The Times…My, How They’ve Changed!

On the MSBA website’s homepage there is a section for “History Buffs”. If you check it out you’ll be able to find archived newsletters of MSBA’s activities going back about forty years. If you made it to the Fall Conference in Kirksville this year I encourage you to check out the newsletter of September, 1978. It will take you back to a simpler place and time.

I was thinking about that particular MSBA newsletter while participating in the fall conference this year. It was promoting the upcoming fall conference for 1978…Where? Well, in the Student Union of the College on Randolph Street in Kirksville, sound familiar? Also, the content of the program offered was interesting. The two main speakers offered programs entitled “A Closer Look at the Honey Bee” and “What the Better Beekeeper Should Know and Do”. Members attending the conference were encouraged to participate with the following comment: “There will be time and space for those who have any equipment, pictures, samples, display items or anything else of interest to beekeepers. Demonstrations and displays add a great deal of interest and we encourage you to bring anything you might have to SHOW AND TELL.” This was a decade before Varroa had made it to this country, long before we knew pesticide residues build up in comb and many beekeepers were still proud of that really old black comb they had been using for years and years. Yes, it was a simpler time.

The truth is our conferences now stress what beekeepers need to know TODAY so there is beekeeping tomorrow. This information disseminated out to commercial beekeepers, sideliners and hobbyists must be science based. MSBA addressed this concept very well at this year’s conference by bringing together some of the top bee people in the country with some of the best and latest information to share.

What beekeeper today doesn’t recognize the name of Jerry Hayes? Jerry is internationally respected within the beekeeping community for his almost four decades of promoting sustainable beekeeping. He was at ground zero in Florida when varroa emerged on the radar and he shared with us at our conference some of what it was like for him and others who were suddenly faced with this challenge. Jerry also spoke of so many initiatives and entities involved now with bee science and the continual search for information which will help us keep healthy hives. A strong supporter of the Bee Informed Partnership, Jerry reported on some of the findings regarding their latest annual beekeeper survey results. If you would like to review this information check out:

Dr. Judy Wu-Smart, Extension and Research Entomologist for the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, reported on extensive research regarding the buildup of chemical residues in honey bee comb. These residues, whether from agricultural chemicals utilized by farmers or miticides used by beekeepers, seem to be having an effect on colony health in ways not previously considered. Dr. Wu-Smart discussed the findings which showed residues of different chemicals, even when detected in very low numbers, may have interactions negative towards brood rearing. For instance, it was shown these interactions may result in delayed pupae development which may lead to slightly increased reproductive success of the varroa mite. One of the main take-aways for me from Dr. Wu-Smart’s presentation was to be more committed to culling old combs from my hives. That’s a major change for a guy who years ago valued those old combs as long as they were straight. Not only is it good practice considering the pathogens they may contain but also the chemicals we understand are absorbed into the wax.

With an annual loss nationwide of about 40% of our colonies, its important we beekeepers get better at replacing these losses with the healthiest and most productive bees possible. Dr. Juliana Rangel, Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University presented on, among other things, the need for high quality healthy queens and considerations for their production. She also provided in-depth information regarding queen physiology, need for high quality drones and honey bee mating behavior.

Dr. Wu-Smart (Left), Dr. Juliana Rangel and Jerry Hayes taking questions from MSBA members.

Dr Rangel, Dr. Wu-Smart and Jerry Hayes all served on a panel to take questions from the conference attendees. There was a good give and take on current issues. What I really appreciated about these three speakers, although they might be looked upon as “rock stars” of the beekeeping community, they didn’t hide backstage at half-time. All made themselves available during breaks to address attendees and their questions on an individual, personal level.

MSBA’s Program Director, Bruce Snavely, deserves kudos for his ability to bring some of the top bee professionals and researchers in the nation to Missouri to share their knowledge with our members.

–Written by Gregg Hitchings

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