This is pretty amazing.

There aren’t many beekeepers I know (and that would include me) who would be willing to climb out onto the sheer face of a cliff to take care of their hives.

But that’s what this guy in China does.

The photos are located at the Guardian newspaper/website of Great Britain. Click on the image to see more.

This screenshot shows the top of the photo gallery in The Guardian of a beekeeper in China whose hives are on a cliff.

This screenshot shows the top of the photo gallery in The Guardian of a beekeeper in China whose hives are on a cliff.

One of the captions notes that China produces half the honey in the world. I hope they have an easier way to do it than this.


Key words: beekeeping in China, honey, beehives on a cliff, Guardian

photo 1Blount County Beekeepers Association members were a prominent part of the Blue Ribbon Country Fair in Townsend on Saturday.

Led by Doug Hardwick, they included Harlen Breeden, John and Maggie McDade, Dennis Barry, and John Keeble. Stephanie Tarwater judged the honey entries.

Here are some pictures, thanks to Doug and Harlen:


photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 2


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Is colony collapse disorder (CCD) over?

Apparently, an increasing portion of the scientific and governmental community concerned with bees believes that it is.

If so, it’s good news. But it isn’t all good news, as Noah Wilson-Rich, founder and chief scientific officer of the Best Bees Company and the author of The Bee: A Natural History, writes in an op-ed column published in the New York Times.

While this is undoubtedly good news, we cannot let it blind us to a hard truth. Bees are still dying; it’s just that we’re finding the dead bodies now, whereas with C.C.D., they were vanishing. Bees are still threatened by at least three major enemies: diseases, chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.) and habitat loss. (quoted)


C.C.D. created momentum for the greater cause of bee health, of acknowledging the importance of pollinators. We cannot lose this momentum now. Honeybees pollinate more than 100 fruit and vegetable crops that we rely on for food. According to the entomologist Nicholas W. Calderone at Cornell, bees contribute more than $15 billion annually to the economy in the United States alone, and that number soars past $100 billion globally. (quoted)

jpegWilson-Rich points out that we still lose about 30 percent of our colonies each winter. He also makes a number of good points in the article:

  • Migratory beekeeping, which is necessary for sustaining our current system of agriculture, is not good for us and not good for the bees.
  • Our concentration on honeybees has diverted our attention from the many other types of bees (20,000 species in all) that contribute greatly to the pollination that must be done for our food crops.
    • To make our pollination practices efficient once again, we need to pay attention to the data. Just last year, Jeffery S. Pettis of the United States Department of Agriculture and his colleagues published data indicating that honeybees appeared to be getting credit from farmers for work that other bee species were actually doing. We continue to get crops of blueberries, cranberries, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins, but honeybee hives in those fields are not filled with pollen from those crops. (quoted)
  • The government needs to change its policy of rewarding monoculture and instead start supporting diversity in agriculture.

Wilson-Rich’s article gives us much to consider.

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There’s probably not a tougher place in America to keep bees than the boroughs of New York City.

First, until 2010, it was simply illegal to do it.

But even after it became legal (and a few underground beekeepers could do it in the open), you can imagine how hard it would be to set up a hive and keep it alive. That’s why, a week or so ago, when NYC beekeepers celebrated Honey Week, it really was a cause for celebration.

There are about 100 registered beekeepers in the city with more than 250 registered hives. The following is part of AM New York’s  article about Honey Week in NYC:

One of New York City’s pioneering beekeepers is Andrew Cote. The fourth-generation beekeeper manages about 50 colonies across the city, including at the Waldorf Astoria, which has 360,000 European honeybees in six hives on its 20th-floor rooftop. About twice a year, Cote harvests the sweet stuff from the hives, which is used throughout the hotel in food, for tea and, come October, a special honey-laced beer created by Empire Brewing Company. (quoted material)

Even though the local bee scene is booming, it’s not easy being an urban beekeeper, said Cote. For one, it’s hard to find places to safely put the bees. Then you have to carry heavy equipment up and down stairs, ladders and fire escapes to and from the roofs, constantly look for parking and live with the fear that a beekeeper might mess up and a swarm will find its way into the crowd below (rest assured though, this isn’t a common occurrence, said Cote). (quoted material)

So, congratulations to some tough-minded beekeepers — those in the Big Apple.


