Welcome to Brueggen's Bees! We are so happy you have found our website and we hope you will find it informative, entertaining, and valuable. We are located in Shepherd, Texas and service the NE and Greater Houston Area with bee removals. We have local raw and treatment free honey and beeswax. We also have basic equipment and bees for sale by request.
My name is Tom Brueggen. I am the owner and operator of Brueggen's Bees. I say "I" as if I am the only one, but let me be quick to say that it would not be possible without my loving wife. She has kept me reined in and from going too crazy, and she cares for the family when I'm out "playing" with bees. For the most part, she lets me handle all the bee work, but helps out in clutch time, building boxes, harvesting honey, etc.
I grew up in northeast Missouri on a family farm. Mom and Dad both worked outside the home, and I was the youngest of 9 kids....yes I said 9! To help feed the herd, every year we kept a rather extensive garden, in addition to plenty of livestock. However, even with all the garden activities, we never kept bees. All I knew of honeybees growing up was that an Amish guy nearby kept bees and sold honey.
After attending college at the wonderful University of Missouri - Rolla (formerly, MSM, UMR, and now MS&T), I found myself in Houston, Texas pursuing my career. Upon moving to Houston, we got a house with a nice back yard, and I commenced to tilling it for a garden. A few months later I began to observe poor pollination in the garden, got to reading and researching honeybees, and the rest is history!
Videos (cheap entertainment)
For the whole story, see the links below. For most recent work, just go to the bottom link, or search "Brueggens Bees" on YouTube (or just click the name!)
Beginning to 10/6/2012 - check out "beekeeping" and "honeybee removals" and "DIY Beekeeping"
9/11/2014-5/5/2014 - It's all about bees!
5/13/2014-Present - Even more all about bees!
Get some popcorn....
The whole beekeeping story started with a simple problem; poor pollination. It was the summer of 2011, and Texas was thick in the middle of a historic drought. Daytime temps soared well above 100F for nearly a month, and it was windy too, parching everything. It didn't rain from April to October if I recall. I prayed as a tropical storm targeted western Louisiana, but Houston was on the "clean" side. We ended up with a misting of rain, not even enough to settle the dust.
Anyway, despite the drought, I had a small watermelon patch that seemed happy as could be. Plenty of blooms, but no good fruit set. I got to reading on line and it was clear, I just needed pollination. Two choices: get pollinators, or do it myself via hand pollinating. Now I love gardening, but I was not excited about the tedious work of hand pollinating plants. I started reading about bees and was hooked immediately. The more I read, the more I wanted to know.
I pitched the idea to m wife, and it was much as I expected. NO! She laid out a myriad of reasons why it was not a good idea, including the fear for our kids (which didn't exist at the time). Now she is an engineer for a living like me. So like a good engineer, I built a spreadsheet to explain my plans. I put in all my anticipated costs for the first year, and even planned to sell a bit of honey to be optimistic. It showed in year 1 I'd take a small loss, but it's a hobby, so OK. But in Year 2 I'd split the colony in half, with no more real capital expense, and so my honey production should double and I was in the black! Then I projected the sheet out to 20 years, so by the end I had something like 800 colonies and was earning ~40-50K per year. So with that she said "OK, you can get ONE colony. Just one!" Back then it was all based on honey sales. I think I rolled in some commercial pollination along the way. But a few key drivers I missed were removals and selling bees, which is primarily what I do now. Selling honey to others is a small fraction, about enough to cover the cost of jars and the time it takes to process it all. If you're interested in the honey by the way, check out my options and prices.
Before I even ordered my first package, I posted an ad on the local classifieds that I was looking for a swarm. And I went ahead and built my first hive. I went with a top bar hive (TBH) because I was cheap, and I wanted to let them build naturally. Oh I did get a reply to my ad, and one night went and picked up a tiny softball size queenless swarm. Didn't know at the time and thought it was a good bit of bees. I kept them around for a few days, feeding them religiously, but they disappeared eventually.
So I ordered my first package of bees. I learned quick. You have to order well ahead of schedule. Ordering in December, I got the earliest delivery date for the next spring in early April. What!? Wait four months!? That's OK, four more months to read and learn. By the time I actually got my bees, I was so confident in what I read and understood, I was answering other beginners' questions on the forums.
Finally I got my bees. Easter weekend of 2012. I drove 3 hrs round trip to pick them up from the supplier. Like a kid in a candy store, I was amazed. I plopped the screen box in the back seat and headed home. My father-in-law was along for the ride and thought it was neat. If only he knew what he was in for! No events on the way home, but in the years to come I've drug him out on multiple removal calls, had him help harvest honey, and even let him get stung once or twice while he was doing my yard work. He's a good man, always coming back for more!
Once home with the bees, it was time to set them up. All my reading indicated that packages are very docile, like swarms, because they have no reason to be defensive. I took that for granted and started in with no suit on. And just as soon as I pulled the feed can, one shot out and hit my right below my nose on my upper lip. YEEOUCH! I ran to the house, full expecting my face to swell. Once my eyes and nose stopped running, I donned my jacket and headed back out. And it turns out, I never swelled at all. Lucky! The rest of the setup went well, and in the coming months the bees started building out nicely. Almost too nice in fact. After not even two months, they had out grown the TBH. I decided to split, and it went so well that I went from 1 colony to 4. Remember how I was only supposed to have ONE...? I was hooked! Then I started doing removals and catching swarms. I even had a guy give me two full strength colonies because he just didn't have the time to care for them.
It snowballed so fast! By the end of year one I had around a dozen colonies. Then by end of year 2 I was up to about 25, and at my peak in 2013 I had 33 colonies. I found my glass ceiling as one man to be about 30 colonies. At that point I start losing them because I can't keep up. So now when I get up over 15-20 I'll sell a few colonies, or lose them against my will, or what have you. I caution everyone I teach with my story. It can be addicting! But, I guess there are worse things in life to be addicted to.
As they say, the rest is history. I encourage you all to take a ride along from the beginning to see all I've been through and learned (the hard way usually). I hope it will help you to not repeat some of my mistakes.
So take a look around, see what you can learn, see what you like and don't, and let me know!