Friday, February 11, 2011

Short Course Forty-Six

Much of the practical training of beekeepers is provided by local beekeeping associations. These groups provide initial introductory courses in beekeeping as well as ongoing training and mentoring of beekeepers. The Memphis Area Beekeepers Association serves beekeepers across West Tennessee, North Mississippi, and East Arkansas. On Saturday, the association will conduct its forty-sixth annual Short Course in Beekeeping. The short course serves as an overview of a broad range of beekeeping topics. The program starts with a description of the equipment and protective clothing used by beekeepers. New beekeepers get to assemble bee hives to get an idea of how to put together these puzzles. Folks are introduced to the honey bee’s life cycle. We discuss where to locate the bee hives and carefully cover how to install the bees in the new hive. The course briefly mentions how we harvest and extract honey. Like other timely topics, this will be covered in greater depth during a monthly meeting prior to harvest.

I will address the new beekeepers on honey bee health issues. Since honey bees may be attacked by pests from bears to other insects as well as from bacteria, viruses, and fungi, it is important for new beekeepers to be aware of what the hives face. I will mention the pests introduced into our hives, mostly through world trade, since the mid-1980s: tracheal mites, Varroa mites, small hive beetles, and a new strain of Nosema. I’ll briefly describe Africanized honey bees and Colony Collapse Disorder. The majority of the presentation will be a suggestion for the beekeepers to adopt an integrated pest management approach to beekeeping, relying first on biological, cultural, and mechanical controls of pests. Chemical control measures will be held as last resorts. I will encourage everyone to avoid using insecticides and nerve toxins in the hives and to treat American foulbrood with the only sure cure: burning the hives. Peace Farm lakes are frozen now; wild ducks circle to maintain small areas of open water.

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