Honey can do more than sweeten your biscuits. It may even ward off sneezes and sniffles, said Ken Dale, president of the Tennessee Valley Beekeepers Association.
"If you eat honey from the area where you live, it will help with your allergies," he said. "The honey needs to be from within a 50-mile radius of where you live."
The local pollens contained in the honey would help build up a resistance to plant allergies, he explained.
Dale, who lives near Cleveland, Tenn., said he expects to have a good crop of honey this year and will harvest in July or August.
"It's possible that I could harvest a little early because of the weather we are having," he said.
He will sell the honey at Chattanooga Market and is happy to talk about beekeeping with anyone who stops by.
"Tennessee Valley Beekeepers Association has an annual mentorship program, (and) this year we've got about 30 people in it," he said.
For links and information on bees and honey, he suggests starting with the association's website, tennvalleybeekeepers.org.
Here are some tips for getting started from Dale and TVBA media director Don Rima.
1. Talk with other beekeepers in your area and then decide what you want your goal to be - honey, pollination, wax, hobby, etc.. Then select the variety/breed of bees. A good first step is to join your local beekeepers association.
2. Be patient. Don't feel you have to go out and set up a hive and colony until you're ready. When you're ready, be selective of the variety/breed of bees you raise. Start small until you're comfortable with working with bees.
3. Find an experienced mentor and, if possible, go through a mentorship/education program.
4. Don't be afraid to ask questions. There are several good trade journals, associations and lots of information online.
5. Watch and listen to what the bees tell you. A lot of this comes with experience, time and good mentorship. Bees are good at managing themselves in many ways. You just have to make sure you don't get in their way. Be aware that your style of beekeeping may be different than others, but that's OK. Your style of beekeeping needs to work for you. Bees may end up educating you.