Coal Country Beeworks

Bees once thrived in the Appalachians due to native species such as tulip poplars, black locusts, sourwoods and wildflowers.  Sadly, domestic and feral bee colonies were devastated by tracheal and varroa mites in the 1980s. The region has yet to recover its bee populations. The Coal Country Beeworks is committed to re-establishing bees and beekeeping in the region. The goals are as follows:

Creating Genetic Islands

Coal companies have created over 33,000 acres of reclaimed land. Within these isolated areas, we can produce bees that are better acclimated to the region and, in effect, create "genetic islands" of bee colonies that will aid in preserving biodiversity of bees and plants in North America.

Establishing a Queen Production Program

Queen production is an underrepresented industry in the continental United States.  Establishing a queen production program in eastern Kentucky would enable beekeepers to produce bees adapted to the specific conditions found in this region.  A long term goal of the Coal Country Beeworks is to provide high quality queens to commercial beekeepers throughout the nation.

Enhancing Rural Economic Development

Beekeeping provides eastern Kentucky communities with a wide range of economic possibilities:
Queen bee production
Honey production
Pollination services
Beeswax and cosmetic production
Scientific research and genetics


Tammy Horn, Ph.D.
I learned beekeeping from my grandparents and have kept hives for more than ten years. After writing Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped America (2005), I was named NEH Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College, where I supervised a honey bee monitoring project (2006-2007). As the director of Lost Mountain Honey Project, I collaborate with both academic and private sectors to develop a beekeeping infrastructure in Perry County, KY.   For more information about this project or current books, see the following web site:

Eastern Kentucky Environmental Research Institute
We at the Institute focus on understanding ecosystem functions in Appalachian Kentucky by collaborating with state and federal agencies; other universities; supporting graduate and undergraduate research; working with local communities to address their ecosystem concerns; and sharing research with the public. Because water systems are central to landscape forms, ecological stability, and human community health, many of our studies include river and watershed balance.

Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative
Since 2004, the Appalachian Region Reforestation Initiative has promoted reforestation techniques that emphasize low soil compaction and high value hardwoods. Working in conjunction with the Lost Mountain Honey Bee Project, ARRI encourages coal companies to plant high-nectar trees. These reforestation efforts support both beekeeping and sustainable forest industries in the near future.

International Coal Group, Hazard James River Coal
We partner with two coal companies, International Coal Group—Hazard and James River Coal, to create apiaries on former mine sites.  Both companies have planted nectar-producing trees and designed the apiaries to be community-friendly workshops. These beeyards will be stocked with trachea-mite resistant honey bees, emphasizing that genetic resistance is a key component of Integrated Pest Management.

Hanna Watts
I am a recent graduate of Eastern Kentucky University’s Geography program. I employ GIS to locate potential beekeeping sites in Eastern Kentucky. These sites have been chosen based on specific site selection criteria with proximity to mining sites being one of the most important limiting factors. I want to create a decision-making tool to be used by beekeepers and agricultural extension offices in selecting future sites for the Lost Mountain Honey Bee Reclamation Project.

Secret Santas
The Lost Mountain Honey Bee Project was initiated with the generous gift of thirty hives and financial support from beekeeper Ed Halcomb of Tennessee.  He has been actively involved in queen production for more than thirty years, and has worked with the USDA Baton Rouge Honey Bee Lab in order to develop a line of mite resistant queen bees.

In the News

  • An AP wire story entitled "Researchers Focus on Bringing Missing Bees Back" (Associated Press 1/5/2009)
  • "Honeybees: Economic Opportunity or Environmental Hazard" featured on public radio station WEKU can be found here. (WEKU News 6/25/2008)
  • Tammy Horn's New York Times story " Honey Bees: A History" can be found here.(New York Times 4/11/2008)
  • "Beekeepers’ buzz: Horn interviewed for Irish documentary" (Richmond Register 2/17/2008)
  • This EKUpdate "Leadership Spotlight"  article details Tammy Horn's apicultural efforts and achievements.(EKU Update 1/28/2008)
  • For more on Tammy and her writings, visit