Appalachia Thankful November

Thankful November – Beegums

collage of photos thankful

“In the early days of beekeeping, the hives were nothing more than twenty-four to thirty-inch long sections of hollow black gum trees—a fact that has caused even modern hives in the mountains today to be called “gums,” “beegums,” or “plank gums.” Some peculiarity special to the black gum almost invariably caused it to be hollow and thus perfect for hives (and incidentally, for dripping lye for lye soap).

Hollow sections of the tree would be brought home and the inside rounded out smooth and uniform with along chisel. “Middleways” of the gum, four holes would be bored—one at each point of the compass—and two sticks run horizontally through the gum at right angels to each other. These sticks acted as supports from which the bees would suspend their brood combs. The bees would automatically save the top half of the gum for their honey and would hang those combs from the the plank lid, or “head,” that was set over the top of the gum. The head was often held in place by a stick run through two wooden eyes. Then a slanted, easily removable lid was usually set above the head to keep rain from running into the gum.

Beekeepers always set the gums on flat platforms raised well above ground level. Small rocks would be set under one edge of the gum tilting it slightly so the bees could enter; or “V”-shaped notches were cut into the bottom of on one side to serve the same purpose. The platform extended several inches beyond the entrance to provide a landing area.”

—”Foxfire 2″

Today’s Thankful November giveaway is a used “Foxfire 2” book. Leave a comment on this post to be entered. *Giveaway ends Monday November 23, 2020.


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  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    November 17, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    My Uncle Tim had a bee hive. He had a home made bee hive suit he would use when he would “rob” the honey. He would always blow smoke into the bee hive to calm the bees down when he would get the honey. It was interesting to watch but I never got too close! One of the most interesting things I have seen was a large swarm of bees flying through the air. They were in one large ball and made a very loud humming sound; I remember it it like it happened yesterday.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    I remember my Dad cutting gum for firewood and then found that it was almost impossible to split. Didn’t knnow that that was where the expression beegum came from.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    We had several hives when I was a kid. I think Dad sold most of them after Mom had an allergic reaction to a sting. I remember helping him ‘rob’ the hives and squeeze out the honey. He built his own hives. We kept a few handy to use anytime a hive swarmed. Many times I would climb a tree to cut off a limb loaded with a huge glob of bees and shake them off into the new hive. Ours were the square boxes with sections . We always left the bottom section for the bees and harvested the others.

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    November 21, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    I planted two black gums in my yard ten years ago. They are now 25 ft tall. Beautiful fall orange color. I love the bee information. Who knew.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    November 21, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    My husband & I had a hilarious adventure when we were several yrs. younger. He had seen a downed tree at a work site with a bee hive in it. He suited up in his welding mask, coveralls, etc., and I duct taped the open places. He look like an astronaut as he approached the tree. Turned out it was an abandoned one with no honey and no comb that wasn’t dried up! I’ve seen the bee gums up in Cades Cove and was fascinated by them. No one in my childhood had bees–don’t know why–it sure would have added to our supply of something sweet to eat.

    Please don’t include me in the contest–I already won one!!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2020 at 11:54 am

    We love honey. This is very interesting. My husband has been wanting to get a beehive started where we live. He has always wanted to do this.He really love to eat the comb to.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    November 21, 2020 at 11:53 am

    My great grandfather, Samuel Ulysess S. Grant Broyles, was a beekeeper in Battle Mountain, Nevada. He and my great grandmother were mentioned in a cookbook for delivering honey to customers by horse and buckboard. He invented and had patented a honey rick in 1927.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2020 at 10:38 am

    I never would have know this. That’s why I love reading your blog.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2020 at 9:53 am

    I never knew this. It is interesting. My husband wants to start a bee hive where we live. He has always been interested in this.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2020 at 9:47 am

    Tipper, this has nothing to do with bee gums but with the black gum tree and some other things it was used for. Mr. A O Harrell of Bakersville, NC wrote a book titled Rusty. In this book he tells of grouse hunting but also tells about his life. One of the stories tells about some of the home cures for sickness people of that area used in the first half of a the 1900’s. One of the cures for a sick baby was to split a black gum tree and pass the baby through the tree. He said he never could understand how they could split a black gum wide enough to pass a baby through it.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2020 at 9:36 am

    I remember my Daddy telling me his Mother had two beehives by her garden and they always had honey to put on their biscuits.. As a young boy, he said he spent some days laying quietly under one watching the bees go and come. Wish I had known that when my Grandmother was still here as I would have so many questions. In later years, when we bought it Daddy loved to get it with the comb.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 21, 2020 at 9:02 am

    My Dad had bees for years but I’m not sure he ever had a “gum”. We called them either ‘bee gums’ or ‘beehives’ but he ordered them as kits and put them together. They had a base unit, then one or more ‘supers’ were stacked on top of it. The supers had wooden racks with a metal plate or wire frame to give the bees something to build their comb on.

    Dad had a big old book called something like “The Encyclopedia of Beekeeping”. There is a great deal to know about bees and their ways, especially if history and folklore are included.

    I can vouch for blackgum not splitting, even if you try to make it. You may have posted this, or I was told it, but blackgum has a reputation as never getting struck by lightening. Certainly I cannot recall ever having seen one that was.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2020 at 8:51 am

    My daughter and her husband should try keeping their bees in a gum tree as they are not having any luck keeping them in the store bought gums. It’s been three years and a lot of wasted money replacing the bees that die over the winter. I think it’s the chemicals used on surrounding farms that is killing the entire hive.

  • Reply
    Terry Stites
    November 21, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. When I was little, Daddy had to cut a branch from a huge maple tree. The branch was hollow and had a honey bee nest in it. The honey and comb tasted so good, but the end of the nest was all walled up and behind that wax wall we found a squirrel skeleton. It was curled up as if it were hibernating.

  • Reply
    Donald Allen
    November 21, 2020 at 8:02 am

    When I grew up we had a couple of bee hives and it was always an exciting day when we robbed them. Daddy had a special mesh hood he wore to keep the bees away from his face. Mother and her sisters would put the honey up in jars some with honeycomb and some without.

  • Reply
    Tony Padgett
    November 21, 2020 at 7:59 am

    I keep bees for years, as time goes by it’s becoming harder. They are dying off almost every year. Having to start all over again each year. With farm practices to global warming, we are killing these precious wonderful creatures.
    Chief Seattle said, whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. For whatever happens to the beast will soon happen to man.
    Thanks for a trip in better times.

  • Reply
    Wanda Robertson
    November 21, 2020 at 7:39 am

    We have lots of beekeepers in our area, so we are able to have natural honey all the time. So good. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    November 21, 2020 at 7:38 am

    Gum trees made good beehives because the twisted wood grain kept the log section from splitting open as it dried and shrank.

  • Reply
    Dan O’Connor
    November 21, 2020 at 6:52 am

    Very interesting, I never knew that. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 21, 2020 at 6:39 am

    Honey is certainly a wonderful thing. I just love a bit in my tea or coffee in the morning. I thank the bees for what they provide. In my mind the production of honey should be listed among the wonders of the world!

    • Reply
      November 21, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      I so agree ,I love a teaspoon of honey in my morning cup of coffee, so good.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    November 21, 2020 at 6:09 am

    My cousin, the late Clinton Moore, was a beekeeper. I watched him his last season, 93 y/o, taking care of his bees. He loved them and was determined to finish his last “crop” and he did. And I found out just how amazing bees and their “keeper’s are. I miss him and his bees.

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