If you look at most any list of “best beekeeping practices,” you will probably find this item:

Remove old comb from the hive and replace it on a regular basis.

It’s one of those items that gives people like us — who are trying to be good beekeepers — a guilty conscience. We may remove old comb, but it’s not likely that we do it regularly or have any system about it.

But it could be that in not being aggressive about removing old comb, we have been doing the right thing all along.

My thinking has been directed this way as I have been considering the presentation that Jim Tew made to the Blount County Beekeepers Association in August. Tew is a retired beekeeping expert for Ohio State University and is now working with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.

In one of this presentations to the BCBA, Tew talked about what he had found over the years in feral hives. The bees would often build long combs, the lower part of which was dark and apparently unused — just like the old combs that we have in our hives. We’re not sure what this “old” comb is used for, he said, but it could be storage or it could be that this wax absorbs toxins and allows other parts of the hive to stay clear and clean.

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Scientists are Lund University in Sweden are finding that 13 lactic acid bacteria found in raw honey are possibly powerful agents in combatting infections, particularly those infections that have grown resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

People have known about the healing power of honey on open wounds for hundreds of years, but just why it works has not been clear.

According to the American Bee Journal:

While the effect on human bacteria has only been tested in a lab environment thus far, the lactic acid bacteria has been applied directly to horses with persistent wounds. The LAB was mixed with honey and applied to ten horses; where the owners had tried several other methods to no avail. All of the horses’ wounds were healed by the mixture.

The researchers believe the secret to the strong results lie in the broad spectrum of active substances involved. (quoted)

Here’s a video about the research produced by Lund University.



Key words: honey, healing powers of honey, lactic acids in honey, raw honey, Lund University, honey used to fight infections, bacteria, bees, honeybees, apitherapy, combatting infections

A big part of the battle to save bees and improve the environment for all of us is taking place, not in the fields and around the hives, but in the nation’s courtrooms.

One of those battles is being fought by an outfit named EarthJustice.org.

EarthJustice.org describes itself as

. . . the nation’s premiere environmental law organization, built on the belief that we all have the right to a healthy environment. Since our founding in 1971, we’ve defended that right by using the power of the law to fight for the earth and its inhabitants.

With nearly 100 lawyers on its staff, EarthJustice works in three areas:

One of the suits that EarthJustice is working on now is trying to get the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back its approval of the “pesticide Sulfoxaflor, shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor is a new chemistry, and the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the “neonicotinoid” class of pesticides, which scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse.” You can read more about this suit on this page on EarthJustice’s website.

EarthJustice has extensive information about bees and other environmental challenges. The graphic below is the first of a series of five (the others are reproduced at the end of this post) about the current status of bees in the environment.


EarthJustice.org is worth a long look.

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Crimson clover provides an abundant source of nectar during the early spring just as the hive is set to do some serious foraging.

If you want this to happen, however, you need to do some planting in September (as we said in an earlier post).

The blooms of crimson clover are red and showy and make a wonderful addition to the landscape. They last for two to three weeks, occasionally longer. They will give the bees a lot to do while they are waiting for the white clover to spring forth.

Here’s a video of some early spring foraging by some of our bees. It won’t be hard to spot the crimson clover.


Bees in Action from Jim Stovall on Vimeo.


Key words: clover, crimson clover for bees, crimson clover planting in September, honeybees nutrition, light honey, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

This won’t be any surprise to beekeepers or people who know anything about bees:

About 20 percent of the worker bees do most of the foraging. And when these foraging bees need to be replaced, other workers step into those roles.

Click on the image to see the New York Times video.

Click on the image to see the New York Times video.

This short video (1:32) from the New York Times makes that point and shows how scientists at the University of Illinois are tracking this social mobility behavior.

While it is sometimes useful to relate the behavior of bees to that of human beings, those comparisons may, in fact, limit our ability to understand what bees are really like.

Bees are insects. They are, as Jim Tew reminded us in August, wild animals. While we think of them as domesticated because we keep them in hives we build, that’s really not what they are.

Bees have a social system, one that works superbly well. The worker bees are equipped to do a variety of jobs inside and outside the hive, and they do those jobs as they see fit.

But to refer to them as “socially mobile” may be taking the bees-to-humans references a little too far.

Key words: social mobility of bees, beehives, social system of bees, worker bees, foraging, Jim Tew, Ohio State University, Alabama Cooperative Extension, jobs of the worker bees, University of Illinois, research on bees

We recently posted a short piece on the fact that bees need water, and it’s up to the beekeeper to make sure they have it.

This is a good follow-up to that post — especially since it reminds us that bees need water, no matter what season of the year.

The video below has our friend Jim Tew commenting on a short video he took of bees foraging for water, and he asks the question we don’t often ask (probably because it seems to obvious), “What are the bees doing when they forage for water?”

A couple of his comments:

  • You notice the abdomen of the bee pulsing when they are at the water. Are they somehow pumping the water in?
  • Are they getting more than water? Some have speculated that bees are also picking up trace amounts of minerals and natural salts they need.
  • They said near the water rather than in the water, it is thought, so as not to get their wings wet.


Water Foragers from osba on Vimeo.


Key words: bees and water, bees need water, beekeepers providing water for their bees, foraging for water, Jim Tew, Ohio State University, bees, beehives

One of the major threats to bees is pesticide usage, and beekeepers constantly complaint that farmers spray pesticides without regard to their neighboring hives.

In Florida, however, beekeepers and citrus growers are trying something different: cooperation.

