Twice a year, the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association hosts conferences to provide educational seminars and workshops to disseminate the most current knowledge on the apis front. The conferences are three days long and are so packed with expert presentations that they overlap one another in the schedule. Sometimes it’s hard to choose which presentation to attend. It helps to focus on one discipline to guide you during the busy three days - a single skill upon which to improve and become a better beekeeper.
North Carolina has the greatest number of beekeepers of any state in America. Most are hobbyists and sideliners; apiarists who maintain 50 - 100 hives (Killer Bees Honey would be classified as an artisanal sideline operation). I attended the conference with a past mentee, now a current member of the Killer Bees Honey clan, Jennifer Harper. Jenn and I carpooled into Hendersonville, NC to attend seminars by a veritable whos-who in the bee world. Last year my focus was learning how to keep my bees from swarming. This year we concentrated on grafting and honey output. Jenn and I took classes on grafting, queen castle and nuc box variations, and the hive as a honey factory(see Jenn in the above photo).
- We were captivated by lectures from Prof. Tom Seeley who gave presentations on how swarms choose their future home sites, capturing said swarms, plastic vs wax foundations, and the beehive as a honey factory.
- My friend and fellow beekeeper, David Stallings presented on double nuc systems (Michael Palmer method).
- Dr. Lane Kreitlow gave a superb lecture on bee biology and pheromone basics.
- The eminent Dr. David Tarpy updated everyone on the NC Apicultural Program.
- Each of the six state bee inspectors gave us an update on their work in every part of North Carolina.
Along with the above presentations were many more, as well as a long list of vendors ready to sell the latest and greatest gear and accessories during the breaks.
Conferences like these are essential to the neophyte and experienced “beek” alike. This years conference took on even more importance for me as I needed to know how other beekeepers in the state were fairing with their bees. 2018 has been one of the most difficult years for my bees. It was interesting to hear other beekeepers confirm my worst suspicions that everyone was affected by high mite loads and torrential rains this year. For Killer Bees Honey, the rains caused a complete nectar and pollen wash out. Fact is, we did not harvest any honey this year from our bees. What the bees collected, we’re letting them keep for the winter.
Nonetheless, the general mood of the conference and those in attendance was upbeat and positive. Jenn and I are honing our grafting skills. It’s our hope to become completely self-sufficient in 2019. Until then, we are concentrating on the four P’s (pests, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition). We don’t need to worry about pesticides, but an overabundance of mites and their vectoring of pathogens plus no nectar worries us. Fall mite treatments are almost over and we are feeding the bees 2:1 sugar water with added nutrients.
2018 is quickly closing and soon to be in the past. Successful beeks focus positively on the present to give power to the future. We at Killer Bees Honey are grateful to our queen bees, and especially to their daughters. All have shown tremendous patience with us. We owe them a safe journey into the fall and coming winter.