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All Blount County beekeepers can extract honey from their hives, Mike Studer, state apiarist, said on Saturday morning.

But beekeepers should continue to monitor their hives to see if they notice any significant bee kills that might occur over the next couple of weeks.

Studer asked on Friday that honey extraction be suspended from many Blount County hives, particularly those close to the train derailment site that cause the evacuation of more than 5,000 people from their homes on Thursday.

The train car that derailed was carrying a dangerous chemical, which caught fire and took more than16 hours to burn itself out. A number of Blount beekeepers maintain hives that are well within the radius the evacuation zone.

State and federal environment officials were on the scene Thursday to test the air and water to see if any parts of the environment had been polluted, and they are continuing to gather samples.

Studer said he had been in touch with these officials, and to date they have found no levels of pollution outside normal levels.

If you see a significant bee kill in front of your hives over the next couple of weeks, you should contact Mike Studer at 615-517-4451 or Harlen Breeden, president of the Blount County Beekeepers Association, at 865-719-1828.

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With winter approaching (in some places it’s already here), the beekeeper has two jobs:

  • Make sure the bees in your hives have plenty of food.
  • Think about about what’s going to happen in your apiary in the spring and summer.
Spring is the season the beekeeper should be planning for now.

Spring is the season the beekeeper should be planning for now.

Neither of these jobs involves a lot of work at this point, but they shouldn’t be neglected. The main characteristic of good beekeepers is that they think ahead — one or two seasons ahead.

Now is the time think about your bees, the equipment you have and the general environment that will confront the bees when they start flying in the spring.

Will you need to order packages of bees or nucs to rebuild your apiary in the spring? That, of course, depends on how many of your hives make it through the winter. We don’t know what will happen in that regard at the moment, unless you have already experienced losses.

What we do know is that in Tennessee the winter losses for beekeepers have been about 30 percent during the past few winters. The smart thing then is to plan for that kind of loss and hope it doesn’t happen. Now is the time to get in touch with the folks who supply you with bees and see what their availability will be. Most of those people are starting a list now, and your name should be on it.

We’ll have more to say later about equipment and environment.

Right now, you should plan for some losses and think about how you will replenish your apiary.

Related articles

Beekeeping involves year-around planning, BCBA told

Key words: bees, beehives, beekeeping, bee equipment, ordering bees, packages of bees, beehive nucs, winter losses for beehives


Many of the viruses now being discovered in beehives are introduced by the varroa destructor, according to Philip Moore, a bee researcher at the University of Tennessee.

Philip Moore

Philip Moore

Moore spoke to the November meeting of the Blount County Beekeepers Association on Nov. 10 on emerging trends in honeybee health. The picture he painted is not a pretty one for bees or beekeepers.

There are more than 20 viruses that researchers are looking at that infect beehives, he said. Most of these — though not all — are introduced into the hives by varroa.

Moore made the following points during his talk:

  • For most of the viruses, a beekeeper is going to be unaware that they are there. When the hive starts showing symptoms of having a virus, it’s usually too late to do anything about it.
  • Beekeepers should be careful about taking frames from weak hives and putting them in strong hives. Doing this often brings viruses into the strong hive.
  • Beekeepers should inspect their hives regularly for any unusual activity or unusual-looking bees. These are indicators that something is wrong with the hive.
  • The most important thing a beekeeper can do to fight viruses is to try to keep the varroa levels in the hive at a minimum.
  • Some types of bees, such as Africanized bees or Russian bees, exhibit behaviors that help them fight varroa.

Moore said more information about all of this can be found at the University’s website: http://www.extension.org/bee_health.

Here’s an article that Moore co-authored with Michael Wilson, Dr. John Skinner about beehive viruses: http://www.extension.org/pages/71172/honey-bee-viruses-the-deadly-varroa-mite-associates#.VGM63vTF_fY

Key words: honeybees, beehives, bee health, Philip Moore, varroa, varroa destructor, beehive viruses, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, Blount County Beekeepers Association, Russian bees, Africanized bees, beehive inspection, John Skinner, Michael Wilson


Good beekeeping involves planning for two or three seasons ahead, according to Michael Wilson, a bee researcher at the University of Tennessee.

Wilson spoke to the November meeting of the Blount County Beekeepers Association on Nov. 10 on “overwintering” and said that any plans a beekeeper has for overwintering bees should start in the spring of the year. Now is the time to plan for spring and summer.

