Kentucky's new state apiarist sees her primary role to increase bees and beekeepers across the Commonwealth. Tammy Horn will join the State Department of Agriculture in just over a week.
Tammy 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. "I had 40 percent losses this year. You know I had the polar vortex, I had bears, skunk damage, I've never had skunk damage in my entire career, even as a hobbyist," said Horn.
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. We have tulip poplar, black locust. In eastern Kentucky, we have sourwood trees," added Horn.
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. "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 chloramphenicol and other types of contaminants that our FDA does not approve of," explained Horn.
Horn says some states have acted to establish a honey standard. She says there's no such standard in Kentucky.