I got to go to the HAS (Heartland Apicultural Society) meeting this past weekend in TN. Like all meetings headed up strictly by volunteers there were some logistical bumps with directions, signs, AV technology…but nothing so serious that smart beekeepers couldn’t figure out. And the over 400 attendees hardly noticed.
The strength of this HAS meeting, as with their past efforts, is the program they put together. It has just enough science to keep us intellectually stimulated, but not so much as to overwhelm us. For most beekeepers knowing that Varroa is a problem is enough…hearing all of hundreds of ways it can kill a bee is less important, much less important than knowing how to stop, or avoid, or resist, or decrease the carnage.
One good way is to have bees that are resistant to this creature, and to get those, they have to have a queen that’s been selected to do produce those resistant bees. The number and quality of talks on breeding, producing and selecting queens headed in that direction at this meeting was exceptional. These included survivor projects, starting a breeding program, the cell punch method or raising queens, breeding for mite biters, queen introduction techniques, drone biology, and a host of others. Producing their own queens was at the top of the list of things to learn here this week. And, I think, at the top of most beekeepers’ lists.
But solving other honey bee health problems was important too…nosema, queen issues, pesticides, finding beeyards, Varroa, Varroa, Varroa and all the issues that come with it, small hive beetle control, and more. Other topics…swarm biology, using beeswax, basic beekeeping, making nucs, equipment to buy, pheromones, pollination as a business, photography, and honey plants…were on the agenda, too.
Of course there was lots of beeyard work, and the weather cooperated to make that, mostly, comfortable…it was really hot the first day, but cooled off later. Topics there included setting up cell starters, grafting, making nucs, reading frames, and even some hive inspections and dealing with small hive beetles. There was a three day queen rearing course going on all the time the rest of us were inside taking it easy.
Bee Culture was there, and brought most of the crew to the meeting. I was a speaker, Dawn worked with the vendors, Kathy and Peggy ran the table, and Peggy got to spend some time helping out her advertisers for the future. Also, there were several or our regular writers attending – Phil Craft, Jim Tew, Jeff Harris, and Jennifer Berry were all speakers. It’s rare we have so many of our regulars together because we are so spread out, so we took advantage of the situation and had supper together one evening. And, as they say, a good time was had by all.
Keeping bees alive is a challenge, and learning the skills to do that should be at the top of every beekeeper’s list of to do tasks. HAS did a good job of helping out. Coming up is the annual EAS Conference – August 5-9, 2013, West Chester, Pennsylvania, (www.easternapiculture.org for the program), and the WAS 2013 Annual Conference – October 16-19, 201, at the La Fonda Hotel on the Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico, find out more at http://ucanr.edu/sites/was2/.