Monday, July 27, 2009

Tennessee Adds New Beekeepers

Facing a decline in the number of pollinators, the Tennessee Beekeepers Association is attempting to help individuals enter beekeeping across the state of Tennessee. The state-wide organization provided bee hives and start-up equipment for 72 Tennessee beekeepers. An integral part of the program to help first-time beekeepers is the matching of all new beekeepers with an experienced mentor. Training courses, books, and literature go a long way toward explaining the science of beekeeping. An experienced mentor can explain the art of beekeeping. It takes experienced eyes to detect the subtle differences between hives. It takes a good teacher to explain to the new beekeeper what is occurring in the bee hive and why. A mentor can help detect and correct hive problems and turn the early efforts into a rewarding experience.

I had the opportunity to visit Shirley Murphy, one of the new beekeepers, at her Tennessee River home. Shirley and her partner, Mike, an avid nature photographer, have added honey bees to the fruit and nut trees, vegetables, and flowers that they grow in clearings in the hardwood forest. Deer and wild turkey abound as well as small game and song birds. The honey bee plays an instrumental part in providing food for wildlife by pollinating plants which provide fruit and seeds. Shirley and I inspected her new colony of honey bees located near her vineyard. The prolific colony had recently superseded its queen, and we found the new queen in the brood nest. In the photo, Shirley examines a deep frame of brood, covered with nurse bees. We started our inspection in gloves, and then removed them as we got a feel for the gentleness of the hive. Shirley and Mike are true stewards of the environment. I enjoyed their hospitality, a wonderful lunch, shared stories, and a very nice bottle of home-made wine. Shirley’s bees are in good hands.

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