published Saturday, February 13th, 2010

'Bee' educated in new beekeeping class

Honeybees pollinate almost 100 of the flowering plants that produce the food we eat. Among them are apples, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, blueberries, celery, cherries, citrus fruit, cranberries, cucumbers, soybeans, squash and strawberries.

Beekeeping, now a $14 billion industry nationwide, has more people considering the addition of a couple of hives in their backyard.

Social insects

A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. The queen bee lives for about two years and lays up to 2,500 eggs per day in summer. Worker bees are female and do all the harvesting of flower nectar to make honey.

Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing. Male honey bees, called drones, do not work at all and have no stinger. Their only role is to mate with the queen. Any drones left at the end of the season are thrown out of the hive.

Honey is a tasty treat with many uses. It was used to dress wounds and embalm bodies in ancient times. Mead, a wine made with honey, was one of the first fermented beverages. In fact, the word "honeymoon" may have come from the Irish tradition of newlyweds drinking mead wine everyday for one full moon (a month) after their weddings.

The local buzz

The Tennessee Valley Beekeepers Association (TVBA), a colony of local beekeepers, wants to "sting" you with enthusiasm for beekeeping. Their mission is "to promote the study, science and craft of beekeeping and to provide education and encouragement to all Tennessee beekeepers." They hold meetings at 7 p.m. the last Monday of each month at the Agriculture Center off Bonny Oaks Drive. Guest speakers include local, regional and state experts in beekeeping. Everyone is invited to attend these informative seminars.

"Bee" educated

TVBA is offering a free Basic Beekeeping Class 7-10 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Homebuilders Association of Southern Tennessee building, 3221 Harrison Pike, off Highway 153 near the Amnicola exit.

After this introductory session, more classes are scheduled for a nominal fee.

An eight-month-long Mentoring Course runs from March to October and will include classroom instruction as well as hands-on field instruction in a beeyard. The $300 cost includes one eight-frame hive with two medium supers, bees and basic beekeeping equipment such as a hive tool and smoker. A non-refundable $100 deposit is due Feb. 18. Full payment is due Feb. 28.

Experienced beekeepers will serve as mentors and instructors for the course. The value of this mentoring is priceless. There will be a limit of three classes or 30 students.

A class will consist of 10 students and two mentors. During instruction, all hives will be in one location to enhance field instruction. At the end of the course, students will take their hives home. Participants will need to purchase personal protective equipment, such as a veil and gloves. TVBA will offer one partial scholarship per class based on economic need and level of interest.

You can attend the basic beekeeping class then decide if you want to make the bigger commitment. You will still benefit greatly from attending the evening class.

Details and registration information may be found at www.tvba.us. Please e-mail beemailus@gmail.com or TVBA treasurer Bob Gray at rangergray@hotmail.com (or call 423-886-3244) for more information.

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