by Ian Munger
Have you ever read a bee article and wished you could ask follow-up questions? Just how much brood do you need to make that nuc? What is the best way to package and sell your honey? Can you write-off that lost colony on your taxes? Have you ever wished your local monthly meeting was a little bit longer? Do you love to talk about bees with anyone who will listen? EAS provides every beekeeper with the opportunity to rub elbows with world-class researchers, speak with professionals, and peruse items from dealers.
I attended this year’s conference for the three-day short course. EAS is broken into two sections, with Wednesday being the overlap day. The first two days offer a beginner and an advanced course. This year focused on keeping bees alive, and expanding your bee business. Attendees could select classes across courses, depending on their interests. On Wednesday there was a honey judging competition, raffle, and access to vendors. With many supplies laid out, it was like walking around in a supply catalog — I was able to see everything from a 16-frame extractor to a frame-making jig. This was a great opportunity to talk about products and stock up without paying shipping. Thursday and Friday continue with workshops.
Classes were taught by such experts as Kim Flottum (editor, Bee Culture magazine), Cindy Bee (swarm-removal specialist), Mike Palmer (Vermont beekeeper), Randy Oliver (commercial beekeeper), and Jennifer Berry (apicultural research coordinator). Having the opportunity to talk with leaders in the field and learn from their cutting-edge research provides a perspective rarely seen by the backyard beekeeper.
EAS is also your first stop in taking your Master Beekeeper test. Current Master Beekeepers wear a large badge of honor proudly proclaiming their status, and are always willing to answer questions. EAS hosts a study session and proctors the test.
The conference also provides an opportunity to examine hives under the instruction of professional bee wranglers. These inspection experts have such a calm and steady manor, they wear flip flops and don’t bother with veils. I was able to see irradiated frames of European and American foulbrood, wax moths, and small hive beetles. The bee yard provided me a hands-on opportunity to identify problems without the pain of seeing them inside my own hive.
This year, a focus was placed on keeping bees alive by keeping pests and diseases in check. Perhaps Michael Palmer’s best advice was to stop asking how many hives a beekeeper has, and instead ask for the total mite counts in each hive, as the latter numbers are far more reflective of the overall health of your hives than the number of boxes you possess.
If you still have lingering questions, or you just love to talk about bees, come to EAS in Burlington, Vermont, in 2012. I’ll be there (but my mites won’t).