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Getting your honey of the hive — how does that happen?

And then what do you do with all that golden stuff​?

Those will be the questions we will be tackling at the next meeting of the Blount County Beekeepers Association. One of our members, Coley O’Dell, will talk about harvesting and marketing honey, and another member, John Gee, will give us a demonstration on extracting honey.

Dennis Barry will be presenting the seasonal management discussion.

The meeting will be Monday, June 8, at 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Blount County Library.

If you have questions about what your bees are doing this time of year, this next BCBA meeting would be a great place to get some answers.

As always, our meetings are free and open to the public. Invite a friend to come along with you.

Even if the friend isn’t interested in becoming a beekeeper, we always have lively, friendly discussions about what we should be doing with our bees.

And, if you aren’t doing this already, you should check out on a regular basis. Better yet, you should go to the site and sign up for an email subscription (free, of course). You will get an email every time we post something new to the site.


Packages of bees, as usual, may be in short supply this spring, so you will want to get your orders in early.

Several BCBA members offer packages and nucs. Here are the ones we know about:

  • Howard Kerr (865) 982-6750
  • Coley O’Dell (865) 556-1345 (more information here)
  • Stephanie Tarwater (865) 805-1994

There may be other members to add to this list. If so, let me know.

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

Some honey can make you sick.

Some nectars can kill your bees.

Don’t worry. The “poisonous honey” is not likely to be on your grocery self, and it is very unlikely to be in the jars of stuff you took from your apiary this summer.

Rhododendren (University of Illinois)

Rhododendren (University of Illinois)

For us East Tennesseans, however, the poisonous nectar is not that far away. The nectar produced by rhododendron and mountain laurel, plants we’re pretty familiar with, are not good for the bees. Fortunately, these plants are found mostly in the mountains where the honeybee population is not high.

Miss Apis Mellifera, a beekeeping website run by Emma Sarah Tennant in Great Britain, has an excellent summary article all about poisonous nectars and honey. Tennant keeps bees in the London area along with Emily Scott, whose website is Adventures in Beeland.

Tennant says of poisonous honey, particularly having to do with rhododendrons:

An incident of poisoning reported in honeybee colonies on Colonsay Island off west-coast Scotland in 1995, referenced in Yates Beekeeping Study Notes (Modules 1, 2 & 3). “The bees had died out completely in 2–3 days after starting to collect nectar from Rhododendron blossoms (Rhododendron thomsonii) caused by the poisonandromedotoxin or acetylandromedol.” Ted Hooper writes on the case of Colonsay Island’s bees: “The West of Scotland College of Agriculture Study showed that the poisonandromedotoxin was involved”.

It sounds like rhododendrons are not a desirable source of forage for bees! However, to put the risk of honey poisoning from rhododendron, or any other toxic plant, into perspective, I asked John Robertson of The Poison Garden website: “Put simply, something has to go wrong for toxic honey to be produced and then it has to go wrong again for it to cause human poisoning.” OK, so what can go wrong?

“The first thing that has to go wrong is to have a lack of species diversity. Generally, bees visit so many different plants that they don’t get a concentration of any particular toxin. This can go wrong, as in the west of Scotland, where Rhododendrons are almost the only thing in flower early in the spring. But, nectar from Rhododendron is toxic enough to kill the bees so they tend not to return it to the hive. Experienced beekeepers know not to let their bees out at this time of year. I haven’t seen any reports of poisoning from honey made from Rhododendrons.” John writes more on The poison garden blog, entry forTuesday 27 September 2011. (quoted material)

There’s much more of this kind of information in the entire article, and for those interested in what happens to bees when they forage and what they produce, it’s worth a look.


Key words: bees, honeybees, poisonous nectar, poisonous honey, Emma Sarah Tenant, Emily Scott, Miss Apis Mellifera, Adventures in Beeland, rododendren, mountain laurel

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 ( 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

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

The annual Blount County Beekeepers Association Christmas Party will be on Dec. 8 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Sandy Springs Road. The time is 6:30 p.m.

We have special entertainment planned for this year: Off Kilter, a musical ensemble from Maryville College. This group gets rave reviews wherever it performs, and the students should provide us with a lot of fun.

The cost of the dinner is $12.50 per person. Checks should be given to our treasurer Bernie McGraw at the November meeting. If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can mail your check to Bernie at

Bernie McGraw
1220 Havenwood Drive
Maryville, TN 37804

Off Kilter is a performing group of Maryville College students who sing a variety of songs and styles. They perform under the direction of Coordinator of Choral Music Stacey Wilner.