Michael Wilson at RosecombApiaries

Michael Wilson at RosecombApiaries

Wilson also made the following points during his talk:

  • As winter approaches, it is best to feed solid food, such as a mixture of sugar with small amounts of water. Because we experience warm days in November and even December, sugar water can possibly ferment in the hive even this late in the year.
  • Don’t overfeed. Hives can become “honey-bound;” that is, they will fill all the cells with honey, and the queen will have no place to lay eggs.
  • Much of the research about good beekeeping practices will have to be done by beekeepers. “It’s hard for us (in schools of agriculture) to get money to do that.” However, according to Wilson, through the Bee Informed Partnership (beeinformed.org) Universities and the USDA work to better enable beekeepers to evaluate their beekeeping practices so they can make better management decisions based on objective measures in their own apiaries and comparisons among other beekeepers.
  • New techniques and equipment are being developed for monitoring what is going on in the hive. He referred to SolutionBee and Arina, which produce hive monitoring equipment

Wilson’s website is RosecombApiaries.com.

Key words: bees, honeybees, beehives, overwintering bees, Michael Wilson, UT Institute of Agriculture, honey-bound hives, research on beekeeping, Blount County Beekeepers Association, SolutionBee, Arnia


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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Beekeeping, we’re happy to say, knows no political or ideological boundaries.

And apparently, you can get rich doing it even in a communist country.

A screenshot of the story on VietnamNet about a successful Vietnamese beekeeper.

A screenshot of the story on VietnamNet about a successful Vietnamese beekeeper.

That’s the case with Tran Xuan Phong, 31, of An Khang Commune in northern Vietnam. In 2002, he inherited his father’s 150 beehives and tried to make a go of it. As with almost any new beekeeper, he lacked experience, knowledge and equipment.

But he was determined to make a go of it.
He traveled around the country and discovered that the bees he had were not as productive and others, so he mated them with a strain of Italian bees. His beekeeping skills slowly improved with experience. As reported in a recent article on VietnamNet, the nation’s first online news website:
x
As his hives quickly expanded, Phong took his insects to other provinces for pollen during different flowering seasons.

In 2008, he signed a contract for beekeeping and honey distribution with Dak Lak Bee Co., a Vietnamese firm. His products have since sold particularly well.

Phong’s farm is currently home to 1,700 beehives, which produce over 100 tons of honey per year.

He earns around VND2 billion ($94,135) in profit each year and provides stable jobs for many young people. (quoted)

For those of us who have been around since the 1960s and 1970s, the nation of Vietnam has a special meaning, and the memories for both us and the Vietnamese of those times are not good ones. That’s why, to this beekeeper, this story is a heartening one.

Key words: beekeeping in Vietnam, honey, beehives, Italian bees, communist countries, Tran Xuan Phong


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


This won’t be any surprise to beekeepers or people who know anything about bees:

About 20 percent of the worker bees do most of the foraging. And when these foraging bees need to be replaced, other workers step into those roles.

Click on the image to see the New York Times video.

Click on the image to see the New York Times video.

This short video (1:32) from the New York Times makes that point and shows how scientists at the University of Illinois are tracking this social mobility behavior.

While it is sometimes useful to relate the behavior of bees to that of human beings, those comparisons may, in fact, limit our ability to understand what bees are really like.

Bees are insects. They are, as Jim Tew reminded us in August, wild animals. While we think of them as domesticated because we keep them in hives we build, that’s really not what they are.

Bees have a social system, one that works superbly well. The worker bees are equipped to do a variety of jobs inside and outside the hive, and they do those jobs as they see fit.

But to refer to them as “socially mobile” may be taking the bees-to-humans references a little too far.

Key words: social mobility of bees, beehives, social system of bees, worker bees, foraging, Jim Tew, Ohio State University, Alabama Cooperative Extension, jobs of the worker bees, University of Illinois, research on bees


We recently posted a short piece on the fact that bees need water, and it’s up to the beekeeper to make sure they have it.

This is a good follow-up to that post — especially since it reminds us that bees need water, no matter what season of the year.

The video below has our friend Jim Tew commenting on a short video he took of bees foraging for water, and he asks the question we don’t often ask (probably because it seems to obvious), “What are the bees doing when they forage for water?”

A couple of his comments:

  • You notice the abdomen of the bee pulsing when they are at the water. Are they somehow pumping the water in?
  • Are they getting more than water? Some have speculated that bees are also picking up trace amounts of minerals and natural salts they need.
  • They said near the water rather than in the water, it is thought, so as not to get their wings wet.

 

Water Foragers from osba on Vimeo.

 

Key words: bees and water, bees need water, beekeepers providing water for their bees, foraging for water, Jim Tew, Ohio State University, bees, beehives

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

Chuck Davis
865-566-3690

or

Mark Ford
865-603-2016

Welcome

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 2017

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 2017:

January 9 – regular meeting

February 13 – regular meeting

February 18 – BCBA short course for new beekeepers

March 11 – New Beekeeper Classes

March 13 – regular meeting

March 18 -Wooden Ware class

April 10 – regular meeting

April 29-
Field Day for new beekeepers

May 8 – regular meeting

June 12 – regular meeting

July 10 – regular meeting

August 14 – regular meeting

October 9 – regular meeting

November 13 – regular meeting

December 11 – Christmas dinner

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