Williams Honey Farm plays part in saving bees in Tennessee

Williams Honey Farm plays part in saving bees in Tennessee

Brentwood firefighter Jay Williams has been raising bees for more than eight years, doing his part in Tennessee’s network of beekeepers working to save the declining species.

Brentwood firefighter Jay Williams has been raising bees for more than eight years, doing his part in Tennessee’s network of beekeepers working to save the declining species.

What started with an idea to have two beehives in he and his wife’s backyard has turned into Williams Honey Farm, a Franklin-based honey bee farm that doesn’t use any pesticides, chemicals or harmful treatments of any kind.

Through four main avenues, Williams Honey Farm advocates survival of the honeybee. Williams visits schools, churches, garden clubs and beekeeping events to educate the public about why bees are so important.

“We have a ‘Polleneers’ program where we teach people how to be bee conservationists,” Williams said. “Feeding the bees is a critical skill that people should learn, before it’s too late.”

In 2006, beekeepers began reporting losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives. In the latest data from a study by the USDA, the Bee Informed Partnership and the Apiary Inspectors of America, beekeepers in the U.S. lost more than 40 percent of their hives from 2014 to 2015.

Tennessee lost 36.4 percent of its honey bee colonies in the same year. The lowest reported loss was Hawaii, but even still that state saw an annual loss of about 14 percent.

“The losses that are happening in bee populations in the U.S. is a huge problem, not just for agriculture but for the overall health and well being of humans,” Williams said.

Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year in the U.S., with one in every three bites of a person’s diet is related to bee pollination. Production of many specialty crops depend on the pollination by honey bees.

“You can kiss almonds goodbye if we don’t save the bees,” Williams said. “They are completely dependent on bees. A lot of fruits, vegetables and tree nuts depend on bees also. If we lose the bees, we are going to have a major food crisis on our hands.”

Nationally, bee colonies are on the decline. Colony Collapse Disorder has resulted in the mysterious rise of dead colonies with no adult bees. In some cases, hives are found with dead bee bodies and a live queen and usually honey but only immature bees are still present. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is no scientific cause for CCD.

This issue is not the only risk to honey bee health. Since the 1980’s, honey bees and beekeepers have had to deal with a score of new pathogens from deformed wing virus to nutrition problems to the effects of pesticides. These problems often hit bees at the same time, weakening and killing colonies.

“Bees are very susceptible creatures,” Williams said. “They can get sick from us, can contract viruses through us, things like the flu or common colds. While a human can bounce back from these kinds of things, it can be devastating to a bee or a bee colony.”

Through efforts like education and helping others to learn how to be beekeepers, Williams Honey Farm is a local source of all-natural honey that is working with a main goal in mind to save the bees.

“It’s really not about money or business at the end of the day,” Williams said. “It’s about saving the bees, helping other people save the bees and sharing with anyone we can what needs to be done for the future.”

Williams Honey Farm produces 100 percent natural products through their sustainable beekeeping practices, and they give back to the community through annual projects including giving free Seed Bombs to Nashville area school children.

Seed Bombs are made of perennial flower seed encased in clay and compost. They can be simply dropped or planted in a backyard, flower pot of vacant lot about 1/2″ into the dirt, and when the time is right the seed will self-germinate and grow a perennial flower that will feed bees and butterflies for years to come.

Williams said that he also can help set up shop for solitary bees, or bees without stingers, for families and individuals in their backyards.

“Most people don’t know that there are bees without stingers,” he said. “Every bee colony has a different personality, too. Bees don’t want to sting you, if they sting you they die. They’re just trying to do their thing, what they’re here to do, which is pollinate.”

About two million bees call Williams Honey Farm home, and the honey will be harvested in June. Ten stores sell Williams Honey Farm products right now, including Juice Bar in Brentwood, Yarrow Acres in Franklin and Herban Market in Franklin.

For more information about Williams Honey Farm, visit www.williamshoneyfarm.com. They are also on Facebook at Williams Honey Farm, on Instagram @williamshoneytn or on Twitter @williamshoneytn.

Samantha Hearn reports for Home Page Media Group. She can be reached via email at samantha@brentwoodhomepage.com or on Twitter @samanthahearn.

About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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