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Becoming a beekeeper was certainly not what Diane Ravens intended when she purchased her house in Ocoee, Tennessee in 1990. But the man who had the house before her was a beekeeper and his customers kept arriving on her doorstep to buy honey.
Growing curious about her tiny neighbors and their loyal following, Ravens decided to learn more.
“Once I started reading about how bees work together for the good of the colony, I became fascinated,” remembers Ravens. After her first time in the hive, she was hooked. For several years she pursued her passion informally, but in 2001 she officially went into business as Appalachian Bee.
Although the source of the nectar varies with the season, Ravens and her bees produce hand-crafted rich-tasting honey. The difference in flavor over mass-produced honies comes from the amount of processing. Honey destined for the supermarket requires far more processing to stabilize it and stop it from crystalizing.
“When you filter and over-heat honey you are pulling out the flavor,” explains Ravens.
At Appalachian Bee visitors can find her honey and skin-care products, and they can also learn about honeybees. Ravens maintains a working observation hive with plexiglass panels so visitors can view the interior and see the bees at work. There’s also a video about the lives of honeybees and the process of making honey. During special times of the year, visitors can also see the honey extraction process.
Ravens and her honeybees are a team, and yet even a bit more than that. “Bees are a beloved insect, dear to my heart,” says Ravens.