June 8, 2020
By: Dwayne Page
Jessica Dodds Davis is all abuzz about a new specialty license plate which she created dedicated to saving the honey bee.
The state recently unveiled the new “Save the Honey Bee” plate which is now available for sale at county clerk’s offices across the state. A portion of the fee from sales of the plates will be allocated to Honeybee Tennessee, a non-profit organization founded by Davis, to be used exclusively to support the mission of educating the community on the importance of honeybees, including providing funding for local schools and camps for the appropriate equipment and educational materials needed for beekeeping.
Davis, a Lebanon hair stylist who also has a home in DeKalb County, began working with honey bees in 2014 and developed a love for it. As her passion for honey bees grew so did her desire to share it with others which gave her the idea for a specialty plate.
“Tennessee has some wonderful specialty license plate tags benefiting multiple organizations. I thought the honeybees deserved one too,” she said.
“I started beekeeping about six years ago after seeing beekeepers at the Wilson County Fair. I thought that was interesting so it all started from there. After I got into beekeeping I began setting up at all the local festivals selling honey and got a lot of questions from people about what I do and some asked if I could help educate the community about beekeeping. From that I began to wonder why that study was not being shared in the schools. That’s when I got the idea to start my “Honeybee Tennessee” nonprofit organization which was the first step in getting the state to approve the new specialty plate,” said Davis.
“After starting my non-profit I had to get a state representative or senator to introduce legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to authorize the creation of the new specialty plate so I reached out to Mark Pody and he did that for me. The bill explained what Honeybee Tennessee was; what I was trying to do with the tag; and what the money raised from the sales of the tag would benefit”.
After passage of the legislation Davis went to work marketing the plates through a website trying to meet the state’s goal of at least one thousand pre-sales before any could be printed. Although the task was daunting and it took her two years, Davis eventually met the benchmark in March 2019. Davis then had to jump through a few more hoops before the state authorized the printing of the plates.
“Once I got the 1,000 pre-sales, the state had to approve the artwork and design which I had submitted for the plate and that took several months. After that the plates were printed and distributed across the state in the counties where they were pre-sold,” said Davis.
Graphic designer Mickey Payne assisted Davis with the artwork for the plate which reveals a bright yellow background with a honey comb superimposed. To the left is Tennessee’s state flower, the Iris with two honey bees doing what they do best, pollinating. To the right is Davis’ non-profit Honeybee Tennessee logo and most important, the main tag line is “Save the Honey Bee.”
Davis hopes people will want to display the tag and join in the push to educate people about the importance of the honey bee. By purchasing the plate, you are helping support Davis’s non-profit organization and its mission to spread the word about honey bees.
“I want to help get schools and other educational facilities involved and help fund them in starting a bee program. In Wilson County I have already helped one school and when the kids go to their FFA class their teacher takes them out to the bee yard where they learn how to beekeep, harvest their own honey, and then sell it to benefit their school. I want to spread the love for beekeeping all over the state of Tennessee. Any school interested can reach out to me through my non-profit and we could help set that up,” she said.
“Agriculture plays a huge part in our daily life and even if you are not a farmer you still go to the grocery store and purchase things like strawberries, watermelons and foods that have to be pollinated and if we don’t have the honey bee and other pollinators we are not eating,” added Davis.
Although the honey bee is not necessarily becoming extinct, Davis said beekeepers are faced with challenges to ensure a healthy hive.
“Beekeeping is hard and there are a lot of threats. We have a varroa mite which resembles a seed tick that gets on the honey bee. There are hive beetles we have to deal with and tracheal mites. Just like a cattle farmer has to make sure his herd doesn’t get sick, we have to do that with the honey bees to keep a healthy hive and a healthy queen to make sure she stays in production,” added Davis.
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy Poss) said the “Save the Honey Bee” plate is now available for sale at his office.
“We have many specialty plates but after meeting Jessica last week and hearing her story, this plate has an even more special meaning for me because of the passion she has for the honey bee and the work she put in over a long period of time to see this project through. Anyone interested in this specialty plate can now purchase one through our office,” he said.
To learn more visit https://honeybeetn.org/ or on facebook and instagram. “Save the Honey Bee” tee shirts will soon be available for sale through the website.
Davis is the Middle Tennessee Regional Vice President of the Tennessee Beekeepers Association.