ROGERSVILLE — Approximately 90,000 new employees joined the staff of the Amis Mill Historic Site this spring, working to make flower and vegetable gardens on the site healthier and more productive.
Becky Johnson from Heritage Beekeepers of Hawkins County placed two beehives on the property near the Amis Mill Eatery.
Each hive is home to about 45,000 bees and one queen that will keep plants freshly pollinated within a five mile radius, and all they ask for in return is a portion of the 2-5 pounds of honey each hive produces in a year.
On Saturday beginning at 11 a.m., the public is invited to attend a Bee Brunch hosted by Johnson and some other local beekeepers at Amis Mill Eatery.
The event will include a meal made with the fruits of her bees’ labor in the form of a variety of honey-themed dishes.
The Bee Brunch is also an opportunity to learn more about honeybees and the benefits of local honey and to see some of the Amis bees working up close and personal in a glass, escape-proof display hive.
Ironically, Johnson is deathly allergic to bees, and she carries an epinephrine shot with her everywhere she goes.
But she loves her bees so much that she’s willing to take a chance on being stung in order to help the local bees survive and flourish.
“I love to educate about honeybees and advocate for them as well throughout all of Hawkins County and beyond, wherever I get the chance,” Johnson said.
How did you get involved with the Amis property?
Johnson: “I was working at the community apiary, which is over at 318 Far Side Drive in Rogersville, where we have a nice big pollinator garden and lots of beehives that the community can come and get a free tour and learn more about the honeybees, when I was approached by the owners of Amis Mill wondering if I would be interested in helping pollinate what they have over here. I said, ‘Absolutely,’ after I let some blood drain from my face. I’m not too far from them, but far enough where it’s perfect for my honeybees to be here. Getting an opportunity like this only comes around once in a lifetime.”
Why do we need bees?
Johnson: “If you like to eat, that’s a big reason. They’re not just for flowers. Three out of every four bites that we take as humans we can thank the honeybee for. They pollinate. They’ll bring pollen from one plant to another, and that helps plants grow bigger fruits and better overall.”
What’s the advantage of local honey?
Johnson: “Local honey has local pollen, and that helps with anything and everything allergy-related. It’s used to make so many things. It’s the most versatile product made by any animal on the planet.”
What’s on the menu for the Bee Brunch?
Johnson: “I’ve been working with (Amis Mill Eatery chefs) Sammy and Ben and brainstorming some ideas. Of course, we have to have hot, honey-buttered biscuits. That’s a staple. We’ll have sausage and gravy, honey mimosas, honey Bloody Marys, honey ham. Everything (on the menu) is highlighting local honey. I brought them some earlier so they have plenty of time to play with it and figure out exactly how they want to do things.”
What does the Bee Brunch include?
Jake Jacobs: “(Aside from Brunch and bee education) there will be a tour, tour of the hives, a walk around the property. We always include the history tour because that’s what we’re all about.”
Johnson: “And the Bees will be on display in the restaurant for people to get up close and personal safely.”
What is the bee mortality rate for this region?
Johnson: “This last year was really hard. It was 85-90 percent of beekeepers lost their hives. Statewide we’re looking at 77 percent that were reported.”
What causes that?
Johnson: “Spraying off label is a big problem. I personally work with Nontoxic Tennessee and several organizations to try to get people to understand. We’re not telling you not to spray. But at least follow the label and be in touch with beekeepers so we can at least protect our colonies. That’s all we ask.”
Saturday’s Bee Brunch is from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Amis Mill Eatery, 127 W. Bear Hollow Road, about two miles south of Rogersville. The cost to attend is $15. For more information, call (423) 272-7040.