I had a fantastic time this weekend at the Chester County Beekeeper’s Association Annual Beekeeper’s conference! There was an impressive line up of speakers for the one-day event, and with each speaker giving several talks organized by level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) I never lacked for a source of fantastic information. I spent most of my day jumping between the intermediate and advanced tracks. If I had a time machine I would have happily hopped in and gone to see all the beginner talks too, because there’s always something new to learn, even on topics you think you know.
I got to pick up a copy of Dr. Dewey Caron’s newly revised book: Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, and get it signed by the man himself. Sadly, cameras weren’t allowed at the conference, so I didn’t have an opportunity to take a cheesy celebrity/fan girl photo (maybe next time!)
Of the talks that I got to see, I particularly enjoyed Dr. Meghan Milbrath’s talk on improving queen genetic stock. It was an eye-opening lesson on how even hobbyist beekeepers with small operations can work toward improving the genetic stock of their bees – something I’m very excited to write a post about in the future!
Dr. Dewey Caron gave a phenomenal talk on varroa mites, and I managed to catch the tail end of his lecture on queen rearing. Phil Craft gave a talk on creating nucs, which I am eager to put into practice as soon as Spring is in full force! and Landi Simone discussed “Advanced reading of the frame and colony” in which she showed pictures of frames at different times of year, with particular diseases, or in other unusual situations, and encouraged the audience to use our “detective skills” to identify what was going on in the hive based on what we saw in the frame.
All in all it was a fantastic day and I learned a lot. Just in case you’re not running out the door looking for the nearest event, here are a few reasons why you may want to attend a beekeeping conference:
1 You’ll get the most up to date information
While books are usually up to date when they are first published, by the time they are a few years old they can be out of date in certain areas – particularly with regards to new technology, and research. Going to a conference and hearing from the experts themselves about their latest research is a fantastic way to keep yourself up to date.
2 You’ll hear lots of different perspectives
I know I’m like a broken record on this, but when it comes to beekeeping, you can’t hear too many different perspectives! I try to read every beginner’s beekeeping book I can get my hands on because every different author has their own perspective, and I always learn something new. At a conference, you’ll hear from several experts who will each have their own practices and take on things. Sometimes they’ll even share off the cuff advice or new ideas that you’re not likely to find published in a book.
3 You Can Ask Questions in Person
You’ll get to meet real life experts on all sorts of aspects of beekeeping, and you’l get a chance to raise your hand and ask your very own questions – that’s not something you can do with a book. Most speakers are happy to have conversations with conference goers during breaks as well, so you may g a chance to have a real conversation with your beekeeping hero. Never underestimate the power of asking smart people smart questions.
4 You’ll find friends that understand you!
So you’ve been beekeeping for a little while and suddenly your friends and family think you’ve gone nuts. Being obsessed with bees can feel lonely sometimes. At a beekeeping conference, though, you’ll meet plenty of other people who are just as bee-obsessed as you are (or even more!) It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and if you are the networking type, you’ll have lots of opportunities to meet smart beekeepers with whom you may want to collaborate or exchange information in the future!
5 You’ll get tons of inspiration.
Seriously, you’ll walk out of there ready to start a queen breeding project and open your own beekeeping club and move to Delaware to study entomology at UD. Maybe that’s just me, but I can guarantee you that you will walk out of any good beekeeping conference with a few great ideas in your pocket and plenty of enthusiasm to try them out!
Most conferences have vendors, and while you may not want to stock up on woodenware while you’re there, it is always fun to see the latest products in person. Beekeeping supply stores are uncommon, and if you’re the type that likes to see something in person and feel it out before you buy it, conferences are a great chance to do just that. You’ll find people selling all sort of bee-related things, including, my favorite, books!
Many beekeeper’s associations and guilds host some type of beekeeper’s conference, so check with your state or local beekeeper’s association. In addition, there are several larger groups that host conferences, such as the Eastern Apicultural Society and the North American Beekeeping Conference. If you’re in the PA area and missed the CCBA Conference this year, no worries, because they are already hard at work on the next one, which will be held Saturday, March 10th 2018 in West Chester, PA. You can find more info at www.chescobees.org.
The American Bee Journal keeps an events calendar which may be helpful for finding beekeeping events near you, though I find it a bit hard to navigate. You could also simply do a Google search for you state and “beekeeper conference”.
For those of you who’ve been to a conference or two, what did you like about them? What didn’t you like? Are there any events coming up that you’re particularly excited for?