SEYMOUR

Tucked quietly away in Seymour is a property with enough space for 10 hives. All that’s needed this spring is 10 new beekeepers.

Members of the Sevier County Beekeepers Association offered a new training option in 2020 to beekeeping novices: keep hives for the first season at the home of the association’s president, Kevin Loveday.

An introductory meeting for those interested in becoming a beekeeper is scheduled for March 13.

Seven new beekeepers took the members up on the training offer last year, and all are still tending those hives that have now been moved to their homes.

“It gives them the equivalent of three years of instruction in one season,” Loveday said of the new mentorship program.

Rather than being paired with one experienced member of the group, novice beekeepers get to be mentored by all of the active members as they visit the collection of hives in Seymour.

The collection, known as an apiary, exposes new beekeepers to successes — and challenges — they might not encounter if the hives were at their own homes.

“We encourage them to keep another hive at home,” said Loveday. “They also keep a hive at the club apiary, and we all inspect the hives to look for any issues.”

There are about 55 members in the group.

Participants in the mentoring program meet every two weeks.

“There’s such a vast amount of knowledge you need to get upfront,” Loveday said of beekeeping.

The collective experience of the members gives new beekeepers a deeper resource for learning.

“Each individual beekeeper can see challenges in other hives,” said Loveday. “They get the benefit of everybody else’s mistakes without making their own...(At home) you may not even know you have an issue that you need to call your mentor about.”

“It worked out great,” association secretary Alma Laurent said of the 2020 mentorship program. “Every week, they were getting taught things they didn’t know about.”

Laurent says that beekeeping can be expensive, so the association offers beginner kits at pricing that’s less than what individuals would pay on their own.

The club is open to youngsters, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

“It’s so important to the environment to have honeybees,” said Laurent. “Three of every five bites of food we eat are from bees.”

Members of the association also lend their expertise to rangers at Seven Islands State Birding Park.

The park set up its first hives in 2020.

“Things have been going pretty well in the fact that we have had the bees almost a year and still have both hives,” said ranger Nathaniel Housley. “The hives are healthy, with one being a little more established or productive than the other.

“We lost a queen, which was a little worrisome, but did re-queen one hive and it was successfully conducted,” Housley continued. “Our staff has done great learning about beekeeping and taking care of them, and we have to certainly thank both Knox and Sevier County Beekeepers Associations for being available as a resource.”

In 2019, the Tennessee Department of Revenue began selling “Save the Honeybee” specialty license plates. Of the $61.50 annual fee, $35 goes to nonprofit Honeybee Tennessee.

Department spokesperson Kelly Cortesi says that 2,518 of the specialty plates were sold in 2020, with $39,994 going to the nonprofit.

Rangers at Seven Islands hope to eventually have honey-producing hives.

“We have not harvested or sold any of our honey yet, but this is not uncommon for a first-year hive,” said Housley. “We are hoping to harvest soon, probably around July in the coming year...We will distribute the honey through the Friends of Seven Islands as a gift for making a predetermined contribution to their organization.”

Another arm of the state, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, also has played a role in beekeeping.

“We always like to thank TDOT, as they were a major contributor towards the grant that helped us implement the hives,” Housley said. “The hives will be discussed in some of our educational interpretive programs in the park, and they are close to a pollinator orchard and apple orchard we recently planted this winter. The bee program is part of a much larger-scale operation that many Tennessee State Parks have taken part in.”

The Sevier County Beekeepers Association meets most months at King Family Library, 408 High St., Sevierville.

The March 13 special introductory meeting takes place 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the library. The fee, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch, is $25 per person or $35 for two people.

For information, email seviercobeeks@gmail.com or visit the Facebook page of Sevier County Beekeepers Association.

Contact Juli at jneil@themountainpress.com or on Twitter at @NeilWatsonJ.