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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.


Whatever you do with your honey, don’t give it away.

That was the message from veteran Blount County beekeeper Coley O’Dell, who talked to the Blount County Beekeepers Association on June 8 and harvesting and marketing honey. Honey is too valuable, and it takes too much work to get it, O’Dell said.

O’Dell also discussed several ways in which honey could be taken from the hive, including escape boards and fume boards. In his experience, he said, most escape boards do not work. Fume boards are better if you have a large number of hives.

If you have a small number of hives and you harvest honey frame by frame, O’Dell said that all you need is a bee brush and a smoker.

Two of the slideshows that Coley used in his presentation are available for downloading by clicking on the links below. (Thanks much to Coley for sending these along.)

Equipment For Harvesting Honey Final Slides

Marketing Honey 6615 Final Back Up



In the second part of the meeting John Gee demonstrated how to use a honey extractor to get honey off the comb.

John Gee, far right, discusses extracting equipment with some of the members of the BCBA.

John Gee, far right, discusses extracting equipment with some of the members of the BCBA.


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.

What is the purpose of a colony of bees?

Pollination? Wrong.

A swarm of bees marches into its new home after being dropped from a tree.

A swarm of bees marches into its new home after being dropped from a tree.

Bees do this by accident. They don’t realize how much they’re helping humans and wouldn’t care if they did.

Making honey? Wrong.

Bees make honey because this is a stable food source. The fact that humans like honey is again irrelevant to the bees.

Bees are like any other wild animal. They exist for two reasons: to survive and to reproduce.

Except that, in the case of honeybees, most of them don’t reproduce. They are part of a colony, and the colony tries to survive and to reproduce.

Which brings us to “casting swarms.”

I don’t recall ever coming across that term until veteran beekeeper Jim Tew used it in a presentation to the Blount County Beekeepers Association meeting in August. Jim said then that bees will try to survive until they can find a suitable place to live — a good hollow tree or something like that — and “cast a few swarms.”

The term popped up again when I was reading Thomas Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy, a fascinating book that is built around Seeley’s decades of study of swarming behavior.

In upstate New York, where I live, my colonies begin sending forth their drones in late April, and they begin casting their swarms . . . a week or two later in early May. (p. 35)

* * * 

An enduring mystery about honeybees is what exactly stimulates a colony to begin rearing queens and thereby initiate the process of swarming. Beekeepers know that certain conditions inside a colony’s hive (congestion of the adult bees, numerous immature bees, and expanding food reserves) and outside the hive (plentiful forage and spring time) are correlated with the start of queen rearing for swarming. Nevertheless, to this day, no one knows what specific stimuli the worker bees are sensing and integrating when they make the critical decision to start the swarming process. (p. 36) (quoted material)

Swarming is what bees do. It’s one of their basic purposes. As good beekeepers, we should let them do it.

Related articles

Jim Tew describes the inside of a feral beehive

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

A different view of swarms


Key words: bees, beekeeping, casting swarms, pollination, Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy, swarming, honey


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:
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

Lorenzo Langstroth, father of modern beekeeping, recognized the value of buckwheat to his honeybees.

Buckwheat furnishes an excellent Fall feed for bees.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 10.50.02 AMAs those of you who follow this blog regularly will know, I am a huge advocate of growing buckwheat to supplement the natural diet for honeybees. (See the previous posts: here, here, and here.)

Father Langstroth was, too.

In his book, A Practical Treatise on the Hive and  Honey-bee, published in 1857, here’s what Langstroth had to say about buckwheat:

Buckwheat furnishes an excellent Fall feed for bees; and often enables them to fill their hives with a generous supply against Winter, The honey being gathered either in the early part of the day, or when the atmosphere is moist, is often quite thin; the bees sweat out a large portion of its moisture, but still they do not exhaust the whole, and in wet seasons, it is somewhat liable to sour in the cells- Honey gathered in a dry season, is always thicker, and of course more valuable than that gathered in a wet one, as it contains much less water. Buckwheat is uncertain in its honey-bearing qualities; in some seasons, it yields next to none, and hardly a bee will be seen upon a large field, while in others, it furnishes an extraordinary supply* The most practical and scientific agriculturists agree that so far from being an impoverishing crop, it is on many soils, one of the most profitable that can be raised. Every bee-keeper should have, some in the vicinity of his hives.