If you want a pre-party taste of what they do, here are a couple of YouTube videos:



Key words: Blount County Beekeepers Association, Christmas Party, bees, beekeeping, Off Kilter, Maryville College, Stacey Wilner

Thomas Seeley’s book, Honeybee Democracy, describes all sorts of fascinating behaviors of honeybees.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.46.03 AMNone of those behaviors is more interesting than how a swarm of bees chooses a place to live.

Here are the basics:

  • Scout bees — older, more experienced bees — leave the swarm to look for a good location.
  • The bees that find possible locations spend as much as 30 minutes or more investigating them. They take into consideration a number of factors such as size of the cavity, direction of the entrance, distance from the ground, condition of the wood, etc.
  • If a scout is convinced that this could be a good place for the swarm, she returns to the swarm and does a waggle dance. The enthusiasm of her dance indicates how she “rates” the site.
  • Other bees take off for the site to do an inspection.
  • If they agree with the original scout’s assessment, they will return and join the waggle dance, and other will go out and do the same thing.
  • Meanwhile, other scouts may be making the case for other sites.
  • Eventually, one site becomes the favorite of most of the bees, and the other bees — whose genetic make-up developed over eons of natural selection — fall in line. In other words, the bees form a consensus.
  • The site is selected, and the bees take off for it.
  • The queen has little or no say in any of this.

But there’s more.

Robert Krulwich, science reporter for National Public Radio, has developed an informative and amusing audio about this process. During the audio (about seven minutes long), he interviews Thomas Seeley. It’s well worth listening to.


Related articles

Casting swarms – it’s what bees do

A different view of swarms

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


Key words: bees, honeybees, swarms, how bees select a new home, Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy, Robert Krulwich, National Public Radio, queen bee, scout bees

One of the developing non-chemical methods to fight varroa is to use Russian bees and to acquire Russian queens.

On Marsh Island, Louisiana, an isolated ARS research facility used for producing pure stocks of Russian bees, technician Gary Delatte prepares hives for transport. Photo by Scott Bauer. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

On Marsh Island, Louisiana, an isolated ARS research facility used for producing pure stocks of Russian bees, technician Gary Delatte prepares hives for transport.
Photo by Scott Bauer. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

That’s what Tom Conlon, a beekeeper in Massachusetts and a member of the Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association, is doing. A recent article in a local Massachusetts newspaper about him says:

As a member of the Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association, Conlon began introducing honey bees from Russia’s Primorsky region into his hives 14 years ago. The Russian bees, which are from the same area as the mites, have developed a natural defense against them: They groom each other, removing the bugs and tossing them out of their hives — a behavior which their European cousins don’t exhibit.

But the adult bees aren’t the only ones threatened by the mites. During the pupal stage — the period in which a bee transitions from a larva into an adult — the mites force their way into the cells and try to eat the pupa.

According to Condon, the Russian bees have developed a way to sense when that is occurring and are able to pull those mites out as well.

“In nature, a lot of these mechanisms appear over long periods of time, and some have these abilities that help them survive,” said Condon. “It’s probably the best solution yet, it’s very exciting. They’re hardier bees. Eventually there won’t be any treatment necessary.” (quoted material)

Conlon is serious about keeping his Russian bees as pure as possible, as the article explains. It makes good reading and is food for serious thought for us beekeepers.

More support for using Russian bees to fight varroa can be found on this page of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Key words: bees, honeybees, varroa, Russian bees, Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association, Tom Conlon, beekeeping in Massachusetts, non-chemical methods of fighting varroa, Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture

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, 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 article and see what you think.


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

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:

Related articles

Beekeepers in Canada file suit against Bayer, Syngenta 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


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Blount County Beekeepers Association

Join us

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

Dale Hinkle
423-261- 5234


Kathy Flaherty
203-314- 0270


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 2019

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 14 – regular meeting

February 11 – regular meeting

February 16 – BCBA short course for new beekeepers

TBA– New Beekeepers class

March 11 – regular meeting

March 17 -Wooden Ware class

April 8 – regular meeting

April  27-Field Day for new beekeepers

May 13 – regular meeting

June 10 – regular meeting

July 8 – regular meeting

August 12 – regular meeting

October 14 – regular meeting

November 11 – regular meeting

December 9 – Christmas dinner

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