beehives

Designed to protect Tennessee’s honeybees while serving beekeepers across the state, the Tennessee Apiary Act of 1995 also benefits farmers by helping ensure crops receive the pollination they need to thrive.

Mike Studer, state apiarist at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), says apiaries are especially important today because there are not enough feral colonies in the state to adequately pollinate crops.

“If apples and similar fruits don’t get enough pollination, they end up misshapen,” Studer says. “Also, if squash, cucumbers and pumpkins don’t get at least 300 grains of pollen transferred from the male flower to the female flower, they don’t even get a fruit set. They need over 600 grains of pollen in order to get a decent-looking fruit for market.”

The act requires beekeepers to register their apiaries with the TDA every three years, with registration forms available at tn.gov/agriculture, the TDA office, County Extension Agent offices and local beekeeper associations, and registration is free. After registering, beekeepers receive a unique registration number, which may be used
to brand hives and beekeeping equipment.

Registration comes with several benefits, including emails regarding disease outbreaks; notifications of nearby aerial pesticide spraying; free colony inspections when preparing to move or sell bees, or when a health problem may take place; and compensation if colonies are lost due to American foulbrood or other regulated pests or diseases.

Studer says it’s common for honeybee colonies to have Varroa mites – also known as Varroa destructors – which transmit viruses, and cause a disease called varroosis, as well as tracheal mites and small hive beetles. Undetected and untreated, these pests and parasites can cause colonies to shrink or disappear. But regular inspections and proper care can help colonies continue to grow.

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“As long as the beekeepers keep the colonies healthy and strong, watch the levels of mites and beetles, and treat when needed, they can keep the bees healthy,” Studer says.

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