Meet Erika Thompson, the founder of Texas Beeworks – a beekeeping company based in Austin, Texas with a mission to preserve, protect, and increase honeybee populations.
Thompson has more than 100 hives across five counties in the Austin area, which works out to more than 5 million bees.
She also helps relocate bee hives — often without wearing protective gear.
In a recent viral video on TikTok, Thompson can be seen scooping up bees by hand while removing the honeycomb.
“I wear protective gear when I need to, but since I work with bees almost every day I’ve learned to read their behavior and could tell that these bees, like most honey bees, were very gentle and would not try to sting me,” she said.
“I love my job! I’m the luckiest person in this world,” says Thompson, who quit her office job to pursue her passion for beekeeping.
Thompson says people always ask how she makes a living as a beekeeper without harvesting or selling honey.
One way is giving property owners a special agricultural tax exemption by placing one of her hives on their property for an annual fee.
“This opportunity means there are more honeybee colonies being kept across Texas than ever before,” she said.
She also does bee removals and offers bee education classes to new beekeepers.
“My mission is to see Texas bees and beekeepers thrive and offering educational programming is one of the best ways to do this.”
In this video, Thompson educates us on a fascinating bee behavior called “festooning” which is how bees work together to build the amazing honeycomb structure of a beehive.
“They link their legs together to form a little living chain of bees, and while we know this behavior is associated with building honeycomb—the exact reason why they do this remains a mystery. Some people think festooning is a way of measuring the distance they need to build comb, or to act as scaffolding to pass wax from one bee to another, or to raise the temperature inside the comb construction zone to make the beeswax malleable, or even to create blueprints for future honeycomb. Whatever the reason, I think it’s absolutely amazing and it’s a great example how tens of thousands of honeybees can work together peacefully for the good of the colony.”