Beekeepers get a buzz on at the Doherty Fall Conference

November 2, 2018

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Things were really “buzzing” when about 200 beekeepers from across the state met at the Fall Statewide Beekeeping Conference at the Doherty Hotel last Sunday.

Michigan Beekeepers Association District Representative and Conference Committee member Chris Beck said the conference is organized to help the “many people who have recently become interested in beekeeping, joining clubs and the MBA to find mentors.”

Michigan Beekeepers Association District Representative and Conference Committee member Chris Beck shows a wooden hive for bees.

Michigan Beekeepers Association District Representative and Conference Committee member Chris Beck shows a wooden hive for bees.

Chris said his mother and grandfather were beekeepers, so, “I grew up around bees.” He has been a member of the Michigan Beekeepers Association for over 20 years.

A resident of Breckenridge, he manages 25 bee colonies throughout Gratiot County. “It’s a hobby,” he said. He is also a manager for Arby’s Saginaw location.
He said the conference is also “to help those who are interested to find connections and teach management skills for healthy bees.” Many attending were from Clare County and the surrounding area, members of local mid-Michigan clubs.

The conference also featured a judging of honey and wax products with ribbons and certificates going to the winners after an afternoon judging.

Venders filled the back entrance room with a wide variety of beekeeping products including many  different  products made from the honey combs harvested by beekeepers like candles, lip balm, and many others, said Beck.

A tour of the vendors’ displays was highlighted by the entries into the Fall Conference judging – jars of honey processed from many different flowers in shades from light to dark gold; other products like bee pollen, wax and even a chess set entirely made from honeybee wax and other unique small sculptures.

Beck said the different honey products’ colors are “based on the nectar source.”

Sources include all flowering plants and wildflowers including flowering weeds.

Almost anything a beekeeper would need to set up hives was available at the conference.

Beck outlined the steps to become a beekeeper. “The first requirement is to join a local bee club,” he said, “where people can attend educational session and meet established beekeepers.”

The nearest club, in Gratiot County is the “Middle of the Mitton Beekeepers Association.” In Saginaw County, the club is the Saginaw Valley Beekeepers. “Those are the closest clubs,” he said. There are around 30 in the state. A map of the clubs in Michigan can be found at michiganbees.org.

There is even a special program for veterans: Heroes to Hives is a unique program through Michigan State University Extension that seeks to address financial and personal wellness of veterans through professional training and community development centered around beekeeping. Veterans leave the program with a broad depth of beekeeping knowledge, as well as personal and professional relationships that open up new opportunities and ensure long-term peer support. Since 2017, Heroes to Hives has trained 128 military veterans and their spouses. To learn more, check out https://www.canr.msu.edu/pollinators_and_…/heroes-to-hives/…

“The challenge of a beekeeper is maintaining the health of the honeybees,” Beck said. “Doing that includes routine inspections to check for signs of disease and take corrective action.”

Specialized equipment is needed to become a beekeeper. “First,” Beck explained, “is minimum protective clothing and a vail. Next, a smoker, wooden boxes filled with wooden removable frames (to house the bees) and a hive tool to open the boxes.” He said the bees can be purchased or naturally trapped, as in “swarm collection” (when bees swarm a new queen in a search for a new hive).

He said after the honeycombs are collected and the excess wax cut away, beekeepers use extractors with frames inside to spin collected honey out from the frames. Once spun, it is strained for impurities and bottled as “raw honey.” The wax is also melted, cleaned and used for the multitude of other products from the harvest. Another product is bee pollen which is the bees’ nectar source. Bee pollen is a dietary supplement that supplies amino acids, vitamins and is an energy source.

According to Michigan State University’s College of Natural Science, “Bees are the most important animal pollinators of agricultural crops and wildflowers. This pollination service makes bees crucial for our food supply and for our ecosystems.”

The honeybee population, essential to the world’s agriculture, is on the rise according to a 2016 article by Farm News Media.

The post said, “The honey bee population in Michigan is increasing, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), Great Lakes office. Honey bee colonies in Michigan as of Jan. 1, 2016, totaled 25,000. This is 52 percent above the 16,500 colonies on Jan. 1, 2015. During 2015, honey bee colonies on April 1, July 1, and Oct. 1 were 58,000, 89,000, and 67,000, respectively.”

Visit MBA at their website michiganbees.org or visit them on Facebook for more information on beekeeping.

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