The Bee-Yard

Honey Bees have played two important roles on Appalachian farms: beekeeping enhanced crop production and provided an additional source of income.

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Bees Bring Profits_1937_05_cover.jpg

From the Farmers Federation News, May 1937.

Bees as Farm Laborers_1942_10_p21.jpg

From the Farmers Federation News, October 1942.


Honey Bees help pollinate many flowering farm crops. In some cases, hives of bees would be placed on a farm for the express purpose of pollinating crops and increasing the likelihood of an abundant harvest. For example, the article to the right describes the importance the Lowry brothers placed upon honey bees.


Hives of bees generate honey that they consume during the winter months when pollen and nectar are not available. Successful hives would produce more honey than they needed to carry them through the winter. Farmers could harvest and sell this surplus honey. According to the May 1937 issue of the Farmers Federation News (a photo of the cover of this issue is included above), beekeeping could provide a significant income for farmers in Western North Carolina due in part to the climate and diversity of flowering plants in the region. 

Hives through History

Given the potential value of bees as both honey producers and crop pollinators, the Farmers Federation encouraged mountain farmers to devote some of their time and space to beekeeping. Farmers could capture wild swarms (see the image below) or purchase packages of bees. However farmers obtained their bees, the Federation urged farmers to use moveable-frame hives. Unlike skeps (bell-shaped hives woven from straw; see the left-hand image in the gallery) and beegums (sections of a hollow tree trunk; see the second image in the gallery), moveable-frame hives allowed farmers greater access to their bees and also gave them the ability to capture more honey from especially vigorous hives (see the right-hand image in the gallery), or to extract only one type of honey, like sourwood or locust, for example.


Hiving a swarm. Image from the McClure Photographs collection.

The Bee-Yard