A couple of years ago, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture called together citrus growers and beekeepers and other interested folks to form a plan to ensure the safety of beehives while also allowing Florida’s all-important citrus industry to make oranges and grapefruit for the rest of us. As Southeast AgNet reports, the plan they put into effect could become a model for the rest of the nation.

Florida will be a key part of a nationwide effort to improve cooperation and coexistence between growers and beekeepers. The department has been asked by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to partner with four other states to promote voluntary programs like the one instituted in Florida. (quoted)

The recommendations formulated two years ago included these (again, we’re quoting Southeast AgNet):

• Beekeepers should develop and maintain one-on-one communications with citrus growers who have groves where they would like to place their bees.
• Beekeepers should work with growers to reach written agreements providing permission to place hives in groves.
• Beekeepers should inform growers of hive locations, status, concerns and be willing to remove hives promptly if the need arises.
• Growers should consult the department’s online tool to identify beekeepers with hives in their areas.
• Growers should develop formal agreements with beekeepers detailing the responsibilities and liabilities of each party.
• Growers should develop a pest management plan that accommodates the likelihood of bees foraging during bloom.

There’s more information about all this at www.FloridaBeeProtection.org.


Key words: beekeepers, citrus growers, protection of beehives, pesticide use, Florida Bee Protection, Florida Commission of Agriculture, Southeast Agnet, protection of bees


The New Jersey Beekeepers Association has produced a beautiful eight-minute video calling for citizens in that state to plant “pollinator gardens” — spaces that have blooms attractive to pollinators that last all summer long.

The video lays out the reasons — well known to use beekeepers — why the non-beekeeping public should be concerned about pollinators and the steps we can all take to maintain the population of honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and other important insects.

Here’s the video. It’s well worth watching:


Key words: New Jersey Beekeepers Association, honeybee video, pollinators, pollinator gardens, beekeepers, flowers, blooms, flowers that bees like, flowers for pollinators, pollination, bees in trouble

We put in our first planting of crimson clover this weekend.

We do this, of course, for the bees.

Crimson clover produces a long, beautiful bloom that is full of nectar for the bees.

Crimson clover produces a long, beautiful bloom that is full of nectar for the bees. In our garden, we plant several patches (see those in the upper background).

If all goes well, here’s what will happen: The clover seed will germinate and sprout fairly quickly (especially if we get rain). The clover will grow at a reasonable speed this fall so that where we have planted it, the ground will be covered in a deep, dark green. The plants will maintain this color after the fall frosts and through the winter. When warmer temperatures begin to creep in  next February and March, the clover will start to grow in height.

By early April, we will begin to see some blooms sprouting. Usually, in the second or third week of April (sometimes earlier), the long, deep-red blooms will appear.

The next thing you see will be the honeybees, and they will be everywhere.

Bees love this stuff. They make a very light, very sweet honey out of it. One year, the crimson clover was so abundant that we used up all our equipment and had to do an early extraction (late May) in order to free up the equipment to store more honey.

The blooms last two to three weeks.

Once they are gone, we cut the clover and use it for straw elsewhere in our garden. Or, we gather it up, store it in the barn and spread it on our planting the next September.

Crimson clover has become part of the routine we have to maintain a good environment and nutritious diet for the bees.

We’ll be posting more about crimson clover later this month.

Here’s what the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education site has to say about crimson clover.


Key words: honeybees nutrition, crimson clover for bees, light honey, clover, crimson clover planting in September, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

Most of us — beekeepers and the folks who know them — know where our honey comes from.

IMG_1807But lots of people do not.

And there is a lot of bogus honey out there, particularly what is used industrially (rather than sold in stores).

The problem of bogus honey has been around for a while. In 2006 a petition went to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to come up with a definition of honey. The FDA refused.

Now the Agriculture Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is talking about coming up with a federal standard for the identity of honey. The folks there want public comments. Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, has sent out the following report:

Read the rest of this entry »

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If you're interested in joining the Blount County Beekeepers Association, call

Stephanie Tarwater


John McDade


Welcome to the web site of the Blount County Beekeepers Association in Maryville, Tennessee.

This site will tell you a little about the association and how to become a member. It will also tell you a little about beekeeping.

Bees are an important part of our environment and particularly our agricultural system. They are also fascinating creatures.

We hope you will be interested enough to join us at some point, even if you're not interested in keeping bees. There are lots of ways you can join in with what we do.

Follow us on Twitter at @blountbees.

Schedule of BCBA meetings for 2014

The Blount County Beekeepers Association meets on the second Monday of every month, except for September and December, at 6:30 p.m. in the Blount County Library.

All of the meetings are open to the public, and anyone interested in learning more about beekeeping is welcome and encouraged to attend.

The following is the schedule of meetings for 2014:

January 13 - regular meeting

February 10-11 - Short course for all new and potential beekeepers. There is no charge for this course, and you do not have to sign up in advance. The public is welcome to attend.

March 1 - Wooden ware workshop, 9 a.m. - noon, Masonic Hall, 797 Vose Street Alcoa

March 8 - New beekeeper workshop, Class 2, 9 a.m. - noon, Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church

March 10 - regular meeting

April 14 - regular meeting

July 14 – regular meeting

August 4 – BCBA board meeting

August 11 – regular meeting

September– no regular meeting

October 13 – regular meeting: Auction to benefit scholarship fund will be held at the regular October monthly meeting.

November 10 – regular meeting

December 8 – Christmas dinner

January 12 – regular meeting

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