Dusting a hive with icing sugar. One method of testing for varroa mite levels. At the BCHPA convention, we'll get an update on other methods of testing and treating for this little, but powerful pest. (Photo credit: Jeff Lee)

Why beekeepers should not miss the BC Honey Producers convention this month

As a beekeeper, the end of summer and the harkening fall remind me of the approaching B.C. Honey Producers Association fall convention September 25-27 at the Delta Airport Inn in Richmond. I watch the calendar with particular interest and count the days to the start of the three-day event.

As associations go, the BCHPA is one of those touchstone groups necessary to establishment of a healthy agricultural industry. It may be small by some standards – we have about 800 members, I guess – but it is the provincial representative body for beekeepers, just as the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association is to the beef industry, the B.C. Fruit Growers Association is to the Okanagan tree fruit industry and the B.C. Blueberry Council is to the blueberry industry. When you consider that each of those farming industries – and others, too, like cranberries and vegetable farmers – rely on the pollination of crops by honey bees, it is a wonder that the BCHPA isn’t at the head of some bureaucrat’s list of “must support” organizations.

BCHPA 2014 convention poster

BCHPA 2014 convention poster

The BCHPA was founded nearly a century ago in the crucible of a disagreement when the provincial government brought in the Foul Brood Act of 1916 and insisted that all beekeepers in the province register their hives. The BCHPA split from the Beekeepers Association of B.C., which later was folded into the new group.

That has been the case evermore; we’re still required to register our hives, but the provincial apiculture division has become a valued resource of information and knowledge and relations with beekeepers are much better.

Over the years the BCHPA and the provincial apiculturalist have had good relations and they work well together to ensure the best health for bees. It is nonetheless challenging, what with the advent of varroa mites in the 1980s, the federal closure of the Canada-US border to imported colonies, the lightning-fast spread of nosema ceranae, and the ever-present but small threats of small hive beetles, Africanized honey bees and treatment-resistant foul brood and mites.

The BCHPA’s annual general meeting is the place where current issues are brought into sharp focus by the experts, scientists and others who come to share their knowledge. This year it is in Richmond, at the Delta Airport Inn, a long stone’s throw from YVR.

I am often to be found cruising the trade show floor looking at the new (and some not so new) gadgets and products being offered by vendors. I’ll always enter the honey contest and hope for a repeat of past first-place ribbons.

But what I really live for at these conferences are two things: the first is the ever-necessary (but I will admit, occasionally boring) business day. This is where the business end of B.C.’s beekeeping representatives fill us in on what’s going on. From directors’ reports from the far-flung reaches of the province to national industry updates and marketing strategies, disease profiles and emerging challenges, I get a pretty good picture of what’s going on in Canada’s beekeeping world.

The education day the following day is where I come to soak up, like a sponge, the lessons learned by other beekeepers. There’s often a few scientists there with their graphs and charts, less so this year with Wayne Neidig’s desire to make this more of a practical learning experience for new beekeepers.

This year the BCHPA did a stellar job in attracting some of the brightest minds in beekeeping. If you haven’t seen the list, I wrote a blog post recently about the speakers. But let me quickly recap.

Consider the following speakers:

  • Marla Spivak

    Marla Spivak

    Marla Spivak, the University of Minnesota researcher who developed the Minnesota Hygienic bee, likely the gold standard in varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH) queens. She’s going to be talking about an important but little-understood issue: The Benefits of Propolis to Bee Health.

  • Eric Mussen, until recently the extension apiculturalist at University of California at Davis.His topic will be: Major Bee Diseases, Pests and Their Control.
  • Dewey Caron, the prolific author, compatriot of the late Roger Mores and apiculture professor. His talk: Communicating with the Bees – Reading the Brood Frame.
  • Shelley Hoover

    Shelley Hoover

    Shelley Hoover, research scientistwith Alberta’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. She will update us on the national Bee Integrated Pest Management Project (IPM)

  • Allen Dick, retired Alberta commercial beekeeper, will probably have the best-attended talk,  The Financial Side of Beekeeping.
  • Medhad Nasr, Alberta’s provincial apiculturist, with a nod towards “treatment free beekeeping”, is going to talk about Alternative Soft Chemical Options for Mite Control.
  • Judy Campbell, who with her husband Mike runs Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery. Her useful topic: Bee Innovative with Products from the Hive.
  • Jean-Marc Ledorze, the owner of Golden Ears Apiaries, one of B.C.’s largest commercial apiaries, will talk about a typical season in his company.

I try to tell every beekeeper I know that this is a conference you don’t want to miss. There is still time to register.

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