Beekeepers abuzz at 50th annual conference

Jessica Lentine

Classes cover topics from bee sting to honey

A local beekeeper shows off her newly hatched collection during a demonstaration yesterday.

Credit: Beth Rankin

More bees will be on campus this week than usual, and it’s not because of the hot summer weather.

Beekeepers from all around the country are meeting in Kent for an annual beekeeper’s conference.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Eastern Apicultural Society of North America, the largest beekeeper’s association in the Eastern United States.

Each year, EAS conducts its annual conference in one of its 22 member states and provinces. This year is the Ohio State Beekeepers’ turn to host the event, and they chose Kent as the venue because they needed a large, open area with air-conditioned residence halls.

“About half of the attendants are staying on campus,” said EAS President Kathy Summers. Attendants are staying in the Centennial Halls, and Summers said that those who are not staying on campus are locals or are staying in hotels.

Over 40 workshops are being held throughout the week on the second floor of the Student Center. The classes cover a large variety of beekeeping topics, ranging from understanding the queen bee to making honey beer.

“We have classes geared for people who still don’t know what a honey bee is,” Chairman of the Board Kim Flottum said. “Whatever you want to know, there’s a class here that will help you.”

About 15 beehives are being kept in a fenced-in “beeyard” behind the Student Center. The beeyard is acting as a laboratory that attendants can visit after they finish in a workshop.

“In the beeyard, we might get to see something we talked about earlier,” said Al Saracene of Cortland, N.Y. While the workshops are lecture-based, the beeyard is a hands-on center where ideas from the workshops can be elaborated on and demonstrated.

There are also other activities throughout the week that attendants can take part in.

In the Honey Show, participants can submit their wax products to be evaluated by experienced judges and win prizes.

Another activity, the Honey Exchange, allows attendants to bring up to three jars of their honey to be put on display for the week. Then on Friday, the jars are mixed up, and each participant gets to take home three different jars of honey.

Today, a grand opening ceremony will celebrate the society’s 50th Anniversary, where attendants can enjoy cake and music in the KIVA.

There will be a barbecue on Thursday in the cafeteria on the second floor of the Student Center. It will include an auction to raise money for EAS.

The conference will close with a banquet on Friday night. The society will give out awards, such as research grants and student awards.

About 450 people are attending the conference this year, and they have come from all around the world, Summers said.

Richard Jones, director of the International Bee Research Association, came from Wales to attend the event. He said he has made contacts with people around the world through e-mail, and he is enjoying getting to meet them.

“I look after the biggest beekeeping collection in the world,” Jones said. He has been a beekeeper for 10 years and works for IBRA studying all types of bees and publishing journals.

“Two out of every three mouthfuls (of everything you eat) come from bees,” Jones said. “Without bees, we’d starve.”

Bees play a part in the creation of a lot more products than most people might be aware of, such as soap, fabrics, beer and crafts. Iron and beeswax are also used in a method called encaustic painting.

Bees pollinate plants that produce cotton, fruits and vegetables, which are then used for clothing and food.

“It’s a full circle,” Saracene said. “Bees bring the whole gardening process through.” Saracene has been a gardener his whole life, and said bees are just part of being in the garden.

“It is a very fascinating hobby,” he said. “You’re constantly learning about an amazing creature of nature.”

Saracene said although all beekeepers get stung, it is still important to know how to handle bees gently. Because of this, the conference offers a course on bee stings.

“We don’t anticipate any problems,” Flottum said. “We’ve been doing this for 50 years, and in 50 years we’ve had zero problems.” Summers said that no one has ever so much as gotten stung at a conference.

There is a $25 fee for a day pass, with three days remaining in the conference. The registration table is located outside of the Ballroom on the second floor of the Student Center and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., today, and 8 a.m. to noon, tomorrow and Friday.

Contact general assignment reporter at Jessica Lentine at [email protected].