If you have ever had trouble in coming up with the words to describe that “taste of honey,” you now have help.

The American Bee Journal has published the Honey Flavor Wheel, developed by folks at the University of California-Davis, which gives you an idea of how to talk about the honey that you’ve just put in your mouth.

Quoting the Journal:

“This gives a huge lexicon to the tastes and aromas we find when tasting honey,” said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollinator Center, affiliated with the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

The Honey Flavor Wheel production involved six months of research and development. “We brought together a group of 20 people–trained tasters, beekeepers and food enthusiasts–who worked together with a sensory scientist to come up with almost 100 descriptors,” Harris said. “This wheel will prove invaluable to those who love honey and want to celebrate its nuances.” (quoted)

Here’s the wheel itself:

Honey tasting wheel from UC Davis

Honey Tasting Wheel from UC Davis

Key words: honey, American Bee Journal, University of California-Davis, Amina Harris, Honey and Pollinator Center, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, Honey Flavor Wheel, tasting honey, taste of honey

Maria Popova, who produces the wonderful and stimulating BrainPickings.org website, has written a lengthy review of Dave Goulson’s book, A Sting in the Tale.stinginthetale_glouson

The review is titled, A Brief History of How Bees Sexed Up Earth and Gave Flowers Their Colors, and subtitled, How a striped, winged, six-legged love machine sparked “the longest marketing campaign in history,” which should be enough to peak your interest.

Here’s an excerpt of the review:

Indeed, central to Goulson’s message is a bittersweet lament that bees are incredibly vulnerable to the general extinction epidemic of our era, as species are going extinct at anywhere between 100 and 1,000 times the natural rate due to habitat destruction, largely of our own doing. Scientists estimate that one species goes extinct every twenty minutes. There has never been a more urgent time to pay heed to E.O. Wilson’s admonition, for if bees once gave our planet its glorious colors and vibrant plant life, it doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to envision what would happen if they were to disappear.But despite the urgency of the conservation message, A Sting in the Tale is ultimately an optimistic book, written with profound love and respect for the creatures that gave Earth its colors and us our vitality. Complement it with Jon Mooallem’s heartbreaking and heartening, immeasurably moving Wild Ones. (quoted material)

This sounds like one of those books that beekeepers should buy, read and give to their book-reading friends.


Key words: Maria Popova, BrainPickings.org, book review, Dave Goulson, A Sting in the Tale, A Brief History of How Bees Sexed Up Earth and Gave Flowers Their Colors, sex and plants, bees, E.O. Wilson, species extinction, books about bees

Beekeeping is different from what it was 30 years ago, and bees seem to need a lot more “babysitting.”

Beekeeping expert and author Jim Tew made that point at the beginning of his second presentation to the Blount County Beekeepers Association on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (Read our article published just after his presentation.)

Below is a short video of that presentation. (The video is not high quality, but the audio is more than sufficient.)

In the introduction made the following points:

  • Maybe we’re looking in the wrong places as we are trying to figure out what’s wrong with today’s bees.
  • We may need to re-think our equipment and management techniques.
  • Bees seem to need a lot more attention from beekeepers than they used to.



Read the rest of this entry »

Jim Tew’s presentations to the Blount County Beekeepers Association meeting on Monday provoked my thinking about the responsibilities we take on when we call ourselves beekeepers.

So just what are those responsibilities?

A honeybee on a buckwheat bloom

A honeybee on a buckwheat bloom

To my mind, there are three:

Providing a home for the bees . . .

. . . as long as they will accept it. We should do everything possible to help them do what they are built to do. We should do it as gently and as naturally as possible. One of the main things we can do is provide them with an immediate environment that is clean and abundant with healthy sources of nutrition and material for hive building.


Learning all we can . . .

. . . about these fascinating creatures. We have placed the label on bees of “superorganism,” and indeed that’s what a bee is. We have begun to unlock a few of their secrets, but as Jim Tew pointed out on Monday, there are many things we do not know. Bees have been around for millions of years. They have survived pests, climate changes and even human interventions. Honeybees have built social systems that are complex and adaptable. How have these little creatures done all that? As beekeepers, we should continue to seek answers and support those who do.


