To BEE or Not to BEE

Andrena Bee Picture

Andrena Bee Picture

To bee, or not to bee: that is the question: That indeed is the question? Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of the Texas Legislature or to take notice of another ag valuation. Nope we ain’t exactly quoting Shakespeare but our Texas Legislature added another agricultural use for the purposes of open-space appraisal.

 What was considered “ag use” prior to this change?

According to the Texas Tax Code Section 23.51(2), ‘‘Agricultural use’’ includes but is not limited to the following activities: cultivating the soil, producing crops for human food, animal feed, or planting seed or for the production of fibers; floriculture, viticulture, and horticulture; raising or keeping livestock; raising or keeping exotic animals for the production of human food or of fiber, leather, pelts, or other tangible products having a commercial value; planting cover crops or leaving land idle for the purpose of participating in a governmental program, provided the land is not used for residential purposes or a purpose inconsistent with agricultural use; and planting cover crops or leaving land idle in conjunction with normal crop or livestock rotation procedure. The term also includes the use of land to produce or harvest logs and posts for the use in constructing or repairing fences, pens, barns, or other agricultural improvements on adjacent qualified open-space land having the same owner and devoted to a different agricultural use. The term also includes the use of land for wildlife management.

 The Texas Tax Code Section 23.51 (2) was amended to include in the definition of agricultural use “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, provided that the land used is not less than 5 or more than 20 acres.”

This provision permits the owner to raise or keep bees for two purposes: (1) pollination or (2) the production of human food or products that have commercial value.

The second of the two options states that the food or products must have commercial value, not commercial production. While human food and products must be produced, the law does not require that they be sold commercially.

Commercial production of agricultural products, such as livestock or crops, is not required for land to qualify for open-space land appraisal under current law. The other option requires that the land be used for raising or keeping bees for pollination. Each county appraisal district should consult with agricultural extension office personnel and experts concerning the number of acres (between 5 and 20) and hives needed for this purpose.

Is this valuation good or bad?

 Depends on how you look at it. On smaller tracts, for example, if the county extension agent advises the landowner to have three hives on 10 acres should the neighboring properties have concerns about these hives? I love a garden and bees are pollinators. So, if my neighbor has hives, all I’d ask is for him to tell me the location of the hives so my family will know exactly what areas to avoid as to not disturb the bees.

 The other day I met a lady that was on a small tract of land about 20 acres. She moved a mobile home that was vacant for sometime. Inside that trailer was a hive of killer bees. Needless to say, she, her son and her husband all ended up in the emergency room with numerous stings from these vicious insects. Her pet wasn’t so fortunate and died two days later due to the number of stings inflicted on it.

 Overall, bees are a good thing. Did you know that there has been a marked decline in honeybee populations for the last 5-10 years? There has been so much of a decline that the agriculture industry (primarily crop producers) is concerned.

 The decline may be because of introduced natural threats such as Africanized bees and varroa mites, an Asian bee parasite. These threats have had a negative impact on the Texas bee business. Not only do honeybees pollinate some $587 million worth of crops every year in Texas, they also play a key role in pollinating wild plants.

 There are articles out on the web that state that pesticides are one of the contributing factors to the bee decline. One article I read states that the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and “Terminator Seeds” may be a cause for the decline.

 Genetically modified seeds are produced and distributed by some very powerful biotech conglomerates. These conglomerates have created seeds that reproduce only under certain conditions, often linked to the use of their own brands of fertilizer and/or insecticide.

 The genetic modification of the plant leads to the genetic modification of the flower pollen. When the flower pollen becomes genetically modified or sterile, the bees will potentially go malnourished and die of illness due to the lack of nutrients and the interruption of the digestive capacity of what they feed on through the summer and over the winter hibernation process.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know what you don’t know, then you know.”

Did you know that in Texas there are over 1,000 species of bees? Honeybees live in colonies that can number in the tens of thousands. Native bees are solitary and each nest is handled by a single female. There are some species that nest in the ground and live close to each other in loose aggregations. An example of a ground nesting bee is the Andrena Bee, also called the Mining Bee or the Sand Bee. This bee has no sting and is very beneficial. 



 Scooter Cheatham is the principal author of “The Useful Wild Plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico.” According to Mr. Cheatham, our diet is highly dependent on crops pollinated by domesticated bees; crops such as watermelons, cantaloupes, almonds, apples and citrus. Many farmers hire beekeepers to bring in hives to pollinate their crops. Beekeepers are successfully domesticating the bumblebee. Bumblebees are better pollinators than honeybees because of their larger, fuzzier bodies. Did you know that Bumblebees are native to Texas?

 So, what is the takeaway? If you have a smaller tract of land that is already ag qualified, then you may BEE able to get the land qualified for tax valuation purposes using bees. Hey, mayBEE your little contribution to the declining bee population could help out – well it’ll sure help the folks around you, no doubt. BEE safe!


  • Washington County Apiary

    We moved from a Washington County livestock exemption to the apiary exemption only to be assessed at a higher tax rate – much higher tax rate for bees as opposed to cows. We also lost our agricultural exemption on the 3.78 acres we own in Austin County due to our land being over 20 acres (20 in Washington/3.87 in Austin County). We were inspected no less than THREE times when we initially changed over to bees for our agricultural exemption. Our taxes jumped from 1800 per year to 2400 per year.

    We will probably put cows back onto our property and just keep our apiary as is. Fill the freezer with beef and our jars with honey while putting tax money back into our pocket.

    • TexasWildlifeGuy

      Thanks for that reply. If under traditional ag consider converting to wildlife management use. Same tax rate as you enjoy with cattle.