Panther Creek Park Ranger keeping bees at the park

Panther Creek State Park Ranger Jammie Mize has begun keeping bees at the park as part of the Tennessee Honey Project.

Ranger Jammie Mize knew next to nothing about beekeeping.

But, a recent occurrence has given her a new title besides park ranger at Panther Creek State Park. She can now attach beekeeper on her resume.

“It’s been interesting,” Mize said.

Panther Creek State Park had several bee hives brought in on April 5 as part of the Tennessee Honey Project, an initiative by the state park system to help produce more bees throughout the state for pollination and to also sell honey at local parks.

Honey bees have seen a decrease for several years due to a condition called “colony collapse.” Scientists have yet to figure out what exactly is creating this phenomenon.

But, to do their part, Panther Creek has put two boxes of honey bees, called “nucs” behind the visitors center.

Each nuc totaled 10,000 bees, Mize said.

“Their population has already exploded,” she said.

Recently, she said they had to put in a new box due to the bees multiplying.

Mize said the project started due to an Eagle Scout from Loudon County talking to rangers at Panther Creek. Jonathan Engebretesen had done an Eagle project at Fort Loudon State Park with bees, so he encouraged Panther Creek State Park to follow suit.

They did.

Mize said they have gotten basic beekeeping gear and she said they joined the local group of Heritage Beekeepers. She said she joined the group basically because she “had no clue” how to handle bees.

She’s learned a lot over the past month and she hopes the bees keep multiplying.

“We’re hoping to do what we can to perpetuate the bees,” she said.

She said at this point, there may not be any honey available this year because they will need some to be able to survive winter. There may be local honey at Panther Creek by next year, though.

“Eventually we want to sell in the local office,” she said.

Mize never considered doing anything with bees, and said she was always kind of squeamish about things that sting.

But, she’s not had that many incidents.

“So far, I’ve only been stung once,” she said. “It was on the tip of my nose.”