I always look forward to the annual B.C. Honey Producers’ Association convention for two reasons.
The first, but not most important one is that it comes towards the end of a season of heavy lifting. The approach of the AGM and its popular education day are signs that the frenetic summertime workload of looking after the bees is nearly at an end. We’re heading into the fall and while there is still much work to do, you can see that things will begin to quiet down.
The second and far more important reason is this is when we get a chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and renew our knowledge of what’s going on in the bee world. There is always the requisite and important organizational part of the conference, the business day where those of us who participate take the pulse of our provincial body. I know it’s not as popular as the education day, but I find attending the business day in some ways more informative because it reveals to me the current status of our local industry.
This year, the BCHPA’s conference list of speakers packs a heck of a wallop. Wayne Neidig, the retiring but indefatigable president of the BCHPA, convinced some of the brightest minds in beekeeping and bee science to come, any one or two of whom would be featured speakers in a single year. If you are coming – and you should if you live anywhere west of Winnipeg and north of San Francisco! – you are going to be surprised at the considerable heft of these speakers’ bios. Here’s who is coming.
Marla Spivak, who developed the famed Minnesota Hygienic strain of Italian bees at the University of Minnesota, and whose work broke ground around the concept of developing mite-resistant honey bees. Her strain can detect mite-infected pupae and remove them. Spivak won the 2010 MacArthur Fellow grant for her work, and has appeared at the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talks to comment on “Why Bees Are Disappearing“. Now she is working on how bees collect propolis and is studying the effect of herbicides and crop monoculture. She’s going to be talking about an important but little-understood issue: The Benefits of Propolis to Bee Health.
Eric Mussen, the recently-retired extension apiculturalist at the University of California, Davis. For 38 years his name has been associated with some of the best research in bee biology. He created a newsletter in 1976 that continues to be in demand. Mussen retired in June, but I don’t expect him to hang up his veil any time soon; he will continue at UC Davis in an emeritus role. His topic at the BCHPA: Major Bee Diseases, Pests and Their Control.
Dewey Caron, who studied with Roger Morse and probably has forgotten more about bees than I will ever learn. He’s got many titles; emeritus professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the Univesity of Delaware, and affiliate professor at Oregon State University’s department of horticulture, and also author of Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, the standard text used in colleges now. It weighs a ton. I listened to him at a conference in Oregon last year, and found his one of the better talks of the day. His talk: Communicating with the Bees – Reading the Brood Frame.
Medhad Nasr, Alberta’s provincial apiculturist, crop research and extension division, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. He has developed a uniquely Canadian expertise in trying to get a handle on both the varroa and tracheal mites, and is a huge proponent of integrated pest management. He also holds a power stick on the importation of honey bee packages and queens to Canada; he developed acceptable mite control levels for importers. Here’s Larry Connor’s 2011 interview. I’ve met Hawaiian queen breeders who credit him with saving Canada’s critically important queen import industry just when things looked bleakest. His talk: Alternative Soft Chemical Options for Mite Control.
Jean-Marc Ledorze, the owner of Golden Ears Apiaries. Based in Abbotsford. Ledorze is one of B.C.’s largest commercial beekeepers in a province that is relatively shy of them. He runs 3,000 hives and is hoping to winter 5,000. Like other commercial operators such as Peter Awram at Honeyview Farms and John Gibeau at Honeybee Centre, Ledorze’s operation has one foot firmly placed in Alberta and the other in B.C. His talk is: A Typical Season for Golden Ears Apiaries.
Allen Dick, retired commercial beekeeper. At his peak he ran 4,500 hives in Alberta, and for that reason you might call him retired now that he only cares for 100. For nearly 40 years he was a powerhouse beekeeper in Alberta, and he runs the charming and informative A Beekeeper’s Diary. As such, he has a unique knowledge of what it takes to get into and stay in business. His talk : The Financial Side of Beekeeping. If his opening section (“How I Screwed Up and Why I’m Hoping You Won’t”) is any indication, it probably will be among the best-attended talks of the day.
Judy Campbell is one half of the brilliant married team at Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery. The other, of course, is Mike. The two represent that middle ground in beekeeping; no longer sideliners, and not the massive commercial operations like Ledorze or Awram. Instead, they have carved out a happy medium as purveyors of fine meads, as pollinators and honey producers. Their store in Langley is packed with many of the small home-produced products that come from the hive. Campbell’s talk: Bee Innovative with Products from the Hive.
Shelley Hoover, research scientist with Alberta’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. She has worked closely with Leonard Foster’s lab at UBC and for several years Hoover and her colleagues have been updating the BCHPA on a collaborative multi-year project among western Canadian researchers to develop new techniques to select and assess disease-resistant honey bees. She also recently testified before the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. Her talk: Bee Integrated Pest Management Project (IPM) Update.
Like I said, this is a convention packed full of great speakers. I’m going there armed with a video camera, tape recorder, empty notepad and lots of questions.
If you’re interested in attending, see the BCPHA convention registration page. You can register online. There is also a break on registration for early birders who sign up before August 22.