Appalachian Beekeeper-Katrina Hill


When I was growing up I had a different last name than eveyone else in my house. It always made me feel out of place and in a way I felt like I didn’t belong. Before I really understood ancestry or geneology I knew my last name was important in regard to holding the key to who I was. When I was a teenager my step father (whom I loved) asked if I wanted him to adopt me so I would have his last name-I said no. I even kept my last name when I got married-and there was no hyphenation situation. I wanted to keep my name because it’s who I was.

I started my deep dive into my families geneology in 2019. My lifelong quest to find where I am from and where I fit in has led me home to Appalachia where my ancestors have lived since the 1700’s. The mountains and valleys have always spoken to me, and now I know why. I traced my ancestry back to Stokes County, NC which is considered part of South Central Appalachia. My ancestors climbed the hills that I now call home.

Honestly I never had a ton of interest in beekeeping. My step-father kept bees with his cousin in the orange groves of Central Florida. I thought it was cool and I liked the hear his stories, visit the apiary, and of course eat the honey. But it wasn’t until I moved to Chattanooga and bought my first home that I knew I needed bees. As a matter of fact, as soon as I got bees I felt some sort of relief and a sense of grounding that I had never felt before.

This blog series is my homage to the Appalachain Region and to the hard working, loving, and strong women who are keeping bees here. I hope you find your own sense of home and belonging as you read their stories. If you interested in learning if you are in the Appalachian Region you can enter your zip code in this link.


Appalachain Apiary

How long has your family lived in Appalachia? My family has lived in South Central Appalchia since 1993.

How long have been keeping bees and how many hives do you have? I have been beekeeping since the Spring of 2021. I started with 1 hive and now I have 11. The below photo is of my apiary that is made up of all swarms. We have a 25 acre homestead in Southern Middle Tennessee.

How did you come to keep bees and what’s it been like for you? My husband works with a beekeeper. One day he was talking to him about the honeybees and my husband decided he wanted to get honey bees. So he found a local beekeeper to purchase a NUC from. He came home and told me that he had bought the bees and we would pick them up in 2 weeks time. I was set completely against the idea because I knew nothing about beekeeping. My husband said, “You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.” Little did he know it would become my obsession!

During my second year of beekeeping, my mom has watched me and listened to my endless ramblings of how amazing my flying friends are. She decided this spring that she would give it a try. She is now just as obsessed as I am. My husband and I have three kids and they have all helped me with different aspects of beekeeping. It really has been a family affair. In the spring when it is swarm season, my parents, husband, and kids are all a part in saving honeybees. 

My mom and I beekeeping together

What type of research did you do before getting your bees? I did not do any research before getting my first bees. My husband had a friend in beekeeping that offered a small amount of advice. I did watch a few youtube videos as I encountered things that I saw in my inspections. The fall of 2021, I took a beginner beekeeping course through my local bee club. After that course  I joined my local bee club.

Are you self-taught or do you have a mentor? Which would you recommend for new beekeepers and why? I am a mix of self taught and mentor advice. I have worked with a few mentors until I found one that I enjoyed working with. I would recommend new beekeepers find a local beekeeper and ask to shadow and work with.I think a lot of people have a misconception that beekeeping is just set it and forget it. I think it is a good idea to see the realistic requirement of having bees before you put the money into it.


My husband and dad built my hive stands.

What is a unique thing about beekeeping in Appalachia? I find the seasons are a bit unpredictable. I feel like you have to keep a close eye on the food supply for the bees.

What about beekeeping do you find most challenging in your area? It is difficult to find a mentor that shares my style of beekeeping. The majority of keepers in my area are men. Men have a rougher style than I prefer in my bee yard. Another challenge is, it’s hard to find local queens and bees. There are several businesses within an hours drive but the majority of those companies are the middle men of bees. They buy the bees from farther South.

Do you have any advice for new beekeepers? My advice for new beekeepers would be to find one or two sources of solid information and stick with that. The more sources you find the more confusing things can be. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. It is best to find a local beekeeper and work with them and have a mentor.


Do you think social media has made you a better beekeeper? Why/How? Social media is definitely a double edge sword when it comes to the beekeeping world. I have learned a lot of things to avoid doing. I enjoy seeing the different beekeeping styles around the world. I feel like there are things that I’ve learned from social media. It is a good resource to have to ask for opinions or hacks. I ran into an issue with a hive and I was able to post pictures and ask questions. It helped me find the root cause and I was able to get help from a local beekeeper. 