Advocating for bees . . .

. . . and other pollinators. Today’s environment is difficult for them, and we should be doing everything we can to serve them just as they serve us.

Even is someone is not committed to the first of these responsibilities — providing a home for the bees — that person can be a beekeeper in a true sense by undertaking the second and third.


Key words: Jim Tew, Blount County Beekeepers Association, responsibilities of beekeepers, beekeeping, advocating for bees, superorganism, pollinators, difficult environment for bees

If you want to dig into a beekeeping subject with some depth and with people from around the globe, try BeeSource.com.

It’s an online bulletin board where thousands of people go to contribute, discuss, learn and even argue (though always civilly).

After writing about buckwheat on this site (HERE and HERE), I posted something about growing buckwheat for the bees on BeeSource.com a couple of weeks ago, and here are some of the replies:

I plant an acre of buckwheat every year, once it comes up it will bloom in 26 days. I can get 3 blooms a year from one planting by running over it with a disc after it goes to seed. The bees will work it in the mourning up till 11:00am and after that you won’t see a bee on it. Like now in my area there is a dearth on and buckwheat, vitex, moon flowers,and some dutch clover is the only things that i’m aware of that they have to work, the sumac flow is over in my area.


Here’s a quick video I did on my buckwheat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlG_…DATt5CampP4RtA

Mine aren’t working it too hard yet, but I’m thinking they might once it stops raining.


Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Bush, author of The Practical Beekeeper, and strong advocate of non-chemical beekeeping (and someone we have quoted here before), says there is a single solution to almost all queen problems in a hive:

The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush

The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush

There are few solutions as universal in their application and their success than adding a frame of open brood and eggs every week for three weeks. It is a virtual panacea for any queen issues. It gives the bees the pheromones to suppress laying workers. It gives them more workers coming in during a period where there is no laying queen. It does not interfere if there is a virgin queen. It gives them the resources to rear a queen. It is virtually foolproof and does not require finding a queen or seeing eggs. If you have any issue with queenrightness, no brood, worried that there is no queen, this is the simple solution that requires no worrying, no waiting, no hoping. You just give them what they need to resolve the situation. If you have any doubts about the queenrightness of a hive, give them some open brood and eggs and sleep well. Repeat once a week for two more weeks if you still aren’t sure. By then things will be fine.

If you are afraid of transferring the queen from the queenright hive, because you are not good at finding queens, then shake or brush all the bees off before you give it to them.

If you are concerned about taking eggs from another new package or small colony, keep in mind that bees have little invested in eggs and the queen can lay far more eggs than a small colony can warm, feed and raise. Taking a frame of eggs from a small struggling new hive and swapping it for an empty comb or any drawn comb will have little impact on the donor colony and may save the recipient if they are indeed queenless. If the recipient didn’t need a queen it will fill in the gap while the new queen gets mated and not interfere with things. (quoted material)

In other words, let the bees take care of it.

Good advice.


Key words: Michael Bush, Bushfarms.com, queens, beehives, queen problems with hives, panacea for queen problems, queenrightness, virgin queen, queenless hives

Where will bees and beekeeping be in the future?

Tammy Horn

Tammy Horn

Very probably, in the trees, according to Tammy Horn, the Kentucky state apiarist, advocate of beekeeping and prolific author of books about bees.

In a Food and Farm interview with Ray Bowman on America’s Web Radio, Horn talked about forest-based beekeeping, something that she has been encouraging, particularly in the hills and mountains of Eastern Kentucky.

Bowman interviewed Horn in June on the first day she was named to the Kentucky post, and the interview last more than 20 minutes and ranged across a number of topics It’s well worth listening to in its entirety.

“It (forest-based beekeeping) is a long-neglected form of agriculture in our state,” Horn says.

