please see the following links for my contact information:  (These same links are in the top menu bar on this website as well.)

Also please understand that most bee removal specialists are overwhelmed beginning in March with calls.  In peak season I personally receive between 30-40 calls per day – and occasionally do several full removals per day, as well as manage 400+ hives for agriculture contracts.    If I do not answer the phone, I am probably in a hive – so please do leave a message and I will return the call as quickly as possible.

My bee line is 469-251-2BEE (2233) – please DO read the removal information links and FAQ links below, however.

I will ask you (a) How long the bees have been there.  (b) How high from the ground is their entrance.  (c) Your location, and (d) for any photos you can text to me to help assess the structure overall and zoomed in photos of where the bees are entering/exiting.

Removal Information:
http://www.bohemianutopia.com/wordpress/?page_id=2

Frequently asked questions (and my answers):
http://www.bohemianutopia.com/wordpress/?page_id=512

YouTube Channel  (Please Subscribe!!)
https://www.youtube.com/user/HarmonyHollowApiary

Facebook Page (Please “Like” the page!!)
https://www.facebook.com/HarmonyHollowApiaries/

Alternatively, feel free to consult the list of other professional bee removers in your county at the link below:

Rex Smith is a member of the Texas Association of Professional Bee Removers
https://txapbr.org/    #TxAPBR

 

Varroa Mite Management with your hives

Varroa mites are the latest finding in the plight of our agricultural (and hobby) European Honeybees.  The Varroa Destructor is known to be a vector (carrier for diseases) for several viruses, including (but NOT limited to:)

  • SacBrood
  • Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)
  • Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV)
  • Nosema Apis
  • Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV)
  • Lake Sinai Virus 1, Lake Sinai Virus 2 (LSV1, LSV2)
  • Acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV)
  • Kashmir bee virus (KBV)
  • Kakugo Virus
  • Varroa Destructor Virus 1
  • Israel acute paralysis virus (IAPV)
  • Slow Bee Paralasys Virus (SBPV)

(list source: http://articles.extension.org/pages/71172/honey-bee-viruses-the-deadly-varroa-mite-associates )

While there is a rift in some beekeeping circles and groups about whether varroa mites can be managed with breeding “varroa resistant” or with “hygienic behavior” in bees – the fact remains that if bees are bred to coexist with – or to tolerate the varroa mites, then the colonies are subjected to a variety of possible diseases.  Folks that are “treatment free” – should still perform varroa mite count tests – and not be disillusioned about the fact that mites are in your hives.

Another option is to use scientifically bred lines of queens that produce workers that do indeed perform hygienic behavior as a method of culling affected brood that has been infected with mite progeny (offspring) )from a reproductive foundress (female founding) mite.  Research on this line of selective breeding can be found through Arista Bee Research Labs around the world.

A fantastic resource for learning to do mite-counts and various treatment methods is available at :
https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/ (link will open in new tab or window)  This has been updated in June of 2018 – and also includes links to videos showing how to perform mite-counts as well as several treatment methods.

Monitoring methods

Varroa mites can be monitored with any of several methods.

Alcohol Wash (or soap/water wash)

Sugar Roll

My personal take on monitoring methods is this:  If you are going to be taking measurements for ANY metrics – you want as accurate of a sampling as possible.   I do NOT believe that a sugar-roll will give you as accurate results as other methods.   Yes – that means that some bees will be sacrificed for the greater cause of knowing your mite loads.   If you’re going to collect data – make sure it’s ACCURATE data.

Treatment Methods

Dealing with varroa is a delicate and tricky proposition – when it is considered that we are trying to eliminate a “bug ON a bug”.  And the host bug (apis mellifera – or honeybee) we want to thrive and be healthy.

A variety of treatment methods can be employed.  I’ll also say, though – that some have proven to be ineffective.   See this video link for a quick overview.

  • VSH Lines of honeybees (Added Nov 2019)
  • Oxalic Acid (OA) Vaporizing
  • OA Fogging
  • OA Drizzle
  • OA Long Release (shop towel or Swedish sponge application)
  • Thermal Heat Treatment of the hive (added Jan 2019)
  • Apiguard
  • Formic Acid
  • Drone Brood Culling
  • Brood Break
  • Thymol (in various application methods)
  • Screened bottom boards (ineffective – not a control – but as a monitoring method)

There are many more treatment methods that were found on the internet while researching treatment methods.  Some – such as using screened bottom boards – have been dis-proven to be effective by themselves – however MAY be an aide to help another method be more effective.  Regardless – it is recommended that you employ at least two methods for varroa control.

Newer methods of applying Oxalic Acid are being experimented with by several researchers, including Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping, and others in Central Texas.