What does hive inspection day look like for you? Inspection day can go smoothly or not. There are some days when my smoker will cooperate and light up right away. Other days it is a 10 minute battle just to get the smoker going to start inspections. I wear a full bee suit to avoid any unnecessary stings and tags. I bring my hive tool, smoker, and an extra container for wax removal. The bees sometimes build comb where it isn’t ideal and it needs to be removed. We recycle these for our wax melts. There are times when I don’t have help during inspections. These days seem like everything is faster.

I enjoy having my mom with me during the inspection days. The inspections do take a bit longer when we work together, but it is worth the extra time to explain and teach her what I know about honeybees. We strive for weekly inspections. When there are signs of possible issues we may check a little more often depending on what the ladies are telling us. When the hives are well balanced and looking good towards fall time we push the inspections to bi-weekly. It also helps us to keep a detailed log of each hive and what we see during each inspection.  

What is your favorite beekeeping tool? My favorite beekeeping tool is my camera. I love taking pictures and videos during my inspections. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just a phone camera. I look back at them after the inspections and I am able to zoom in and study what is going on in the hive without worrying about having the hive open too long. I don’t have to hurry through the pictures. I love to share pictures and videos with others. Honeybees make fantastic movie stars. 


Do you prefer a solitary approach to keeping bees or would you rather be a part of a larger beekeeping community? I prefer to keep a smaller beekeeping community. I find that the more people you get in a group the more different opinions you get. For me, that can be hard to navigate and sift through a lot of misinformation or unhelpful knowledge. I have a few people that I trust to give me advice or help and I prefer to keep my circle small with like minded beekeepers. I have found that women beekeepers are a lot alike in the sense that they seem to share a more gentle beekeeping style. 

What beekeeping groups do you find yourself a part of or accepted into? I haven’t really felt like I have found a group that I fit into. I am not a very social person and I find it difficult to blend in with most people. I like to take pieces from all kinds of beekeepers and try different techniques and find what works for me.

Do you attend club meetings, do you socialize with other beekeepers, do you participate in beekeeping forums/chat groups? I am a member of my local bee club. I do not often have the time to utilize this resource though due to having a busy schedule. I have met a lot of great people through the bee club. I follow a few different Facebook pages that are beekeeping related. I find it interesting to read through comments and see how many like minded answers are given. If I come across something that I can use in my bee world I will make a note of it and give it a try.

Do you think women beekeepers differ from male beekeepers? I have worked with men and women and from my experience the two are night and day. Men seem to take a more heavy handed approach. Most male beekeepers that I have worked with seem to fly through the hive and get to the next one. This does not apply to all men. I have met a few fellows that are more gentle than most. The women I have worked with have a calmer style. I will talk to my bees as I am going through the hive, even though it is a one sided conversation. Women beekeepers seem to take a little extra time with each frame and hive. Moving with intent and a hyper awareness of all the ladies moving around the hive.


My hubby and I

Has becoming a beekeeper benefited your mental and/or physical health? One of the best things for my anxiety and depression is working with my bees. It does not matter what is going on in my world, they seem to be able to quiet the demons. It is hard some days to make myself suit up and fight the smoker monster, but I have never finished an inspection and felt worse in a mental capacity. My mind can be heavy and when I get in the bee yard it is just like they can turn the heavy stuff off and I can relax.

It doesn’t even have to be an inspection that helps me. Just sitting in the yard watching and hearing the ladies work is very therapeutic for me. They help me remember to live in the moment and not get lost in the hussle and bussle. There have been several times my husband has told me to “just go be with the bees and relax”. Something so pure and calming in my yard and sometimes I just forget to take advantage of the beauty nature has blessed us with.  


CHecking hives before Winter

What’s the worst beekeeping advice you’ve ever received? You don’t need to treat for mites. There are a ton of opinions on mite treatment, but not treating my first hive caused me to lose my first hive. I learned the hard way to do my own research and do what was right for me and my bees.

What’s the most ridiculous beekeeping thing you’ve ever heard? A few insane things I have heard is “it’s just honeybees, how hard can it be.” “I’ll get bees and just stick them out there and they will tend to themselves.” “There is no way I would be out there with a bunch of bees.”  Personally, that’s one of my favorite places to be.

If you are interested in being interviewed for this series please send me a message at noogahoneypot@gmail.com! You can use this map to see if you are in what is considered the Appalachain Region.