“As far as I am concerned, the future of bees has to do with appropriate re-forestation because the Midwest is saturated with pesticides, and so the word on the street among, like, New York orchard growers is to get your bees to the trees, get your bees to the wild forests, because that’s where they’re not going to be subjected to the neonicotinoids — all of these types of systemic pesticides that are now just drenching our watersheds.”


Read the rest of this entry »

Jim Tew told Blount County beekeepers that the environment for bees is a complicated one, and not every plant a bee visits is good for it — and some plants can be downright dangerous.

“So much of this (the environment for bees) is so complicated, that it’s a wonder that bees can do anything at all,” he said.

Tew went on to describe some of the many factors and decisions bees much make in feeding themselves and keeping their hives alive. “Outside the front door of your hive, life is tough,” he said.

He spoke to the August meeting of the Blount County Beekeepers Association on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014in the Blount County Library.

Tew is the beekeeping specialist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.

Jim Tew speaks to the Blount County Beekeepers Association

Jim Tew speaks to the Blount County Beekeepers Association

Tew also said that . . .

  • People on “the outside” of beekeeping don’t understand the commitment beekeepers have made.
  • Not all plants that produce nectar and pollen welcome the bees being there.
  • There are more “nectaries” in a plant than those around the flower. They occur around stems and leaf nodes. Bees might indeed get nectar from those.
  • Honey is concentrated sugars from the flowers the bees visit. Some sugars from some flowers are of no use to the bees.
  • The bees hold the nectar in their throats while they process this sugar-water nectar they’ve gathered.
  • A typical colony needs 265 pounds of honey a year and 155 pounds during the summer. Beekeepers can take the excess honey.
  • Bees eat propolis more than we realize.

“Every plant is negotiating and bargaining” for visits from the bees, he said.

Tew asked how many people were dealing with varroa and did not get much response from those in the audience. He said the varroa problem seemed to be “calming down,” and a new generation of beekeepers was coming into this realm who weren’t as afraid of varroa as older beekeepers. Consequently, fewer beekeepers are as obsessed with it now or even thinking about it very much.


Jim Tew demonstrates the dangerous environment for bees by taking about the toxic nectars in azaleas.
Read the rest of this entry »

Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer (http://thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com/), says that one of the first rules of small farming is this:

Make sure you have an income that doesn’t come from farming.

Those sentiments and more were echoed by Bren Smithaug in a New York Times op-ed piece titled Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers.

Smithaug, a shellfish and seaweed farmer in Long Island Sound, lays out chapter and verse some of the reasons he can’t turn a profit doing what he would like to do.

Here are some of the money quotes from the article:

Read the rest of this entry »

Providing our bees with abundant, natural nutrition is by far the most important task of the beekeeper — far more important than hive inspections, equipment, medications, or any of the other things we spend a lot of time with.

This table, developed by Keith Delaplane and his assistants, shows a near year-round chart of plants that provide bees with pollen and nectar. You should look at the chart (click on it to take you to the full chart), see what grows in your area and encourage that growth.

This table, developed by Keith Delaplane and his assistants, shows a near year-round chart of plants that provide bees with pollen and nectar. You should look at the chart (click on it to take you to the full chart), see what grows in your area and encourage that growth.

What if we could provide that natural nutrition all year long — or 10 months out of 12?

Keith Delaplane, bee scientist at the University of Georgia, has put together a chart of plants that bloom from January to October in our part of the country that give bees the nectar and pollen they forage for. It’s worth a look. (Click on the image to the right to go there.)

It is important for bees, especially bumble bees, to have an unbroken succession of bloom all summer to build up their local populations. If you want to encourage bee populations, grow or encourage plants from this list so that bloom is more-or-less continuous on your property. (quoted)

The chart is revealing because it lists some things we might not think about. Henbit, for instance, comes up in abundance around where we live as early as late February. By March, the ground is covered with its purple flowers. Many people see henbit as a nuisance, but the bees — with nothing else to feed on — are all over it whenever it’s warm enough to fly outside the hive. If you look closely, you’ll see them packing up their pollen sacks with pollen from the henbit and carrying it back to the hive.

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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