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Local Beekeeper: Hobby Rise Across The Region

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Local Beekeeper: Hobby Rise Across The Region

Local Beekeeper Keith Ray said the hobby is increasing in popularity across the Upper Cumberland, especially with younger people.

Ray said he thinks people are becoming interested in the hobby because of concerns about the environment and sustainability. He said the biggest mistake he sees people make when getting into beekeeping is not spending enough time in their hives during the “honey flow,” which is when bees make most of their honey from mid-April to the start of June.

“Things change quickly in a hive, and so if you’re not going in them maybe every week or so in the spring of the year, the bees could swarm, which is their natural tendency, to divide, in nature,” Ray said. “Pests can get out of control, just all sorts of things can go wrong in a hive.”

Ray said the number one reason to start beekeeping is for access to high quality honey to use as a natural sugar. He said there are also a number of health benefits from honey and its byproducts, such as taking bee pollen as a protein supplement.

Fall Creek Falls will host a seminar on beekeepers for those interested in learning the basics Saturday. Ray said anyone interested in the hobby should check out a local beekeeper’s club. He said there are active groups in Cookeville, McMinnville, and Sparta.

Ray said some of the people who purchase his honey report that it helps with their allergies as well.

“The bees are working local flowers, which cause a lot of allergy situations in the spring and the fall,” Ray said. “There’s – pollen from those flowers is mixed in with the honey, so it’s probably some benefit. People take a small quantity everyday to help minimize their allergies.”

Ray said the biggest struggle with beekeeping is fighting Varroa mites, which devastate hives if left unchecked. Ray said there are organic ways to treat the hives for these mites without tainting the honey.

“Most people in beekeeping have to treat their colonies for these mites to keep them under control, otherwise they spread viruses among the bees and it weakens the colony,” Ray said.

Ray operates Great Falls Apiary.


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