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The Tara Beekeepers Association has been buzzing since 1959

Avondale Estates Decatur Metro ATL

The Tara Beekeepers Association has been buzzing since 1959

Keif Schleifer, president of the Tara Beekeepers Association, transferring a swarm of honey bees from a tree into a hive. Image provided to Decaturish
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PN Williams has lived in Forest Park, Ga. for 65 years now. And back in 1959, he founded Tara Beekeepers Association, which still meets in Forest Park today.

Williams worked as a mechanic for Delta Air Lines for 31 years. His love for beekeeping started as a hobby, and he eventually convinced his wife, Evelyn, to go into honey production with him.

“In today’s world, you have to be careful of where you put your bees,” Williams said. “I used to keep 30 and 40 hives here in Forest Park, but Forest Park started spraying for mosquitoes.”

Williams moved those hives because the chemicals used to ward off mosquitoes would kill his bees. However, the death of bees is not the only thing about the chemicals that concerns that Williams. He said, “I’m firmly convinced that it’s killing you and I.”

A lot has changed since ’59, including beekeeping. Today, the Tara Beekeepers include residents who live in the Decatur area and the group holds regular events in DeKalb County. For a list of events in the area, click here. To register for an event, email tarabeekeepers@gmail.com

As a longtime beekeeper, Williams sees it as an “entirely different world.”

Academe of the Oaks students routinely check the health of their school honey bees with assistance from members of the Tara Beekeepers Association. Photo provided to Decaturish

“It’s changed drastically, and the average person doesn’t have the slightest idea about what’s going on,” Williams said, “But our bees are our major pollinator. Every three mouthfuls of food that you consume, they are directly responsible for one and the other two indirectly.”

So, what’s changed? The use of chemicals has become a widespread practice to ward off bugs and protect crops from viruses, and those chemicals are killing the bees. He said some of the chemicals, such as neonicotinoid – which is commonly used on corn crops – kills beehives by impeding their ability to get back home.

“It’s serious, and nobody seems to understand,” Williams said. “They just keep using chemicals and chemicals and chemicals in everything that we grow now. That’s what’s going on, and that’s why a little organization like we are is so, so important.”

Tara Beekeepers Association started out as about 20 to 30 people who met to talk about beekeeping, and it grew to over 130 people. After some group members were traveling from all over Georgia to attend these meetings, PN helped found beekeeping groups in other counties outside of Clayton County, such as Henry County and Coweta County.

Today, Tara Beekeepers has gotten smaller again. It’s a tight-knit group.

PN Williams, founder of the Tara Beekeepers Association, teaching new beekeepers how to set up their first colony of honeybees. Photo provided to Decaturish

As president of the association, Keif Schleifer said, “We spend as much time snacking and yakking as we do talking about bees.”

Schleifer has a fascination for bees, and she sees them as a connecting force between people. Just like the bees, “we win together and we fail together,” Schleifer said.

“The bees work collectively in their different castes. They have to work together. None of them are alone, and I kind of see our club as an extension of that,” Schleifer said. “I think we’re in this very divisive time. Here’s a great example of people coming together for the common good.”

Tara Beekeepers meet once a month in Forest Park, meeting for snacks, guest speakers, and exchange of expertise in beekeeping. And that expertise is something invaluable in Schleifer’s eyes.

“Our club has a lot of these older beekeepers with this incredible knowledge that we’re kind of losing,” Schleifer said.

Looking to attend a meeting? Check out www.tarabeekeepers.org for more information.

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