About Our Bees

beekeeper with hive, providing local honey

We started our first hive on March 26, 2015 and enjoyed an eventful first year of beekeeping. Despite all our preparation (building a hive, attending beekeeping classes at our local beekeeping club, having a wonderful bee mentor, reading books), the first colony lasted less than a week before it flew away to a nicer home. Undeterred, and with the assistance of a few precious frames of honey and comb from my bee mentor, John, I started a new colony.

healthy bee colony

That summer I learned how to “read frames” to see what the bees were doing and whether they needed my help in fighting pests or making a new queen. I also made a lot of rookie mistakes, the most memorable of which was when I attempted to sample some honey while inspecting a hive and was met with a flurry of (rightfully) angry bees. The bees flew inside my unsecured veil and stung me, causing me to run around the yard swatting at my head. I flung off my hat and ran inside our house only to be met by my confused husband, Trey, who took one look at me and said, “You are covered in bees, out you go.” After that, I decided it would be a good idea to invest in a beekeeping jacket with an attached hood and veil.

healthy bees at organic farm

That colony unfortunately didn’t make it through the winter, but I was hooked and made plans to restart my hive in the spring. I eagerly watched the bees meticulously build out frame after frame of comb and fill them with baby bees, pollen, and honey. The bees made it through the winter and the following spring I expanded to two hives and was able to extract a small amount of honey for us to enjoy.

healthy bees in honeycomb

The following summer we moved from our rental home, situated on a beautiful 90-acre farm, to our current home on Purple Valley Farm in Jonesborough, TN. Our two hives produced more honey that season and one of two hives made it through the winter. According to our local beekeeping club (The Appalachian Bee Club), east Tennessee beekeepers lost about 70% of all hives over the winter. As it’s not very cold in Tennessee, the losses were mostly due to pests like varroa mites and other illnesses.

heirloom fruit trees at organic farm, Eastern Tennessee

Knowing that our bees would happily forage for nectar and pollen among our 150+ heirloom fruit trees, I decided to expand the bee yard to three hives. We were able to harvest delicious and complex honey at the end of the season and learned more about how to safely and naturally manage various pests and diseases.

healthy beehives

We’ve had as many as six hives in the last year and are headed into the winter with four strong hives. It has certainly been up and down over the years as the learning curve is steep. Sometimes you can do everything right and still lose a hive. I always learn something new about bees and I still get excited every time I open up a hive and pull out the frames. Bees are truly incredible creatures. Bees need our help and we are fortunate to be able to give them a flower-filled paradise in which to forage and warm, dry places to call home. Our neighbors delight in seeing our bees in their pastures and swear their vegetable gardens are bountiful because of the pollinators we have introduced. Our goal is to slowly increase the number of hives in our apiary and to continue to learn more about how to best help honeybees thrive.

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