University of Tennessee State Apiculturist John Skinner has recently been part of a research project to find out more about the pollination of cranberries and other berries in the eastern United States. Below is his report, which was originally published in The Hive Tool, the newsletter of the Tennessee Beekeepers Association.

The Amazing Cranberry –Bogs, Bees and Berries


By John Skinner, Professor and UT Extension Bee Specialist

Recently I returned from a trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where Michael Wilson and I videotaped and photographed blooming cranberry bogs and the people that make this successful. This is a continuation of the cooperative project that started last year with low bush blueberry in Maine.

Our Maine cooperator, Dr. Frank Drummond participated in the TBA convention last year. I returned from this trip in awe of such a unique crop, its rich American history, the balance of maintaining a bog environment and the challenges getting this crop pollinated.

Dr. Anne Averill, Entomologist from the University of Massachusetts and her technician and great organizer sister Marty escorted us from bog to bog. We interviewed growers, industry representatives, cranberry association people, and scientists studying all aspects of cranberry production and pollination.

Cranberry is a plant that grows native from the Carolinas to the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Cape Cod is the birthplace of the industry. The plant requires acidic peat soils, coarse sand, a constant water supply and a long frost free season. The area around Plymouth is ideal for this crop. In the 1880s the Cape Cod Cranberry Association was formed.

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Mike Studer, the Tennessee state apiarist, reports that a case of American foulbrood was recently found in a hive in Sullivan County in Upper East Tennessee.

American foulbrood is one of the worst things that can happen to a hive, and it usually results in the hive — bees and all — having to be burned. The reason it has to be destroyed in this way is so it won’t spread to other hives.

Studer, in the Tennessee Beekeepers Association newsletter The Hive Tool, said the foulbrood was probably the result of a beekeeper acquiring and using old equipment.

“Please do not use someone’s old equipment,” Studer says.  “It can cost you a lot more than buying new equipment.”

American foulbrood is something that we discuss quite a bit at our beekeepers meetings, but, fortunately, it doesn’t occur that often. Varroa is the number one pest we have to deal with. Still, we should always be careful with our hives and not bring undue problems on ourselves or our bees.

Mike Studer’s full contact information is below in case you ever need him.

Michael D. Studer

State Apiarist

Tennessee Department of Agriculture

Division of Consumer and Industry Services

Apiary Section

Ellington Agricultural Center

Box 40627, Melrose Station

436 Hogan Road, Porter Bldg.

Nashville, TN 37204

Office: 615-837-5342

Cell: 615-517-4451

Fax: 615-837-5246


Web Page:

And here’s a video from New Zealand, of all places, on American foulbrood:


Key words: Mike Studer, Tennessee State apiarist, American foulbrood, bee diseases, beekeeping in Tennessee, beehives

Ever wonder just what it is that a bee does all day — and all night?

Some of those questions will be answered if you watch the new two-part series from the British Broadcasting Company, Hive Alive. The show’s presenters are Chris Packham and Martha Kearney, a journalist and beekeeper herself. The main bee expert on the show is Adam Hart.

The show’s producers have used a lot of high-end equipment and sophisticated techniques to show us what bees do inside the hive and where they head when they are flying outside the hive.

And through the magic of the Internet, you can do just that without leaving your seat or this site. Check it out below.


Here is something I learned by watching this first episode:

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Does this scenario sound familiar:

You extract your honey, and you put your wet supers on top of the hives to let the bees clean them off. Once they’re finished — and they do their usual beautiful job of getting the honey and straightening the comb — you go back in and take those supers off. You put the moth crystals on the boxes, wrap them up, and Presto! You have reduced you hives for the year. The bees are happy. You’re happy. All is well.

But think again. Have you really done the best thing for your bees? Read the rest of this entry »

The Tennessee Beekeepers Association newsletter, The Hive Tool, showed up the other day with, as usual, a wealth of information about beekeeping in the state. We’ll be passing some of it on to you over the next week or two. Here are some parts of some of the regional reports: Read the rest of this entry »

We all know who he is: the image of the part-hippie, part mountain man who graces the packages of bee’s wax at the check-out counter.

His real name is Burt Shavitz. He lives alone in a small house that he built in northern Maine. It doesn’t have electricity or running water.

