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Where have all the bees gone? Beekeepers school set for March 13-15 at Appalachian Fairgrounds

March 7th, 2014 9:32 am by Marci Gore

Where have all the bees gone? Beekeepers school set for March 13-15 at Appalachian Fairgrounds

A frame from a hive is covered in bees. (Contributed photo)

With a stark decline in the honeybee population in recent years, Leslie Hammond says folks have become more aware of the need for beekeeping to help provide habitats for these important little pollinators.

“A lot of people have noticed and said, ‘When I used to mow the yard, I would see honeybees all the time, and, now that you mentioned it, I didn’t see a bee at all last month when I mowed.’ People want to know what’s different, what’s changed, why are the honeybees not here anymore,” said Hammond, who, for the past two years, has been keeping bees with her husband. “It’s not hard to keep bees. They are actually one of the last undomesticated animals that we keep. It does require some monitoring of them, but it’s a great hobby for the young and the old.”

To celebrate the near arrival of spring, the Washington County Beekeepers Association (WCBA) will hold its annual Beginning Beekeeping School March 13 through March 15 at the Appalachian Fairgrounds inside Building No. 1 in Gray.

The school is a free, three-day event for anyone interested in becoming a beekeeper. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the basic equipment needed, tech niques and the many rewards associated with beekeeping.

“The school is aimed specifically at the beginner, those who may have thought about beekeeping, but would have no clue as to where to start. It’s going to educate those beginners about what equipment they would need in the beginning, what kind of time commitment they would need, how often you have to check the hives and what to look for to see if your hive is healthy or in distress,” said Hammond.

“Beekeeping is more important than ever. Everybody has seen in the news, over the last few years, about the declining, specifically, the honeybee, populations. Honeybees are one of the largest known pollinators in the world, and they are disappearing.”

Registration for the Beginning Beekeeping School begins at 5:30 p.m. on March 13 with no pre-registration required.

Veteran beekeepers, state inspectors and WCBA members will teach a variety of classes from 6 to 9 p.m. on March 13 and March 14.

Bee school participants can enter to win one of three bee hives provided by the Tennessee Beekeepers Association Hive Grant Program. Winners will be announced Friday evening.

Events on March 15 feature the “hive build” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which allows hands-on experience to assemble equipment needed for a bee’s new home.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit and purchase items from vendors such as K & K Bee Farms, Poor Valley Bee Farm and Royalty Hives.

“A lot of folks are getting back to the backyard homesteading. They’re rediscovering the passions you can get that come along with agriculture and getting your own food from your garden or yard. And that’s where beekeeping comes in. Everybody likes their own honey, and there are health benefits to it and knowing what has gone into your own product,” Hammond said.

Beekeeping, although a relatively easy hobby, Hammond says, is not without its challenges.

“It’s hard for them to get through the winter. They have to have enough honey stores to get through the winter and then once springtime comes, if you have a large number, you might have to watch out for them swarming. If they get too crowded, they will leave the hive to look for another home. This year, we lost three out of four of our own hives because of the cold weather. We’re hearing some reports of 40 to 80 percent lost this year and that’s between both the veteran beekeepers and the newbies. The cold weather doesn’t discriminate,” Hammond said.

Beekeeping does take some effort, but if you enjoy being outside, Hammond adds, it’s a great hobby with high rewards and payoffs.

“It’s not a cheap hobby to get started with, but once you get started and can keep it going, you can have your hives for a very long time. Some people have had the same hives for 30 to 40 years.”

For more information about the Beginning Beekeeping School, contact the WCBA at (423) 384-7009 or email or visit

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