It’s the Bee’s Knees!

Written by Kay Boothe

April 1, 2021

Story by Sarah Naron

For many people, the thought of being surrounded by bees is a fairly nerve-wracking one. For Dan and Karla Rudebusch, it is simply an ordinary experience. The couple owns and operates Rudy’s Honey in Livingston, an establishment which produces honey as well as various products made from honey and beeswax, such as skincare items and candles.

Karla explained that the business got its start after she and her husband – who are both originally from Nebraska – purchased beehives to lend a hand to her brother-in-law

“The town we lived in had a lot of beekeepers,” she said. “Dan’s brother had gone to the valley with a beekeeper, and he got paid in beehives. When he came back to Nebraska, he was kind of broke, so Dan bought some of his beehives.”

Dan went on to spend one year employed by a beekeeper in North Dakota before returning to his home state and working for another beekeeper based in Randolph, eventually purchasing the business for his own.

“We went to California for a couple of years during the winters, and our bees started getting sick,” Karla recalled. “The beekeeper that was in North Dakota had come to Texas, and we decided to come down here and healthy our bees up.”

The Southeast Texas environment, Karla explained, provides many benefits for bees.

“The abundant pollen and the warm nights are great,” she said. “A queen will only lay as big as her sphere, which is her colony. But on warm nights, she’ll lay outside of that. California is more of a desert and has cool nights, so the bees don’t really expand as fast as they do in Texas. And we’ve got the abundant pollen here, and you need that pollen. Pollen and nectar are the bees’ diet.”

The process of creating honey and beeswax, Karla said, begins with recuperating from bee losses which occur throughout the winter months and assembling new beehives, which are called nucleus colonies – nucs, for short.

“You’ve got death loss, and during the year, a queen will go bad or the bees just dwindle down to nothing because of all the diseases and stuff,” she explained. “So, starting in March, we make up our winter losses. I do all the grafting of the queen cells. We make up our new beehives, and come April, we go back out and check them.”

Typically, a nuc will begin with a population of 10,000 bees, which can quickly expand to more than 40,000.

“We make our honey crop in May,” Karla said. “And when that honey flow hits, you’ve got to have a big, strong hive. If you have a little, weak hive, it’s not going to produce for you. That’s the whole thing, keeping the bees healthy and big and strong.”

In early June, the process of collecting honey from the hives begins.

“The guys go out there, and they take those boxes of honey off and bring it back in,” Karla explained. “A box goes into a machine that brings the honey frames up and cuts each frame off the wax. Then, it goes into another machine that gleans the honey out, and all that goes into one more machine that separates the wax from the honey.”

The wax, which has an extremely fine texture at this point in the process, is then sent to be melted into large blocks, while the honey is collected in tanks and left to settle.

“Then, it goes into another tank, and we put it in barrels or totes,” Karla said. “Dan and I bottle our honey, and a lot of it goes out to wholesalers and some retail outlets. The boys sell their to a honey packer.”

Much of the honey produced at the facility, she added, remains in Texas.

The bees housed at Rudy’s Honey are also used to aid in pollination efforts, such as those of almond trees in California.

“This year, we sent three semi loads of bees,” Karla said. “They go out there at the end of January, and we get them back about the middle of March or so, give or take. That’s a big thing out there, pollinating the almonds. They need the bees to pollinate the trees.”

Rudy’s Honey is located at 7358 St. Hwy. 146 S. in Livingston. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday fro 8 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information, please call 936-327-3928 or visit www.rudyshoney.com.

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