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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,, queens, beehives, queen problems with hives, panacea for queen problems, queenrightness, virgin queen, queenless hives


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.

Michael Bush, a beekeeper in Nebraska, thinks we should change our attitudes and our practices about beekeeping.

He has written a number of books including The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally. He has also put together many of his thoughts into a website that you can find at this address:

Bush thinks that many beekeepers are so focused on treating bees against pests – and doing it in one particularly way – that they have lost sight of what might be some viable alternatives.

What he says can sometimes go against the grain of what we have been taught:

“The only way to have a sustainable system of beekeeping is to stop treating. Treating is a death spiral that is now collapsing. To leverage this, though you really need to raise your own queens from local surviving bees. Only then can you get bees who genetically can survive and parasites that are in tune with their host. As long as we treat we get weaker bees who can only survive if we treat, and stronger parasites who can only survive if they breed fast enough to keep up with our treatments. No stable relationship can develop until we stop treating.”

There’s more at the site.

Beekeepers spend a lot of mental and physical energy trying to prevent swarms. A hive that swarms is less productive in making honey than a hive that doesn’t, particularly if the swarm occurs during a honey flow.

But, maybe we should stop, take a moment, and consider the good that a swarm can do.

First, swarming is a natural activity. It’s something that bees do to increase their populations. A bit of common wisdom among beekeepers is that swarms occur because the hive gets crowded, but we’re not really sure that’s the case. Adding more room to a hive may help, but it may not.

So what are the benefits of a swarm?

The obvious one is that if you can catch the swarm, you have another colony of bees, and those bees are inclined to draw comb. Beekeepers have been taking advantage of that for many decades.

But, there is another benefit to a swarm that is rarely mentioned. The hive from which the bees swarmed is left with a new queen. She’s young, and she’s locally mated. That means you won’t have to replace her any time soon. And many people now believe that local queens are more able to survive and fight off pests than imported queens.

So, if your bees are about to swarm, maybe you should sit back and let them do their thing.

Jim Stovall

Feeding bees is a complex issue. For the new beekeeper especially, it’s a dizzying array of options and decisions.

So, let’s start with a simple principle: The less you feed your bees artificial food (sugarwater), the better off your bees are.

Feeding less, of course, means leaving more honey on the hive. That’s hard to do. Honey is the big payoff for our investment and work. Leaving honey on the hive takes a lot of discipline.

But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that, for the bees, sugarwater is the equivalent of honey. It isn’t. Bees make honey specifically to take care of their nutritional needs. Sugarwater is not an adequate substitute.

Yes, bees can live off of sugar-water. But if we make them do that, is it any wonder that our hives are not as healthy and can’t resist pests and diseases?

Besides, when you think about it, feeding bees is a lot more trouble than just leaving the honey on the hive.

So, for their long-term health, leave as much honey as possible on your hives. The payoff will be more bees, healthier hives and more honey later down the road.

Jim Stovall

Some of our members probably remember George Imirie (1933 – 2007), a veteran beekeeper who learned a lot of common sense beekeeping practices during nearly three quarters of a century of beekeeping. He wrote a great deal about the subject in what he called his “pink pages.” Some of them are on the Tennessee Beekeepers Association website: Here’s an excerpt on “supering” from one of those papers:

For many years, beekeepers added another super when the first super was about half or 2/3 full, maybe due to lack of supers, lack of research to investigate this, or more likely “it was the way that Daddy did it.”

However, since migratory beekeeping has become popular and the US Dept. of Agriculture has researched supering techniques during the past few decades, research has clearly shown that due to the “hoarding” instinct of the honey bee, the placement of several supers of DRAWN COMB (NOT foundation) on a colony all at one time results in more honey production and less swarming during a nectar flow than adding one super to another as they are needed. I put 5 Illinois supers of DRAWN COMB on each colony on or before April 30.

Page 618 of the 1992 Revised Edition of The Hive and Honey Bee agrees and recommends the use of multiple supers of drawn comb rather than single supering.

Read the rest of this entry »

Charlie Parton is one of the mainstays of the Blount County Beekeepers Association. He reads and studies about bees constantly, and he is always willing to share his advice with others.

