An Early Interest in Bugs Inspired This Texas Woman to Save the Bees In Her Community
Through Texas Beeworks, Erika Thompson educates the people of Austin, Texas about the important work of honey bees.
For Erika Thompson, being elbows deep in a honeybee hive is a normal part of her everyday routine. In fact, Thompson has been fascinated by bugs since she was a little girl.
"My first inclination even as a kid was that I always just wanted to touch bugs," Thompson says.
That curiosity has now blossomed into Texas Beeworks, which is built around educating people about the important role honeybees have in our environment, while also offering clients a sense of returned security through bee removal services.
Thompson's business started as organically as possible. She originally began her first beehive in her backyard as an effort to learn more about bees. That curiosity quickly led to making house calls for swarm and hive removals, offering workshops about beekeeping, and speaking about honeybees at events.
"Once I found bees, I knew my life was going to be different from the moment I went into my first beehive," Thompson says. "I never could have guessed that it would have been a business.
"I just didn't know many professional beekeepers."
But it turns out Austin, Texas, with its warm climate, is the perfect year-round spot for honeybees. And Thompson receives a different email every day with a new scenario that the bees have gotten themselves into.
Although it felt like everything stopped amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the bees in Austin continued to get themselves into sticky situations, which provided Thompson with a unique teaching opportunity during removal calls. Her calls would typically take place during the day while clients were at work, so no one would see her or the process of relocating the bees.
"Last year I started to have noses pressed up against windows or people on screened porches watching me," Thompson says. "I would try to bring pieces of comb or the hive over to show people, and that's when I first realized that other people may be as fascinated to see what the bees are doing as I am to see the bees every day."
Thompson now has over 100 hives nestled behind her pink house on the Colorado River and stationed at other farms and properties in the Austin area.
Most people would be squeamish at the thought of being surrounded by honeybees flying all around them, but Thompson says she has never really been afraid of working with the bubbly pollinators.
"We all make two choices every day: we choose to do things out of fear or out of love," Thompson says. "And when you approach a colony of bees, the only way to do that is to come from a place of love and not of fear."
Although Thompson does practice a healthy amount of fear – bee stings are an occupational hazard – when first approaching colonies because honeybees can be very dangerous. Before each removal, she spends time studying the hive or swarm to learn their habits and see what kind of removal will be best.
If you've seen any of Thompson's videos on TikTok or Instagram, you'll know that her preferred method of removal is to simply scoop up the honeybees in her hands. "It just feels like a humane way is to pick them up," Thompson says. The beekeeper is ultimately the only person who can make decisions for the bees in sticky situations, and Thompson hopes she's keeping the best interest of the bees in mind during removals.
She's also working with local and state representatives to protect honeybees from pesticides and other human decisions that may be harmful to the bees.
"Everything that I'm trying to do is just trying to get people to feel more connected to bees," Thompson says. "Because when you feel connected to something, you feel compelled to save it or to protect it.
"I hope that if I can make people understand bees and make them feel connected to them, then maybe they'll be more inclined to help them out."