Tammy Horn will join the State Department of Agriculture in just over a week as Kentucky's new state apiarist.
Horn is a senior researcher at Eastern Kentucky University and nationally known beekeeping authority. Significant bee loss problems have caused great concern for honey makers for several years. While there has been a slight improvement in bee numbers in pocketed areas, Horn says it's still a tough situation.
"My role as a state apiarist is very simple, I have to increase bees and I have to increase beekeepers because I am trying to make sure that if there are food
manufacturers in this state, that we can development the market relationship with beekeepers in the state." Horn said. “I had 40 percent losses this year. I had the polar vortex, I had bears, skunk damage, I've never had skunk damage in my entire career, even as a hobbyist."
Horn says there is no federal requirement to report bee losses. In Kentucky, Horn has worked in Appalachia to further forest based bee colonies. She says Kentucky has some advantages over other states.
"Kentucky has unique floral varieties and that makes our honey, it can be more marketable than conventional based prairie honeys like clover,” Horn said. “ We have tulip poplar, black locust. In eastern Kentucky, we have sourwood trees."
Americans reportedly consume about 100 million pounds of honey annually, but U.S. beekeepers produce about half that amount. So, commercial bakers go to places like China and Argentina to get their honey.
"They will go to China, or they will go to Argentina,” Horn said. “They'll go to other places to find that honey. Now, if these other places had the FDA standards that we have in the United States, that wouldn't be such an issue, but they don't. They will go to China, or they will go to Argentina. They'll go to other places to find that honey. Now, if these other places had the FDA standards that we have in the United States, that wouldn't be such an issue, but they don't."
"Inevitably, what we end up finding is that the honey that is coming to the United States from these other places often has traces of chlora phenical and other types of contaminants that our FDA does not approve of," Horn said.
Horn says some states have acted to establish a honey standard. She says there's no such standard in Kentucky.
Horn will assume her new post as state apiarist June first. Born in Harlan County, Horn was introduced to beekeeping by her grandfather.