Tennessee Honey

Massey Honey Co. - Wildflower Honey
Wildflower honey is a multi-floral honey produced by Tennessee honey farms - Credit: Massey Honey Co.

Tennessee honey is primarily produced by the Italian honey bee and is usually harvested in July. Due to the warm weather and a great variety of pollinator-friendly plants, Tennessee is an ideal place for honeybees to produce a diverse range of honeys.

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    When Did Tennessee’s Honey Production Begin?

    Honey bees didn’t make it to North America until the 17th century when colonists from Europe brought them over. Since Tennessee is closer to the East Coast, people settled in it earlier than they did in other states.

    Therefore, it’s likely that honey bees were first in Tennessee in the late 18th century. However, it wasn’t until American apiarist L.L. Langsroth invented the Langstroth hive (where multiple wooden frames carrying bees are kept hanging inside a vertical wooden box) in the 1850s that American commercial beekeeping (including commercial beekeeping in Tennessee) really took off.

    How Much Honey Does Tennessee Produce?

    Honey bees don’t need to pollinate to produce honey; they just happen to help with pollination (bringing pollen from one flower to another) when they’re looking for the nectar, they need to make honey.

    In the USDA 2017 Census of Agriculture, Tennessee was reported to have produced 524,051 pounds of honey, which is up 1.09 percent from 2012. The value of honey production has also gone up in the state, almost doubling between 2012 (when the value was $1,209,000) and 2017 (when the value was $2,050,000).

    Although a decline in honey bee populations has recently been a problem across the U.S., Tennessee has not suffered any overall losses in honey bee colonies between 2012 and 2017. There are currently 2,674 apiaries and 18,663 colonies of honey bees in the state.

    What Are the Main Types of Honey Tennessee Produces?

    In Tennessee, the most popular types of honey are wildflower honey and sourwood honey. Wildflower honey is a kind of multi-floral or poly-floral honey, which means that bees visit many different kinds of local flowering plants to obtain the nectar they need to make it.

    If wildflower honey is kept in the hives for longer and harvested in the fall it becomes dark wildflower honey, which has a richer flavour that tastes more like caramel.

    Sourwood Tree in Bloom In The Great Smoky Mountains
    Blooming sourwood tree is a great source of food for Tennessee honey bees

    Is Tennessee Honey Produced Year-Round or Seasonally?

    Because the weather is warmer in Tennessee, honey bees tend to be active every month of the year. However, the spring and summer seasons involve the most work for beekeepers (they don’t have to prepare as much for the winter like beekeepers in states with intense winters do). The majority of the honey is taken from the hives around late July.

    Which Types of Honey Bees Produce Tennessee Honey?

    The scientific name of the Western honey bee, the only species of honey bee found in any of the 50 states, is Apis mellifera. There are dozens of subspecies, aka races, of Western honey bees, but the most common are Italian, Carniolan, and Caucasian honey bees. However, it’s very rare that you’d find a purebred honey bee. Most are hybrids.

    Which Honey Bees and Nectar-Producing Plants Are Native to Tennessee?

    Although there are thousands of bee species native to the United States, all honey bees are non-native species to the country and the entire continent. However, Italian honey bees are the most popular subspecies in Tennessee. Other bee subspecies tend to be more popular in other areas where bees need to be able to survive colder winters.

    Tennessee is home to an extremely wide variety of plants that provide nectar honey bees use to make honey:

    White Clover Red Clover
    Alsike clover Poplar
    Linden Sourwood
    Aster Black locust
    Chestnut Alfalfa
    Aspen Black gum
    Blackberry Cedar
    Corn Goldenrod
    Huckleberry Persimmon

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Tennessee?

    The National Honey Board is an organisation run under the United States Department of Agriculture oversight that helps to inform consumers about the many benefits of honey and promote its use.

    Honey producers, whether a family-owned business or a larger commercial operation, can register with the National Honey Board to make it easier for consumers to find their products. In Tennessee, there are nine honey farms registered with the NHB.

    Near the city of Jackson in Western Tennessee are Marla’s Bee Happy Apiary in Jonesborough and Logans Lake Honey in Jackson. Closer to Clarksville in Northern Tennessee are C-Bees in Clarksville, Turnersville Bees in Cedar Hill, and Red River Bees in Cross Plains. Near Nashville are Three Hen Farm in Nolensville, The Humble Hive in Spring Hill, and Garrison Honey Farms in Chapel Hill. In Eastern, Tennessee is Bee Grateful Hunny Farm in Knoxville.

    Here are some other popular honey farms and apiaries in Tennessee:

    • Williams Honey Farm in Franklin
    • Johnson’s Honey Farm in Goodlettsville
    • Knoxville Honey Co. in Powell
    • Blue Honey Farms in Eagleville
    • K & K Bee Farm in Jonesborough
    • Joel White Apiaries in Brentwood
    • Appalachian Bee Farm in Ocoee
    • Adair Honey Farm in Moscow
    Honey Bee On Blackberry Flower Harvesting Nectar
    Honey bee on blackberry flower harvesting nectar
    Honeybee Extracting Aster Flower Nectar
    Honey bee extracting aster flower nectar

    What Environment Is Needed to Produce Tennessee Honey?

    Honey bees are comfortable in temperate, tropical, and even colder climates, so they do well in Tennessee. However, there are some conditions Tennessee beekeepers can create to ensure that their apiaries possess as many helpful elements as possible, which include the following:

    • Many sources of nectar nearby
    • At least one dependable, clean source of water nearby
    • Protection from harsh, direct winds
    • Enough shade, but not too much
    • Sloping land to encourage air circulation
    • Far enough away from neighbors
    • Accessible, but not so much that vandalism and theft are more likely to occur
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