Randy’s OA results are shown here: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/oxalic-shop-towel-updates/
and his 2022 end-of-year report is here: https://scientificbeekeeping.com/2022-extended-release-oxalic-oae-update-part-2/
and importantly:  https://scientificbeekeeping.com/instructions-for-extended-release-oxalic-acid/

(Jan 2019) – Experiments with using thermal heat treatments of the hive have proved effective for varroa management.  In essence, the hive is heated to 106 deg. F for about 2 hours.  This mimics the temperature that is achieved in nature that is associated with hive overcrowding for swarming action.  This temperature also is that which the varroa cannot survive.  When the hive temperature is raised to 106 deg. F. – the mites attached to the bodies, and those that are in the brood cells are killed – thus breaking the mite’s life cycle – and allowing the colony to move forward with fresh brood that is healthy.

Sources:

Honeybee Health Coalition:  https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/

Arista Bee Research Labs https://aristabeeresearch.org/

Randy Oliver – Scientific Beekeeping – https://scientificbeekeeping.com/2022-extended-release-oxalic-oae-update-part-2/

Mighty Mite Thermal Industries – https://www.beehivethermalindustries.com/how-it-works/

Dave Cushman – http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/varroatreatment.html

Photo from: https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2017/08/09/central-bee-health-threat-varroa-mite-parasite-may-manageable-using-oregano-oil/

 

Central Texas Bee School – Brenham Tx – 3/2/2024

If you’re available to attend the Central Texas Bee School on March 2, 2024, it’s a great place and opportunity to learn more about bees and their management.

 

Rex Smith will be teaching (2) sessions – on performing hive inspections at the bee school.

Sign up ASAP to reserve your space.

https://centraltexasbeekeepers.org/bee-school/

 

DIY Winter Nutrition Bricks for the Bees

For colonies that are more active, and may eat through their natural stores – I make winter nutrition bricks.   They initially have a consistency of damp sand, and are dehydrated into bricks that I place on top of the frames of the bee hives.

Here’s my particular recipe.   Everyone who makes their own – has their own favorite ingredients to add.  I tend to keep my recipe simple.

  • 50 Lbs Sugar
  • 4 Cups Pollen Substitute
  • 1 Cup Sea Salt
  • 4-1/2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Mix (I use a cement mixer), place into brownie/cake pans, tamp it down, dehydrate for a few days…. Then place on the hives.

 

https://youtu.be/-NQoSFE5u1o

 

Thanks for watching!   If you make your own – put a comment into the comments area of teh video to let me know what you put into YOUR winter nutrition for your bees.

Free Plans and Video – Leopold Bench/ DIY Back Yard Bench

The attached video and plans will show how the bench designed by Aldo Leopold is cut and assembled.

These plans are freely available – and I ask that you watch my video on building your own.  Though – watching the video is not necessary – it is helpful.

 

 

 

Leopold Bench Plans with 2×6 (pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beekeeping Changes in 2023

This year, legislation was passed that was an overhaul of Texas Agriculture Code for beekeeping.  This is Chapter 131 of the Texas Agriculture Code.

The following letter was sent from the Texas Apiary Inspection Service in regards to some of the changes that take effect on Sept 1.

Changes coming September 1st, 2023 to the Texas Apiary Inspection Service. The Texas Beekeeper’s Association (TBA) has worked for several years to update Chapter 131, “The Bee Laws.”

HB 4538 passed in our recent legislative session and will take effect September 1st, 2023. Many thanks from Texas beekeepers to Representative Kyle Kacal and State Senator Morgan LaMantia for their work in making this happen.

ALL REGISTRATIONS WILL BE NULL AND VOID ON SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2023
!
Registration will not be required, but if requested, a $35 fee will be assessed. Registration will be valid through the end of the fiscal year and must be renewed each September 1st.
Intrastate permitting will be repealed. No longer will there be restrictions on moving bees across county lines. Beekeepers doing live removals will still be required to pay the $35 fee for the annual registration, but it will be a different form as opposed to the Removal Transportation Form.

Apiary definition will have “six or more” struck.

Beekeeper – means a person who owns, leases, possesses, controls, or manages one or more colonies of bees for any personal or commercial use.

In situations involving Ag Valuation/Exemption, the beekeeper and/or landowner can decide who should register.


The law changes the registration to “beekeeper” registration, not “apiary” registration.

The focus will still have space to place apiary location(s).

Beekeepers moving bees into and out of Texas will no longer have to do separate Importation and Exportation permits. One Interstate permit will replace these. This permit will be an annual fiscal year (September 1st – August 31st) operational permit with a fee of $250. Beekeepers can then come and go with bees.

The fee for a requested inspection (by TAIS) will increase to $100.

We ask patience of everyone as we make these changes. Feel free to reach out to us with questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
Bill Baxter (Interim Chief Apiary Inspector)
And
Hannah Blackburn (Apiary Inspector)

Pallet Porch Couches

At one time – I wanted to be a Palleteer!