Shavits started Burt’s Bees, but he doesn’t own any part of the company any more. He’s retired from beekeeping because, he says, his back won’t allow him to do it.

A documentary film about him is just out, and below is the trailer.



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In the early 1960s, a few years before he died in 1965, my grandfather — the Rev. Irl Thomas Stovall — sat down and wrote about what he remember as a child growing up in rural Missouri and as a young preacher and farmer in Kentucky and elsewhere. Here’s part of what he wrote:

I enjoyed hunting wild honey bees in the Missouri timber.  I found a dozen or more bee trees.  Some were rich and others had no honey.  I would find the trees and father would rob them.  There was not much objection to cutting a tree on anyone’s property as timber was not very valuable.  I remember the richest tree I found.  It was about two miles from home.  We loaded into the wagon an axe, a crosscut saw, several pans and buckets and drove near the tree.  We sawed the tree down and Father with bee hat on, and with some smoke, got out about fifty pounds of honey.

A neighbor boy and I found some bees watering at the river bank.  We coursed them to two large trees in the river bottom.  This nearly got us into trouble.  The trees were a large, tall sycamore and a large tall water oak.  The latter was very valuable for making boards.  Soon we sawed them down and did not find enough honey in both of them for one person to eat.  A few days later the neighbor who owned the trees said he ought to make us work up the oak into boards.  There the matter ended.

My grandfather was born in 1890, so the time when this incident occurred was probably between 1900 and 1910.

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When a majordomo in the mass media pays some attention to bees, we try to take note.

This week it was the New York Times, which has been paying quite a bit of attention to the plight of honeybees in our current difficult environment. The author is Mark Winston, a biologist and the director of the Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He is the author of the forthcoming book Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bees on a frame

Bees on a frame. Note the hexagonal shape of the comb.

Beekeepers are familiar with the hexagonal shape of honeycomb.

It’s beautiful stuff, and anytime we look at it even for a few moments, its precision is astonishing.

But why hexagons?

Bees spend a lot of time and effort making wax, which takes a huge amount of energy. (Try to wrap your head around this: Bees fly around the world the equivalent of 12 times to create one ounce of wax.) Since the wax takes so much effort to create, they want to use it as efficiently as possible. Hexagons give them the most storage room using the least amount of wax.

The video below is a portion of a 2011 British Broadcasting Corporation series called The Code in which mathematician Marcus du Sautoy explores some of the mathematical secrets of the natural world. In this segment, he focuses on the honeycomb that bees build.

You can find the entire series on YouTube.

Thanks to Emily Heath,, and her beekeeping partner Emma Tennant,, They keep bees in an area of London known as Ealing. Emma’s site included the video, which led me to YouTube and the BBC series.

The Blount County Beekeepers Association, in a variety of ways, encourages people to get interested in beekeeping and, if possible, set up hives.

We concentrate a lot on the how and why of setting up a hive, but we don’t talk enough about the where. Locating a hive in the right place can make a big difference to the long-term life of the colony.

Locating a hive is one of the most important decisions a beekeeper will make.

Locating a hive is one of the most important decisions a beekeeper will make.

Most people believe — and some research has shown — that the best place for a hive is in full sun, not in the shade. Hives can survive in the shade, of course, but full sun has been associated with a lower Varroa mite population. So if you have a choice, choose full sun.

More importantly, hives should be close to a lot of sources of nectar and pollen, so the bees can have plenty to eat.

We beekeepers like to brag that bees can fly up to fives miles from the hive to forage for their food. But if your bees are flying that far, their hives are in the wrong place.

Try to put the hives close to where there is plenty of clover, flowering vegetables, corn (they get pollen from the tops of corn plants), wild flowers and other vegetation that the bees can use. The shorter distance the foragers have to fly, the more trips they can take between the sources of food and the hive. Also, there is less chance that they will be killed by predators or that they will come into contact with bees from other hives (and thus become contaminated with another hive’s problems).

Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota and one of the leading honeybee experts in the country has written:

The most essential beekeeping practice is to make sure all colonies have large pollen and nectar stores at all times.

So, be a good beekeeper and put your bees in a good place.

Join us

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.

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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