Turtles Find Well-Beeing in Texas

Mar 28, 2022 | Mission-Aransas, Texas, Reserves

An injured sea turtle has had honey from Fennessey Ranch applied to a wound to promote healing.

Honey bees and sea turtles may seem like animal odd couples, but these two species are unique collaborators in two of the Mission-Aransas Reserve’s stewardship programs: Fennessey Ranch and the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK)

The University of Texas at Austin purchased a conservation easement on the privately owned Fennessey Ranch as part of the Mission-Aransas Reserve in 2006. The 3,261-acre wildlife oasis is home to diverse wildlife and an environmentally friendly business that profits from traditional livestock ranching, wildlife tours, hunting leases, and photography trips.

For the past 15 years, the Ranch has also supported a thriving population of honey bees and beehives. 2020 saw a record harvest, producing 40 gallons of honey, and the Mission-Aransas Reserve put that surplus to good use through the ARK’s turtle rehabilitation program.

Two apiarists tend to the hives at Fennessey Ranch.

Honey from Fennessey Ranch being applied to an injured sea turtle.

The ARK rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured birds, sea turtles, terrestrial turtles, and tortoises found along the South Texas coast and returns them to their native habitat. For the past several years, the ARK has used honey on injured turtles. With antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that help to promote wound healing, the honey also encourages healthy tissue granulation in wounds and helps to treat inflammation.

The partnership began in late 2020, when Alicia Walker, ARK Program Coordinator and Katie Swanson, Stewardship Coordinator and Fennessey Ranch Manager, were catching up over coffee and tea (presumably with honey). Alicia mentioned the use of honey on their injured turtles and how expensive it is, and Katie offered her honey from the Ranch. 

In 2021, the ARK rescued and/or received 113 live stranded sea turtles not including a large cold stun event, many of them treated with honey from Fennessey Ranch, located 40 miles inland.. Bees helping sea turtles … who would have guessed?

This story was adapted from this article by Joan Garland.

NERRA is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Coastal Zone Management Act—the legislation that led to the creation of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

ReservesMission-Aransas, TexasTurtles Find Well-Beeing in Texas