Who knew an insect could be so interesting?
Hairstylist-by-day, wife, mother and beekeeping enthusiast, Jessica Dodds, explained to The Wilson Post how honeybees inspired her to create a non-profit organization.
It all started back in August 2014 at the Wilson County Fair. A chance encounter introduced Dodds to beekeeping.
"I found it fascinating. The Wilson County Beekeepers Association offered a short course, and it grew from there," she explained.
She started with two, very lucky hives - or as beekeepers would call them - nucs (pronounced 'nukes'). Nucs are smaller versions of a normal hive, designed to hold fewer frames.
"My first year I had two hives and got eight gallons of honey. I was pretty excited," she said, noting that she priced it for $10 per jar and didn't cut her relatives any discounts.
"I made my dad pay for it!" she said, laughing.
Of course, not every year is as plentiful. Dodds keeps hives at several Wilson County locations so that her bees can avoid inbreeding and also to help pollinate a wider area. She pointed out one hive that swarmed.
Harvesting occurs once a year, midsummer. She said she probably won't get any honey from that hive.
The Queen Bee
According to Dodds, a colony of bees is in the 20,000 to 60,000 range - with one queen.
"All the work that's done is done by females. The bees that take care of the queen are females. If you want to be a feminist, you should bee keep. It's all about the women here," she said.
A queen is determined by the worker bees. They find an egg laid by the previous queen between the ages of one to three days old. Once the egg is over three-days-old it cannot be made queen.
"The worker bees secrete and make royal jelly they feed to their queen. They will do this with numerous eggs in case one doesn't take. If only three hatch, then the one that hatches first is the queen, and they will go in and kill the other two," Dodds said.
A queen mates one time in her life and may mate up to 15 times during this mating flight.
"The male bees are called drones. When they mate, it rips their reproductive organ off, and they die. The queen stores their sperm and determines whether it will be a male or a female egg. She could lay up to 2,000 eggs a day if she wanted too."
Bees are also unique in the way they "set up house."
Dodds keeps her hives in stories - much like the way humans will live in multi-story homes.
Typically the bottom story is the nursery, where eggs and larvae are kept. The middle box is where honey and pollen are stored.
"They are very organized creatures," Dodds added.
Honey great for allergies, skincare
A honeybee has to travel 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey. To some folks, honey really is liquid gold.
"They have found honey in the Egyptian tombs. It may crystalize, but it never gets old. It will melt right back down," Dodds said. "In years past, honey has been used in hospitals as a topical antiseptic - before Neosporin."
Nowadays it's common to find honey or bee venom in makeup and skincare.
"My friend found a lip-gloss that has bee venom. It's not going to be as much venom as a sting, but it's enough to give you that tingle and a little plump," she said.
Raw, local honey is especially great for allergy suffers.
"Raw local honey still has bits of pollen in it. When you get an allergy shot they inject you with whatever you are allergic to so you can build immunity. When you have a seasonal allergy to grass and trees, a wildflower local honey would be a good option for that."
Today, Dodds cultivates 10 hives. She is a member of both the Tennessee and Wilson County Beekeepers Associations and in 2015 was awarded a beekeeping scholarship from the Wilson County Association.
Last year she had an idea to create a specialty "Save the Bees" license plate for Tennessee residents.
She went to State Rep. Mark Pody for help.
"I went through his office to get a bill made. Getting that done, they asked, 'Who is going to be the beneficiary? It had to be a non-profit," she said. "There is such a lack of knowledge, and I wanted to educate the next generation on the importance of honey bees. I thought, I'll start a non-profit."
Thus, Honeybee Tennessee was born to conserve and save the bees by educating the public through programs.
If the bill is passed in April, it is then Dodds' responsibility to get 1,000 presales for the specialty tags.
"Tennessee has some wonderful specialty license plate tags benefiting multiple organizations. I thought the honeybees deserved one, too."