I’ve spent the last twwo days at a beekeeper’s conference. This year the state group, Washington State Beekeepers Association, combined its annual meeting with the regional Western Apiculture Society conference. Two days of talking bees with people who never get tired of talking about bees!
Presentations included a surprisingly diverse set of viewpoints. There were just a few old coots – the kind of ancient beekeeper who says “We’re getting the wives involved by having a honey cooking contest.” These were balanced out by the professional women in both the sciences and commercial beekeeping. Of 19 presenters, 7 were women, a pretty good percentage. In addition to researchers, commercial beekeepers, and organization officers, there were presenters who represented small businesses and emerging beekeeping approaches.
Some of the scientists present are luminaries in the field, including Dr. Steve Shephard and Dr. Sue Cobey from Washington State University, Ramesh Sigili of Oregon State University, and Dr. Gloria DeGrandi Hoffman from a USDA lab in Arizona. Dr. Shepard’s graduate students presented their proposed studies, funded and unfunded, all of which seemed worthwhile.
Eric Olson told a story that’s made the news. After losing 9000 hives in his California overwintering yards in 2011, he overwintered his hives this year in Controlled Atmosphere storage buildings and had virtually no losses. His emotional journey went from the lowest days to euphoria. WSU will study his hives this winter as well as their own hives in chambers in Pullman.
Don Aman moved to Central Washington to grow his own food, a journey which naturally led to keeping bees for honey. He is organizing a conference updating Vanishing of the Bees in Yakima Sat. Oct. 13.
Urban beekeeper Bob Redmond linked the development of beekeeping with the development of cities. He addressed the issues of human population explosion and resource depletion, and notes the need to develop urban agriculture, including bees.
The most exciting presentation for me was Melanie Kirby’s discussion of the Rocky Mountain Survivor Queen Bee Co-op. Kirby started keeping bees 15 years ago in top bars as a Peace Corps volunteer. Today she owns a commercial business and organized the collective with other New Mexico and Colorado beekeepers, some top bar, all women so far. They are raising queens and swapping genetic material to build sturdy queen stock..
Every convention has vendors. This one had Mann Lake, Glory Bees, and lots of others. I picked up books, T-shirts, and a DVD I haven’t seen before on organic beekeeping.
I’m still assimilating the impact of so many perspectives on my own thinking. I would love to attend an organic beekeeping conference to see if the perspectives there are different – or as diverse!