He has helped many people in Blount County get started with their hives by providing them with nucs and other supplies.

Charlie was named the 2011 Beekeeper of the Year by the Tennessee Beekeepers Association.

Charlie Parton gets ready to truck his bees to the mountains to gather sourwood honey.

How many hives do you keep? 


Describe the woodenware you use for your hive bodies and your honey supers (deeps, mediums, shallows, wood, plastic, etc).

9 5/8 in cypress supers for the brood. 6 5/8 in. cypress for honey supers. Solid cypress bottom boards, wood inner cover from Brushy Mnt., plastic telescoping covers and wood frame/plastic foundation in brood and honey supers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Veteran beekeeper Howard Kerr told the Blount County Beekeepers Association that bees are extraordinary animals and worth a lot of study.

Howard Kerr speaking to the BCBA

Howard has devoted nearly 50 years to doing just that. Here are a few of the points he made:

  • While worker bees have barbed stingers, the queen has a smooth stinger. That’s what she uses to fight other queens. Because it’s smooth, she doesn’t lose it when she uses it. Worker bees lose their stingers when they used them and thus can live for only a short time after that.
  • When you buy a three-pound package of bees, you’re getting about 10,000 bees. There are about 3,300 bees to a pound.
  • The only purpose of a drone is to mate with a queen (not necessarily of the same hive). The mating is done in the air, and once the mating is finished, the drone dies.
  • You are what you eat; so are the bees. An egg gets hormone-rich royal jelly for about three days, but then the nurse bees most of the time stop feeding that. If a bee continues to get royal jelly, she could develop into a queen.
  • Bees use landmarks to find their way around, especially when they are returning to the hive.
  • Bees have something called “flower fidelity,” which is what makes them such good pollinators. They will work the same type of flower over and over. Consequently, they are more likely to carry the pollen from one flower to another. Other insects work a variety of flowers at the same time, and they are less likely to be good pollinators.
  • Bees are not smart (“People don’t like it when I say that,” Howard said), but they are “highly programmed.”


With this post, we’re kicking off a new series on — Best Beekeeping Practices Q & A.

We’ve decided to tap into the wisdom and experiences of some of our veteran members of the Blount County Beekeepers Association and get their recommendations for keeping bees in the East Tennessee area. These folks have been keeping bees around here for decades, and they have a lot to tell us.

This idea is the brainchild of John Neal, who formulated a basic questionnaire that several of our members were willing to fill out. We appreciate his efforts in putting this series together.

Our first interviewee is Howard Kerr.


Howard Kerr has been keeping bees in Blount County for more than three decades.

Among his many accomplishments, Howard is a former state representative and helped write many of the laws governing beekeeping in Tennessee.

Howard is known as one of the best sources of beekeeping equipment in the county, and he makes an annual trip to southern Georgia to bring back packages of bees to those who want to add to their colonies each spring.

Howard is also known for his sound, practical advice that he generously gives to all who ask. Here are some of the things that Howard told us when we put our Basic Beekeeping questions to him.

Describe the woodenware you use for your hive bodies and your honey supers (deeps, mediums, shallows, wood, plastic, etc).

2 deeps for brood chamber and 4 to 5 Illinois supers for honey.  All wood boxes and natural beeswax foundation.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Blount County Beekeepers Association

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

Chuck Davis


Mark Ford


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 2018

The Blount County Beekeepers Association meets on the second Monday of every month, except for September and December, at 6:30 p.m. at the Maryville Church of Christ, 611 Sherwood Drive in Maryville.

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 and activities for 2018:

January 8 – regular meeting

February 12 – regular meeting

February 17 – BCBA short course for new beekeepers

March 10– New Beekeepers class

March 12 – regular meeting

March 17 -Wooden Ware class

April 9 – regular meeting

April  TBA-Field Day for new beekeepers

May 14 – regular meeting

June 11 – regular meeting

July 9 – regular meeting

August 13 – regular meeting

October 8 – regular meeting

November 12 – regular meeting

December 10 – Christmas dinner

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