Chuck Denney (UT Institute of Agriculture)
The honeybee is a precious insect, vital to our eco-system. Bees pollinate many agricultural crops and other flowers and plants, and account for 118 million dollars to Tennessee’s economy.
Dr. John Skinner (UT Extension)
“When you’re talking about our own food supply, about every third bite you put in your mouth is the result of bee-pollinated crops.”
UT Extension specialist Dr. John Skinner works with beekeepers statewide, and monitors bee populations in the wild. Here he checks on these colonies at UT’s AgResearch center - where bees make honey and more bees. He wants to prevent so-called “swarming” which cuts down on production of both.
Dr. John Skinner
“If we find eggs, we know there’s a healthy laying queen.”
We’ve seen bee populations go down here and around the country. Reasons include a mysterious ailment called CCD or colony collapse disorder. But Dr. Skinner thinks a bigger concern in Tennessee is that mites and other pests are attacking colonies. UT researchers are now rearing queen bees resistant to these pests. That’s the queen with the white spot.
Dr. John Skinner
“Our knowledge in genetics has improved a great deal, and we’re getting better at breeding bees, and also at selecting for certain traits that bees have that may make them resistant.”
In Tennessee, we’ve lost nearly one-third of our honeybee population in the past year. CCD is not an issue here, but we’re still losing bees - and experts want to know why. UT specialists are also looking at improper use of pesticides as a possible cause for the decrease. The university is teaming with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to help beekeepers manage their colonies, which would boost the population.
Michael Studer (Tennessee Department of Agriculture)
“A lot of times the beekeepers aren’t treating their colonies the way they should. They’re not putting the medications on for some of the diseases that are coming out because they don’t know about them. What we’re trying to do is get the word out to them that you need to treat for certain things.”
While some people may fear this insect because of a potential sting, we don’t want to see bees go away. Our landscape, our food supply, our economy are all dependant on a thriving honeybee population.
NOTE: Here’s an urban myth that’s actually sort of true. Will honey really keep forever? Experts say it depends on the conditions where it’s stored.
UT offers Beekeeping classes statewide.