Key words: New York City beekeepers, beekeeping in the Big Apple, AM New York, Honey Week in NYC, difficulties of keeping bees in New York City, Andrew Cote, beehives at the Waldor Astoria, Empire Brewing Company

More than 850 Blount County students and teachers saw first-hand what beekeeping is like during the Blount Farm Tour earlier this month.

That exposure to bees came through the efforts of Blount County Beekeepers Association members Harlen Breeden, Pat Breeden, Darlene Parton and Charlie Parton. They were helped by UT grad student Heather Lowry, who is an assistant to Dr. John Skinner.

Below are pictures, courtesy of Harlen:




IMG_0650 IMG_0651 IMG_0652


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IMG_1807September is National Honey Month.

For beekeepers, of course, every month is a time when we think about bees and what they produce, but this may give us a chance to bring a few more folks in on our thinking.

Tammy Horn, state apiarist for Kentucky and nationally known bee expert and author, has noted that

. . . while Americans consume 400 million pounds of honey every year, only 135 million pounds are produced in the United States. This disparity puts American consumers at risk of buying honey that is adulterated or that has been “cut,” or combined with ingredients other than honey. “The best way to be sure you are buying pure honey is to buy from a local source you know and trust,” Horn said.

Horn said more beekeepers are needed. “With demand for honey in the United States far exceeding supply, there are tremendous opportunities in beekeeping and honey production,” Horn said. “The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is happy to help anyone who wants to get started in this fascinating and rewarding business.” (quoted material)

More beekeepers would be a good thing.

Less imported honey would also be a good thing.

So if we can use National Honey Month to bring us closer to those things, then let’s celebrate.


Key words: National Honey Month, Tammy Horn, imported honey, honey, beekeepers, honeybees

Canadian beekeepers have filed suit again the large chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta, charging them with “negligence” in distributing pesticides that have caused widespread deaths of honeybees and subsequently decreased honey production.

A bee on the buckwheat. Photo by Doug Hardwick

A bee on the buckwheat. Photo by Doug Hardwick

The major pesticide in question, of course, is neonicotinoids, better known as neonics.

Here’s more on the suit from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

The lawsuit, which seeks $450-million in damages, alleges beekeepers experienced damaged or lost bee colonies, lost profits and unrecoverable costs as a result of neonic use on plants and crops. None of the allegations have been proven.

The case marks an escalation in the battle between Ontario beekeepers and chemical companies, two groups farmers rely on for pollination and crop protection.

The lead plaintiffs in the suit are Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, both of which are family-owned business in southwestern Ontario, the heart of the province’s agriculture sector. (quoted material)

In the USA, there is a suit asking the Environmental Protection Agency to rescind its approval of neonics. That suit has been filed by, and we reported on it here last week.

The responses from the chemical companies — which have millions of dollars invested in these pesticides — sound a lot like the tobacco companies of the 1970s and 1980s when they assured us that there was “no evidence” that tobacco had anything to do with lung cancer.

With the evidence piling up, do they really expect us to believe that?


Key words: Canadian beekeepers lawsuit, Sun Parlor Honey, Munro Honey, Syngenta, Bayer chemical, neonicotinoids, pesticides, neonics, EarthJustice, Environmental Protection Agency, Toronto Globe and Mail

Honeybees on goldenrod

Honeybees on goldenrod

To most Americans, goldenrod is a weed.

To Europeans, however, goldenrod is a much-prized plant that gardeners go out of their way to cultivate.

To many people in ancient times and a growing number in the 21st century, goldenrod is a medicinal herb that has many uses.

To honeybees, goldenrod is a major source of nectar and pollen in the fall and a source of much-needed winter stores.

And to East Tennesseans this year (the folks in my area), goldenrod is an abundant, showy yellow flower that is filling up our fields, roadside areas and pastures. And our bees are taking to it in droves.

The bees will take both pollen and nectar from goldenrod, and they make a distinctive honey from it. Some beekeepers have harvested this honey, and with its abundance this year, beekeepers in this area might be tempted to do just that. The wiser course for beekeepers might be to let the bees have what they make and to save themselves from some of the efforts of winter feeding.

Goldenrod, in addition to its medicinal uses, is also thought to have some magical powers. Some believe it has the power to bring good luck. The bees who find a good patch of goldenrod probably consider themselves pretty luck.

One of the myths about goldenrod is that it causes allergic reactions, but that’s probably not the case. Those reactions are more likely due to goldenrod’s companion ragweed, which blooms at the same time.

(More pictures below.)

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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

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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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