Eastern Apiculture Society - Education for the Hobbyist
Things change rapidly in beekeeping with the threat of recently imported pests, research into combating them, and the continued battle with the old pests. But how does the individual keep up? I use magazines such as Bee Culture and American Bee Journal and the web including the BEE-L mail group on LISTSERV but there is nothing like discussing recent work with the researchers. I recently had that opportunity at this year's Eastern Apiculture Society's conference at Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD.
The Eastern Apiculture Society is primarily organized for the education and service of hobbyist beekeepers in eastern United States and Canada. This was their 45th annual convention. Over 500 beekeepers gathered for the conference and short courses proceeding it. We had the opportunity to hear papers presented by the leading academic leaders, state and federal government researchers, and the next generation of researchers bringing whole new ideas to research areas.
Preceding the conference are several short courses in novice beekeeping, advanced beekeeping, and master beekeeping certification. The American Apitherapy Society had a joint conference and parallel short courses in using products of the hive, honey, propolis, and bee venom, for treating various illnesses. There was also a vendor area where the leading beekeeping suppliers of the country and small companies with new ideas had booths.
The novice beekeeping short course, Level I, included the basics from assembling equipment to honeybee biology. Two and one half days were filled with presenters including master beekeepers, state apiarists, researchers, and beekeeping professors. The presentation on swarming and its prevention was very informative. There are signs in the hive over two weeks before the swarm to indicate that it is coming but you still only have a week to dissuade the colony from swarming, by then the decision is made and not easily changed.
The Level II short course for more advanced students included bee dissection labs for the detection of disease. State apiarists, researchers, and beekeeping professors teach this course level. There were also some presentations by commercial beekeepers on queen rearing, package bees, pollination, and honey production. A new method, powdered sugar dusting, of varroa mite detection was described and demonstrated. A later paper by a research student showed how necessity is still the mother of invention in the discovery of this method.
The method of powdered sugar detection of varroa mites is performed as follows; collect about 200 bees from the brood area in a jar and cover with a screened lid, sprinkle about one teaspoon of powered sugar into the jar and roll around to coat the bees, turn the jar over and shake the powdered sugar onto a white piece of paper, dump the bees back into the hive and count the mites on the paper. This causes approximately 80% of the mites to fall off. The young lady who discovered this method was really in need of something. She was running toxicity tests on mites for a number of chemicals and needed to gather 1800 healthy mites a day. She was cutting open mature pupa cells and harvesting the varroa mites contained by hand. She read how flour and other dusty powders seem to dislodge mites, possibly because they lose footing. She tried this method, verified effectivity, and gave birth to not only a way to collect mites but a simple way for the hobbyist to detect and evaluate mite infestations. Tests were run to determine if this roll was hazardous to the queen if she were accidentally caught in the roll and shake but she came out white, but safe.
The presentations by academia and researchers show that we are learning more about the biology of the honeybee and its pests but they also showed the need for more study in areas where we still don't understand what is happening or why. Some of the most interesting research is in the area of breeding of the honeybees for resistance to their pests and diseases. Their resistance comes from a number of different genetic characteristics. They need to be identified, understood, and combined into a single line to achieve a truly disease and pest resistant bee.
A temporary bee yard on the campus allowed ample demonstrations and hands-on practice. It was also the base for interfacing with the press. Several reporters and camera crews came through the yard and some non-beekeeping TV newscasters got to handle bees without gloves or veil.
Of over a dozen Master Beekeeping Candidates tested for certification, only four passed. The EAS Master Beekeeping Certification continues to be a prestigious title. It requires knowledge of the bees and beekeeping practices but also the ability to communicate that knowledge to novice beekeepers so that they can manage their honeybees effectively and safely. The program provides the states the opportunity to include it in their own training and certification sequences to eliminate duplication of effort. Many states recognize the EAS Master Beekeeper as qualified for most state apiary inspection programs.
The Apitherapy short courses highlighted some of the successes of apitherapy in treating a number of diseases. Some forms of stomach ulcers have been shown to be caused by bacteria and to be treatable by eating honey. Several immune system diseases are often treatable with honeybee venom. These include Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and AIDS. These classes exposed how much has been learned about the use of bee products to treat diseases but also exposed how much more is yet to be discovered.
It was a fascinating week! It would not have been possible without a lot of people who volunteered their time to help others understand the joys of studying this fantastic insect. Many who helped with the conference were so busy that they did not have the opportunity to enjoy the conference they were hosting. Our thanks go out to them for a job well done and much appreciated.
The 2001 conference is during the first week in August in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts and the following year's will be held at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Plan on attending!
Visit the club web site at http://www.tianca.com/tianca3.html for complete information.