If you have a beehive or two, it’s property that is becoming increasingly valuable — and worth stealing.

We’ve had a couple of incidents of beehive thefts in this part of East Tennessee, and the problem could grow more serious in the coming months.

It’s a growing problem in California (according to a recent article in ModernFarmer.com), too, and there law enforcement officials and beekeepers have dealt with it enough to understand some of the difficulties in preventing it from happening and then prosecuting the perpetrators.

Those problems include:

Finding stolen hives. The cyclical and sometimes migratory nature of beekeeping makes stolen have difficult to locate.

The value of hives. Yes, beehives are becoming more valuable, but they’re not yet at the level of a car or tractor. Law enforcement agencies have to allocate limited resources, and finding a stolen beehive may not be a top priority.

Handling the hive. Most police office don’t know how to handle a beehive and probably aren’t anxious to learn at a moment’s notice.

The hive as evidence. A beehive can’t be impounded as evidence without risking serious damage to the bees.

Lack of knowledge among police and prosecutors. Bees and beehives are serious business to those who keep them, even if we’re not in it for the profits. Sometimes the complaints of beekeepers are not taken as seriously as they should be because police and prosecutors simply don’t get what beekeeping is all about.

Read the ModernFarmer.com article and see what you think.


Key words: bees, stolen beehives, bee rustling, beehive thefts, ModernFarmer.com, beehives as evidence

Bittman’s at it again.

Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times, wants to change the way you eat. He wants to change the entire food system, too. The way we produce, distribute and consume food.

But that’s impossible, so he’s having to content himself with telling us how we should eat, what we should eat, and how we should think about food.

(Typical, isn’t it, of those liberal know-it-alls who produce and read the New York Times.)

The thing is, I agree with him.

He’s put out another column saying he had only — ONLY — two rules for us to follow (maybe three):

1. Stop eating junk and hyperprocessed food. This eliminates probably 80 percent of the stuff that is being sold as “food.”

2. Eat more plants than you did yesterday, or last year.

If you add “Cook your own food” to this list, it’s even more powerful, but these two steps alone allow you to reduce the amount of antibiotics you’re consuming; pretty much eliminate GMOs from your diet, lighten your carbon footprint; reduce your chances of becoming ill as a result of your diet; save money; cut way back on sugar, other junk and unnecessary and potentially harmful nonfood additives; and so on. (quoted material)

Bittman makes some point points in his column that are well worth reading.

So what does this have to do with beekeeping?

Well, just about everything. Bees are central to our food system. And that system is abusing them terribly. We truck them across the country to pollinate crops that are grown in places that cannot sustain bees. Then we truck them home.

So, who would argue that our system of food production doesn’t need changing?

Bittman is showing us a way to start.

Related articles:

Marla Spivak on why we are in a honeybee crisis

Changing the food system, one mouth at a time

Key words: Mark Bittman, New York Times, food system, junk food, beekeeping, honeybees, pollination, food production, rules for diet, liberal know-it-alls who produce and read the New York Times,


Well, you can’t accuse the Environmental Protection Agency of making a snap decision.

The EPA announced that a recommendation on the use of neonics won’t come until at least 2016 — and maybe 2017. That’s the good news, I suppose. The earlier project was 2018.

Jim Jones, the agency’s head of its chemical safety and pollution prevention division, made this announcement recently by saying:

“We are frustrated with the pace. But at the end of the day we need to recognize the science.”

That “at the end of the day” stuff must be Washingtonese for “at the end of the decade.” That’s the kind of cliché that bureaucrats in D.C. like to use when they want to sound smart. For those of us out here in the hinterlands, it’s meaningless and pretty lame.

The EPA has been studying the effects of neonicotinoids on bees and other pollinators for seven years. Yet, we haven’t reached “the end of the day” just yet.

Would that the EPA had taken this much time to study neonicotinoids BEFORE it approved their use. There would probably be a lot more bees alive today.

Read more about this here: http://www.eenews.net/greenwire/2014/10/22/stories/1060007741

Related articles

Beekeepers in Canada file suit against Bayer, Syngenta

EarthJustice.org: Going to court on behalf of the bees

Tammy Horn says future of bees, beekeeping is in the trees

Key words: neonicotinoids, honeybees, bees, pollinators, pesticides, chemical safety, pollution, Jim Jones, Environmental Protection Agency, neonics, at the end of the day, bureaucrats, EPA


Coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn. (Tennessee Valley Authority)

Coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn. (Tennessee Valley Authority)

EarthJustice.org, one of the nation’s largest environmental protection law firms, is claiming victory in its fight to regulate coal ash dumping.

Here’s part of a recent announcement:

For nearly 6 years, we have pressured the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the White House and our elected officials to protect thousands of communities and millions of Americans from the toxic threat of coal ash. During that time, coal ash has continued to spill into rivers and poison drinking water supplies. Some coal ash dumpsites, if they fail, would flood nearby communities, likely killing anyone in their paths.

