Most beekeepers that I have met are continuously trying to learn about honey bee biology and the craft of beekeeping. They belong to beekeeping associations, attend meetings, exchange ideas with other beekeepers, read books, and carefully study their own bees. Before parasitic mites entered the United States in the mid-1980s, beekeepers were able to learn the craft from others, purchase some bees, and expect them to live. After the arrival of parasitic mites and the viruses they vector, small hive beetles, resistant strains of existing honey bee diseases, and a new strain of Nosema disease, keeping bees alive got increasingly difficult. Adding to the stresses upon the honey bees were the increased use of insecticides and pesticides by both beekeepers and others, the importation of honey bees and pathogens from foreign lands, increased migratory movement of bee hives, and nutritional stresses from altered weather patterns associated with a changing climate. Responding to requests for training in greater depth, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offered an advanced beekeeping workshop. Beekeepers from across the state converged on the Arkansas 4-H Center near Little Rock for three days of presentations, hands-on participation, microscope laboratory work, and bee hive inspection.
David Burns of Fairmont, Illinois, pictured lighting a smoker before beginning a session on building a queen cell starter hive, conducted a class on raising queen bees. David covered queen rearing from selecting breeder stock to preparing starter and finisher hives and queen mating nucleus hives. Grafting was practiced, and some non-grafting techniques were discussed. David, who writes informative beekeeping lessons at http://basicbeekeeping.blogspot.com/, produces queens and packaged honey bees. He handles bees with a gentle touch. As we built a queen cell starter hive, David used a turkey feather to flick young bees off brood frames. Three quick flicks of the feather removed the bees with less disturbance than with brushing. David explained that he always wears a yellow shirt when working his bees so that they will remember him.