Come hear area keepers buzz about honeybees

Come hear area keepers buzz about honeybees

January 21st, 2012 in Life Entertainment

Honeybees were brought from Europe to the East Coast of North America in 1622. It took another 231 years before the honeybee reached the West Coast. Beekeeping is now a $14 billion industry nationwide.

Honeybees play a significant role in the production of a number of specialty crops. Insects pollinate apple, blueberry, cherry, peach, raspberry, strawberry and pumpkin flowers. An estimated 80 percent of crop insect pollination is accomplished by honeybees. Millions of acres of fruit, vegetable, oilseed and legume seed crops depend on insect pollination.

Numerous crops are 90 percent dependent on honeybee pollination. Among them are avocados and sunflowers. Other crops such as alfalfa, cucumbers, kiwis, melons and many vegetables also are pollinated, in part, by honeybees. The California almond crop is entirely dependent on honeybee pollination.

Bees not only pollinate plant species with showy flowers but also pollinate many important food crops such as beans, peas, tomatoes, tea and cocoa.

Bees are best

Insects are not needed for pollination of rice, wheat, corn, soybean, sorghum, millet, rye and barley. These are self-pollinated or wind-pollinated crops. These grains supply a big percentage of the world's food. We would have plenty to eat even without the bees. We could survive like more than two-thirds of the world's population. Southeast Asia has a staple diet of rice. However, our diet would be dreadfully bland.

In the United States, we are fortunate to have such a wide variety of food to eat. We should thank insects for this abundance. There's a widely stated phrase in U.S. agriculture that you can thank a pollinator for one out of three bites of food you eat.

Honeybees are still the best pollinators for most crops. More than 2 million bee hives are rented annually. They are very efficient. Without them our assortment of farm produce would drop dramatically. The honeybee population has dropped by half since about 1960. Scientists are working diligently to make sure bees stay healthy.

Bee educated

A group of local volunteers have formed the Tennessee Valley Beekeepers Association. This group promotes the study, science and craft of beekeeping and provides education and encouragement to new and experienced beekeepers. Annual dues are $10 per person.

The January, February and March meetings will be held at Outdoor Chattanooga, 200 River St. The meetings will start at 6 p.m. This is earlier than the regular start time, so please make notice of the new time.

The January TVBA meeting will be presented by Charlie Parton from Blount County. He has been a beekeeper for more than 30 years and maintains about 70 colonies. He is active in the Blount County Beekeepers Association, including serving two terms as president, and is East Tennessee vice president of the Tennessee Beekeepers Association. He was selected as Tennessee Beekeeper of the Year for 2011. Parton has shared his love of beekeeping by mentoring numerous new beekeepers through the years. He speaks to school groups and to other organizations of his love for the craft.

The TVBA also organizes a Beekeeping Mentorship Class. This is an incredible opportunity to not only learn from seasoned and experienced beekeepers, but you also get a full hive and colony to take home with you when you're done. The cost of the class will be $350. A deposit of $150 is required before Feb. 10 with the remainder due at or by the first class on Feb. 27. Contact Ken Dale at 339-7342 or with any further questions on the mentoring class.

There also will be a Master Beekeeping Class on April 12-14. This class will be taught by professor John Skinner from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The cost will be $50 per person. Check the website,, for more information.

Contact Tom Stebbins at or 423-855-6113.