A friend mentioned that she’s like some benches to sit on and enjoy her back porch.  I figured I could help out with that – and move along some of the stack of pallets I’d accumulated for such projects.

Unfortunately, these are all the pics I have of the pallet couches.

After initial assembly, I realized that the seats needed more support.  So I added fence-slats that match the thickness of the existing boards – to fill in the blanks.

She found some patio cushions on clearance at a national chain hardware store to put on for the seats and backs.

Easy to build bench

A friend was needing a spot for guests to sit and remove / put back on shoes before entering her home and leaving the home.

This is a very simple design, made with a scrap 2×8 – cut in half, and scrap 2×4’s cut to the shape of a box – to form the legs.   Very simple.  Make yours as tall or short as you need, and as long as you need.

 

Coming Home Magazine

Coming Home magazine is a publication focused towards community living and HOA demographics.

Karina Burnett -Senior Copyrighter interviewed Rex Smith of Harmony Hollow Apiary – to learn more about bees and what a beekeeper does.

Here’s a link to a digital copy of the Summer 2023 edition containing the interview – my interview starts on page 8.

https://www.cominghomemag.com/coming-home-magazine/summer-2023-coming-home-magazine

https://www.cominghomemag.com/

Note:  Update: In Question 1 – Bees pollinate plants – they do not fertilize them.

Texas Legislation to watch – Beekeeping related

This year is a legislative session year in Texas – and several proposed bills would affect the beekeeping industry.    I’ll provide a brief synopsis and link to the bill info – and present my opinion as to whether I personally support the bill.   Some are in relation to honeybees and beekeeping as related to ag valuation of land in Texas.   Some is in relation to processing of honey…

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HB-4538     Kacal     https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB4538/2023

6-13-2023 – Signed by Governor
Relating to the regulation of beekeeping; imposing fees and authorizing other fees; expanding the applicability of an occupational permit.

Texas Agriculture code for beekeeping has needed an overhaul for a LONG time – and these changes are to keep up with (a) the culture of agriculture and ease of documenting various ag valuation processes.     It clarifies and rewords some sections, and codifies come equipment that is allowed as “beekeeping equipment” in relation to performing honeybee removals from structures.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – SUPPORTS this bill.
———–
HB-2329     Bailes     https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB2329/2023

Postponed to March 2024 – Killed by a commercial beekeeper from Houston

Relating to honey production operations and the harvesting and packaging of honey and honeycomb.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – SUPPORTS this bill.
———–

HB-2769      Meza / Flores     https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB2769/2023

5-5-2023 – Sent to Ag Affairs – Killed

Relating to the repeal of the permit requirement for the intrastate shipment of bees.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – SUPPORTS this bill.

———–

HB-3857     Thimesch     https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB3857/2023
SB-1455      Paxton           https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/SB1455/2023

5-11-2023 – Referred to Local Govt. – Killed

Relating to the eligibility of land for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land.    This twin set of bills allows an expanded definition to allowable ag activity for agriculture valuation.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – SUPPORTS these 2 bills.

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HB-590       Bailes      https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB590/2023

3-30-2023 – Killed (passed to Ag affairs)

Relating to the labeling and sale of Texas honey.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – DOES NOT SUPPORT this bill.

———–

HB-2684      Burns     https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB2684/2023

5-10-2023 – Killed – Referred to Transportation

Relating to the issuance of oversize or overweight permits for vehicles transporting agricultural commodities during or preceding a disaster.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – remains NEUTRAL on this bill.

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SB-1892     Springer     https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/SB1892/2023

3-20-2023 – Killed – Referred to Local

Relating to the eligibility of land for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land based on its use to raise or keep bees.    This bill defines density level of colonies on properties.   This is NOT realistic in much of Texas because of our greatly varied natural resources.   What may be fine in one region of Texas – can be WAY too many bees for the amount of natural forage in other counties/regions.   Each county should be able to set the density level and time on property – based on the available forage.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – DOES NOT SUPPORT this bill.

———–

SB-2427     Zaffirini      https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/SB2427/2023

3-23-2023 – Killed – Referred to Local

Relating to the eligibility of land for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land.

Rex Smith and Harmony Hollow Apiary – DOES NOT SUPPORT this bill.

 

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Sowing the seeds….

This winter I am planning to add seeds to several bee yards.  I encourage every property owner that I manage bees for – to plant wildflower seeds to promote forage to help the bees.    In locations where no additional seeding has been offered to the Earth, I am doing some tests – with a goal of feeding manually to a much lesser degree than in the past.

I bought bulks cooking seeds from an Indian grocery store – where many spices and herbs come as bulk seeds – and are affordable.

Enjoy the video where I start germination tests on Mustard seed, Dill, Sesame (Brown and Black), and black peppers – on this time around.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM-REd49OqA