Florida State Beekeepers Association Conference
Wednesday, June 13 2012 @ 02:44 PM EDT
Contributed by: Admin
I had the pleasure of attending a conference on beekeeping last week. Despite knowing very little about bees, I was compelled to attend, in an effort to further my knowledge about these very industrious creatures. The Florida State Beekeepers Association Conference was held last week in southwest Florida at the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium in Fort Myers. It was attended by a variety of individuals and companies, most of whom are either beekeepers, honey makers, agricultural specialists or just individuals and families interested in finding out more about beekeeping. Not only what I learned, but, especially, the people I met, made this event one that I thoroughly enjoyed!
Not suprisingly, bees have been around a very long time. To be specific, the oldest known honey bee has been dated back about 40 million years! It is also true that mankind has involved bees in agricultural pursuits for at least 4,000 years! Given just these facts alone, it is completely understandable that about a third of all the food we consume has been polinated by honeybees. Clearly, honeybees are one of Mother Nature's most important creatures.
I had the pleasure of witnessing a beehive demonstration by Ryan Willingham, an Agriculture and Consumer Protection Specialist, from the Florida Department of Agriculture. Mr. Willingham was raised keeping bees along with his father and understands the importance of their collective health as a species. Ryan explained (in depth) something I had heard about, briefly, on television. He explained that the health of the species is being jeopardized. "Pesticides are threatening the health of these creatures, and their health is a direct reflection of of the health of our environment".
Having tended more than a few gardens, I knew of using what are referred to as 'predatory controls' for insects versus using poison. The problem with using this type of insect control is that it is neither inexpensive, nor practical for large-scale farms. Pesticides introduced into the environment are breaking down the bee's ability to defend itself against it's own predators, like bee mites. Community-based agriculture is responsible for leading the charge against banning the use of these pesticides. Given the honeybee's clear connection to a safe food supply, theirs is a battle that must be won!
During my visit, I learned that there are three types of honeybees. The Queen Bee is the most recognized of these types. She is the only breeding female within a bee colony. The Female Worker Bee is responsible for most of the activity within the colony, especially in the summer when activity is highest. the Male Bees are called Drones. They don't do any of the collection of pollen or nectar, as their sole purpose is to mate with new queens and fertilize them. Their heirarchy, as well as the level of organization, within the bee colony is something to be admired!
The most rewarding information I gleaned from my visit to the beekeeper's conference was the ease of becoming a beekeeper myself! According to Mr. Willingham, a prospective beekeeper can purchase everything they need to get started for a few hundred dollars! Not only is beekeeping a fun hobby, it can also be profitable. Honey, beeswax, beeswax candles, and raw honeycomb are all moneymakers and, best of all, it is an environmentally responsible activity! For those persons interested in beekeeping, the Beekeepers Association of Southwest Florida meets the second Wednesday of each month at Lee County's IFAS Extension Service.
I went to the conference wanting to get educated. I ended up wanting to get involved! Fortunately, I have a few friends who keep bees locally. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to attend next year as a beekeeper, myself!