The honey bee is the official state agricultural insect. Honey bees perform a pollination function that is essential to the propagation of many species of plants in Tennessee. The mission of the Apiary program is to protect this valuable resource. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture maintains beekeeper registration files, works through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program to offer cost share opportunities and performs collaborative research and educational seminars with the University of Tennessee.

Healthy productive colonies of bees not only produce more honey, they also provide better pollination for our nations food supply. Proper pollination yields larger, more uniform shaped, marketable fruits and vegetables.

To receive apiary applications or a pollination list by mail, or for more in-depth information, call Michael Studer, State Apiarist, at 615-837-5342.

Honey Bees for Pollination

The Pollination list is provided so that growers can find beekeepers that would like to supply their colonies to pollinate crops. Beekeepers and growers should prepare a pollination contract to understand what is expected from both parties. On the registration cards is a sentence toward the bottom that reads, “Would you like to rent your bees for pollination of crops?”  If you answer “No”, your name will not appear on the Pollination List.  If you answer “Yes”, your name, address, county, telephone number, and the number of colonies you have available will appear on the Pollination List.  Each year in the fall, a list is made from registered beekeeper records that include all of this information for the beekeepers willing to offer their pollination services.  The list is sent to County Extension Agents; university extension faculty that works with fruits and vegetables; and the list is passed out at the Tennessee Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association meeting held annually.  This reflects the Department of Agriculture's efforts to partner beekeepers and the fruit and vegetable growers together for their mutual benefit.

Grants for Local Area Apiary Inspectors

Since 1995, the Department of Agriculture has offered grants to local beekeeper associations for the inspection of honeybee colonies.  The association grants of $1,470 each.  The grant money is used to pay bee inspectors selected by their association who are willing and qualified to inspect honeybee colonies in the geographical area that the association state has made available the sum of $22,050 to be divided into 15 grants.  A grant is obtained for an association by completing a grant contract provided by this office and sending it into the Administration and Grants Division at the Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville .  Since the number of grants is limited to 15, the grants are awarded in the order of receipt of the contracts (“first come first serve basis”).  County or Area Beekeeping Associations interested in applying for one of these Apiary Inspection grants should contact the State Apiarist. A list providing the names and telephone numbers of the local inspectors working under the grants will be available online once the grants are awarded.

Imported Fire Ant Movement in Tennessee

The Beekeepers, who have registered their apiaries with TDA, in Tennessee counties that were quarantined for imported fire ants or adjacent to quarantined counties were sent a letter.  The letter stated that beehives should be inspected for imported fire ants prior to movement and no ants should be moved with the hives (or any other items in contact with the ground) from quarantined areas to non-quarantined areas.  A USDA booklet “Beekeepers: Don’t Transport Imported Fire Ants” was included with the letter.  Copies of the booklet can be obtained from this office.

Related Resources

Tennessee's Wild Side: Urban Bees