But on December 19, we will celebrate our biggest victory. Thanks to a lawsuit by Earthjustice, and because of your actions to pressure decision makers, the EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to finalize the first-ever federal safeguards for coal ash. Millions of tons of this unregulated waste must finally be cleaned up, and power companies will need to take steps to ensure that their waste pits are safe. (quoted material)

It was six years ago when the nation’s most devastating coal ash spill occurred in Kingston, Tenn., just a few miles west of us here in Blount County. Environmentalists cite this incident as a mammoth environmental disaster.

EarthJustice.org has also taken a leading role in trying to persuade the EPA to ban neonicotinoids in pesticides. Studies are piling up that show neonics are harmful to honeybees, but the EPA refuses to move away from its approval of these pesticides.

Related articles

Beekeepers in Canada file suit against Bayer, Syngenta





Key words: EarthJustice.org, coal ash, Environmental Protection Agency, environment, environmental regulation,  neonicotinoids, neonics, pesticides, honeybees, coal ash spill in Kingston

One of the best reasons for being interested in bees is not that they are fascinating — they are that, certainly — but that they are vital to our system of food production.

But it doesn’t take much study or investigation to know that our system of food production is in trouble.

Losses of honeybees and other pollinators are a big part of the problem.

It’s only a part, however. Another big part of the problem is what we eat and the way we eat it.

how-to-cook-everythingThat’s what was on Mark Bittman’s mind when he wrote a recent article for the op-ed section of the New York Times, and the point he makes is a good one: Individually, we’re not going to change the food system, but individually we can change what we do.

So much of this is so big that it’s out of our individual control, and it’s easy to become disheartened and even skeptical. We are the underdogs, and to emerge victorious will take so much time that it’s likely many of us will not live to see the changes we know are due.

Which makes the so-called little issues that much more important. You can swear off McDonalds and Pepsi — iconic brands, but not the only ones worth boycotting — right now. Most of you can begin to cook. You can teach your youngest kid to eat better than your oldest. You can garden, or grow parsley on your windowsill. You can cook your favorite dish for your kid’s classroom, or get your kid to cook his or her favorite dish with you. You can force yourself and your loved ones to eat a salad every Monday, or Wednesday for that matter. You can probably pay a little more for food and support a farmer who isn’t growing a thousand acres of corn. You can eat an apple instead of a cookie. For breakfast, you can eat leftovers of something you made for dinner. (quoted material)

Bittman is a food writer for the Times and there is a new edition of his book, How to Cook Everything.

Key words: Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything, honeybees and other pollinators, system of food production, changing eating habits, New York Times, op-ed, what we eat and the way we eat it

What is the purpose of a colony of bees?

Pollination? Wrong.

A swarm of bees marches into its new home after being dropped from a tree.

A swarm of bees marches into its new home after being dropped from a tree.

Bees do this by accident. They don’t realize how much they’re helping humans and wouldn’t care if they did.

Making honey? Wrong.

Bees make honey because this is a stable food source. The fact that humans like honey is again irrelevant to the bees.

Bees are like any other wild animal. They exist for two reasons: to survive and to reproduce.

Except that, in the case of honeybees, most of them don’t reproduce. They are part of a colony, and the colony tries to survive and to reproduce.

Which brings us to “casting swarms.”

I don’t recall ever coming across that term until veteran beekeeper Jim Tew used it in a presentation to the Blount County Beekeepers Association meeting in August. Jim said then that bees will try to survive until they can find a suitable place to live — a good hollow tree or something like that — and “cast a few swarms.”

The term popped up again when I was reading Thomas Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy, a fascinating book that is built around Seeley’s decades of study of swarming behavior.

In upstate New York, where I live, my colonies begin sending forth their drones in late April, and they begin casting their swarms . . . a week or two later in early May. (p. 35)

* * * 

An enduring mystery about honeybees is what exactly stimulates a colony to begin rearing queens and thereby initiate the process of swarming. Beekeepers know that certain conditions inside a colony’s hive (congestion of the adult bees, numerous immature bees, and expanding food reserves) and outside the hive (plentiful forage and spring time) are correlated with the start of queen rearing for swarming. Nevertheless, to this day, no one knows what specific stimuli the worker bees are sensing and integrating when they make the critical decision to start the swarming process. (p. 36) (quoted material)

Swarming is what bees do. It’s one of their basic purposes. As good beekeepers, we should let them do it.

Related articles

Jim Tew describes the inside of a feral beehive

Tew: the natural hive is not a ‘permanent’ home for bees

A different view of swarms


Key words: bees, beekeeping, casting swarms, pollination, Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy, swarming, honey


The video embedded in this post is more than a bit over the top.

So, make sure you’ve taken your anti-schmalz meds before you watch it.

Still, the sentiment is correct. We should plant more bee-friendly flowers. That’s something everyone can do to help arrest the massive losses of honeybees we are experiencing.