The following facts respecting the cultivation of buckwheat, were communicated to me by Mr. A. Wells, of Greenfield, Mass. He had a piece of land so exhausted by successive crops of corn and rye, that it would produce nothing but buckwheat, which he cultivated upon it for twelve or thirteen successive years. At the end of this time the land had recovered sufficiently to produce good corn! Each year, the weeds and self-sown buckwheat, which grew upon it, were plowed under, in seeding for the new crop, and the result proves, how erroneous are the common notions respecting the exhausting effects on the land, of this grain.

Dzierzon says: “In the stubble of winter grain, buckwheat might be sown, whereby ample forage would be secured, to the beesr late in the season, and a remunerating crop of grain garnered besides . This plant, growing so rapidly and maturing so soon, so productive in favorable seasons, and so well adapted to cleanse the land, certainly deserves more attention from farmers than it receives; and its more frequent and general culture would greatly enhance the profits of bee-keeping. Its long continued and frequently renewed blossoms, yield honey so abundantly, that a populous colony may easily collect fifty pounds in two weeks if the weather is favorable.”

Key words: Lorenzo Langstroth, buckwheat, honey, bees, beekeeping, A Practical Treatise on the Hive and Honey-bee

This is pretty amazing.

There aren’t many beekeepers I know (and that would include me) who would be willing to climb out onto the sheer face of a cliff to take care of their hives.

But that’s what this guy in China does.

The photos are located at the Guardian newspaper/website of Great Britain. Click on the image to see more.

This screenshot shows the top of the photo gallery in The Guardian of a beekeeper in China whose hives are on a cliff.

This screenshot shows the top of the photo gallery in The Guardian of a beekeeper in China whose hives are on a cliff.

One of the captions notes that China produces half the honey in the world. I hope they have an easier way to do it than this.


Key words: beekeeping in China, honey, beehives on a cliff, Guardian

IMG_1807September is National Honey Month.

For beekeepers, of course, every month is a time when we think about bees and what they produce, but this may give us a chance to bring a few more folks in on our thinking.

Tammy Horn, state apiarist for Kentucky and nationally known bee expert and author, has noted that

. . . while Americans consume 400 million pounds of honey every year, only 135 million pounds are produced in the United States. This disparity puts American consumers at risk of buying honey that is adulterated or that has been “cut,” or combined with ingredients other than honey. “The best way to be sure you are buying pure honey is to buy from a local source you know and trust,” Horn said.

Horn said more beekeepers are needed. “With demand for honey in the United States far exceeding supply, there are tremendous opportunities in beekeeping and honey production,” Horn said. “The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is happy to help anyone who wants to get started in this fascinating and rewarding business.” (quoted material)

More beekeepers would be a good thing.

Less imported honey would also be a good thing.

So if we can use National Honey Month to bring us closer to those things, then let’s celebrate.


Key words: National Honey Month, Tammy Horn, imported honey, honey, beekeepers, honeybees

Scientists are Lund University in Sweden are finding that 13 lactic acid bacteria found in raw honey are possibly powerful agents in combatting infections, particularly those infections that have grown resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

People have known about the healing power of honey on open wounds for hundreds of years, but just why it works has not been clear.

According to the American Bee Journal:

While the effect on human bacteria has only been tested in a lab environment thus far, the lactic acid bacteria has been applied directly to horses with persistent wounds. The LAB was mixed with honey and applied to ten horses; where the owners had tried several other methods to no avail. All of the horses’ wounds were healed by the mixture.

The researchers believe the secret to the strong results lie in the broad spectrum of active substances involved. (quoted)

Here’s a video about the research produced by Lund University.



Key words: honey, healing powers of honey, lactic acids in honey, raw honey, Lund University, honey used to fight infections, bacteria, bees, honeybees, apitherapy, combatting infections

Most of us — beekeepers and the folks who know them — know where our honey comes from.

IMG_1807But lots of people do not.

And there is a lot of bogus honey out there, particularly what is used industrially (rather than sold in stores).

The problem of bogus honey has been around for a while. In 2006 a petition went to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to come up with a definition of honey. The FDA refused.

Now the Agriculture Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is talking about coming up with a federal standard for the identity of honey. The folks there want public comments. Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, has sent out the following report:

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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