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Bees, beekeepers vital to keeping food on the table

May 21st, 2011 8:43 am by Leigh Ann Laube

Bees, beekeepers vital to keeping food on the table

As part of her beekeeping responsibilities, Maria Jenkins regularly inspects the frames from the hives for mites and sick bees. Her inspection also ensures that the bees are well-fed. Photo by Ned Jilton II.

Dennin Jenkins wasn’t thrilled about having to suit up and accompany his parents to check some of the 74 beehives they tend on their Telford, Tenn., property.

But after a small monetary promise and a Popsicle, the 5-year-old put on his white, hooded suit. Beekeeping has always been a part of Dennin’s young life, and he knows how to search for the queen bee and how to use a smoker to calm the roughly 4 million bees in those 74 hives.

Dennin’s parents, Mike and Maria Jenkins, have been beekeepers since 2007, when they brought their first hive to their property. That hive had survived, untended, on its own for a decade on family property, leftover from Mike’s father’s days as a beekeeper.

Although Mike’s father had 14 hives, beekeeping was the furthest thing from Maria’s mind when she left her native Michigan and moved south with the Kennametal corporation.

“[Mike] wanted to have a business. I told him he was crazy,” she said.

Maria’s mind changed after she was laid off from her job. She eventually began working as an environmental health and safety consultant, but in the interim, she and Mike dove headfirst into the bee business, using mentors from Unicoi County who taught them everything they needed to know.

Read the expanded version of this report in the print edition or the enhanced electronic version of the Kingsport Times-News.

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