The video comes from Cascadian Farm, an organic foods brand owned by General Mills, as part of its Bee-Friendlier campaign.

The video promotes something called Seedles, a gumball-sized pellet that contains wildflower seeds, compost and clay. All you have to do with these is drop them on the ground, push them in with your food, and . . . voila! the bees are happy.

Among other things, the video shows an airplane spreading these things across a field while small children and their parents stand behind a fence cheering.

As I said, all a bit over the top.

Good sentiment, but there is a problem, not with the sentiment but with the messenger.


Read the rest of this entry »

For baseball fans — and that would include me — there are two seasons: winter and baseball.

That’s like beekeepers. We have winter, and then we have the rest of the year.

The baseball season is about to end. The World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals begins to night. Barring rainouts or other delays, it will be finished in a little more than a week.

What else do baseball and beekeeping have in common?

Not too much, although when the pitchers and catchers report to spring training in mid-February is about the time that we here in East Tennessee begin to anticipate the warm afternoons when we can open up the hives.

And Opening Day signals the beginning of swarm season.

Speaking of swarms, that’s one more conjunction of baseball and bees. Bees can occasionally interrupt a baseball game. Below are a couple of videos where that happened. In the first, the bees gathered around one of the automatic cameras in the stadium.

The second shows bees at a collegiate game where a couple of intrepid beekeepers actually hived the swarm.

Enjoy the videos, and enjoy the Series. Winter for all of us is on the way.




Key words: bees, baseball, World Series, San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, YouTube videos, swarms, spring training, opening day

The sugar water/corn syrup/fruitcose vs. honey debate for feeding your bees is a long-standing one.

A bee on the buckwheat. Photo by Doug Hardwick

A bee on the buckwheat. Buckwheat is a good late summer-early fall feeding plant for your bees. Photo by Doug Hardwick


Recently, I found a Scientific American podcast interview from 2009 in which May Berenbaum, University of Illinois entomologist and bee researcher, discussed that very question with Steve Mirsky of Scientific American.

Here are some of the main points Berenbaum made:

  • Honeybee grubs (baby bees) eat a mixture of pollen and honey we call “bee bread.”
  • Sugar doesn’t provide bees with some of the enzymes that help bees process plant chemicals.
  • Brenebaum: “. . . feeding on nectar or honey derived from nectars [is a] very different proposition from feeding on other types of plant tissue because plants load up their vulnerable tissues with chemicals, you know, natural pesticides, so that insects won’t eat them, but they want insects to eat nectar; that’s the whole point [of nectar].”
  • When you substitute a natural food for an artificial one, there may unintended consequences.

Berenbaum has been awarded one of the 10 National Science Medals by President Barack Obama.

The beekeeper in this corner is a big advocate of honey over sugar water in this debate. It’s a lot easier to leave honey in the hive than to take it off and then have to feed them sugar water to get them through the next season. Sometimes that’s not possible, of course, and you do what you can to keep your bees alive. But beekeeper should think ahead and keep as much honey on the hive as possible.

They should also try to provide their bees with plants to feed on during as much of the year (Year-around (almost) blooms for the bees) as possible.


Below is the transcript to this part of the interview, and you can hear the entire interview at this link.

Read the rest of this entry »

When I was exploring getting into beekeeping, I was standing in the barn of a friend who had kept bees for more than 30 years. The barn was full of “bee equipment,” and my friend was trying to explain some of it to me.

I remember one thing he said.

“If I had to start all over again, I would use only mediums.”

Beehives build with just one size of bee boxes.

Beehives build with just one size of bee boxes.

What he meant, of course, was medium-sized boxes, or Illinois supers. What he said — even though I did not completely understand it at the time — made sense to me, and it translates into a larger principle: the simpler the better.

As most beekeepers know, there are three sizes of bee boxes for the hive: deeps, mediums, and smalls. Each size has its uses, and some beekeepers use all three.

The argument for using deep boxes is that they are for brood (sometimes they are called “brood boxes”), and beekeepers say these boxes allow the queen to develop a good brood pattern. The small boxes weigh less, particularly when they are filled with honey, and if you are harvesting honey by the box, that’s what you should placing on top of your hives.

For my money, the medium is the one-size-that-fits-all box. Medium boxes allow the queen sufficient room to develop a brood pattern. They can get heavy if they are filled with honey, but removing a frame or two can lighten them quickly if that’s a consideration.

If you use only one size of box, you never have to worry about having the wrong size of frames for the boxes you have. That becomes a huge consideration when you are changing boxes and frames at any time of the year.

The arguments for using only one size of box seem to me to far outweigh the arguments for using three sizes.

Besides, I’m pretty certain the bees don’t really care.


Key words: beekeeping, beehives, bees, bee boxes, supers, Illinois supers, brood boxes, small bee boxes, brood patterns, harvesting honey, simplicity in beekeeping


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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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