The North American Beekeeping Conference was held in Galveston,Texas, this January 4 – 8th.The conference is generally held the first week of January and the location is always in the South.This conference incorporates a number of beekeeping organizations and is coordinated by the American Beekeeping Federation. This year several other groups were meeting at the conference including the Apiary Inspectors of America, American Honey Producers Association, and the Canadian Honey Council.
This beekeeping conference is usually held at a resort hotel/ conference center, making it a bit of a vacation as well as a learning opportunity. The conference lasts four days and is packed with speakers and presentations in the daytime and social events in the evenings.
One of the best things about attending beekeeping conferences is the opportunity to meet other beekeepers, catch up with old friends and make new ones. There is not a lot of opportunity for beekeepers to get together during the season as we are all busy with our lives and our bees, but spending several days in the sunny south during the winter appeals to many beekeepers. Frank Drummond from the University of Maine at Orono
was in attendance, presenting preliminary data from the CAP project he is participating in. Also, quite a few of the recent speakers from MSBA meetings were there, including Medhat Nasr, Cindy Bee, Jennifer Berry, and James Tew. In the evenings we ate out in large groups, talking bees and swapping stories. Everyone has a few funny beekeeping stories and you get to see a different side of people in a relaxed setting.
The conference has several different but concurrent tracks for different types of beekeepers — researchers, commercial honey producers, sideliners — each one has its own group of speakers and topics. While I presented in the sideliner track (on Small Scale Queen Rearing in the North), I focused on attending primarily the main conference sessions and several of the American Bee Research Conference sessions. There were surprisingly few talks with “CCD” in their titles; it seems that many of the researchers are moving away from that term and were focused on discussing other specific threats to honey bees.
As for the presentations, here are a few tidbits from my notes:
– There was lots of talk about research into new viruses, but little that has any practical beekeeper application at this point.
– I learned that viruses can move back and forth between honey bees and other bees, and also via contact at flowers. But basically the biggest vector of bee viruses is the Varroa mite, and controlling levels of varroa is the best thing that beekeepers can do to keep their colonies healthy.
– There was a very interesting talk by Lizette Dahlgren from the University of Nebraska looking at the varroacide effects on honey bee queens, demonstrating that the queens were less susceptible to varroacides than workers. Her study looked only at queen mortality levels, not ovarian development or performance.
– Dr. Thomas Rinderer presented a talk about the “effects of hive color and feeding on winter clusters of Russian Honey Bees” showing that hive color (dark vs. white) had no effect on population growth. On a side note, however, Rinderer has shown over three years that his 8-frame hives grow better over winter. Of course his work is in Louisiana which is a very different beekeeping climate than Maine, but it was interesting to note, as I have been transitioning to some 8-frame equipment and really like using it.
– Jose D. Villa of the USDA Baton Rouge lab presented his lab’s work on “selection of colonies for resistance to Nosema Ceranae”— they had been unable to see a pattern of inheritability of any resistance to Nosema Ceranae.
In all, the conference was loads of fun, very informative and certainly worth attending. The full conference information, including the speaker schedule, is still available on the American Beekeeping Federation website, abfnet.org.
The 2012 North American Beekeeping Conference will be held in Las Vegas, January 10-14.