WOOSTER, Ohio — It was all about the bees March 6 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, where 900 or so beekeepers and advocates swarmed to Fisher Auditorium.
The largest one-day bee event in the nation drew a crowd from 12 states with the focus of “Modern Beekeeping: New Ways of Doing Old Things.”
Many well known beekeepers and researchers spoke about this unique and important form of agriculture, as well as a few newcomers. Perhaps most notable was Frances Strickland, first lady and wife of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
The Kentucky native assured the crowd she’s still learning about the intricacies of beekeeping, but wearing a sweatshirt decorated with flowers and a face full of smiles, she vowed to represent the industry well.
“I’m going to be one of your best cheerleaders as you move forward with this,” said Strickland, who had toured the Ohio State University honeybee lab only a few months earlier.
Strickland highlighted a common challenge beekeepers are facing — a decreasing population of bees that threatens not only honey production, but the always-important process of crop and plant pollination.
Part of agriculture
Ohio State Sen. Sue Morano, Lorain, said people need to understand beekeeping is more than just a hobby.
“It is vitally important that all of us, and certainly legislators, understand the perplexities and intricacies of beekeeping as an agribusiness and that it’s not necessarily just a hobby,” said Morano, who serves Lorain, Huron and Seneca counties.
As part of various committees, including the state agriculture committee, Morano said she is prepared to help the bee industry rebuild the bee population and wants producers’ feedback about how she can help.
She said the legislature recently created a beekeeping task force, which will submit a report to the Governor and Speaker of The House, concerning the characteristics of honey and the honeybee crisis in Ohio, and what it means to Ohio’s crops.
“These are very, very important issues to us as a state, and also to us as a country,” she said.
Something for all
Educational programs were held throughout the day for beginning and experienced beekeepers, as well as their children. A trade show featured sales of honey, bees wax products and many of the products used to raise bees and produce honey.
Professor Emeritus Dewey Caron of the University of Delaware, gave the feature presentation on Africanized honeybees and their invasion into other countries.
The Africanized bee is generally more defensive and aggressive than the European honeybee and can take over European hives by killing European queen bees and establishing Africanized queen bees, according to Internet sources.
The Africanized honeybee already is found in southern U.S. states, and can spread as much as 300 miles a year.
Numbers for bee population were not given, but have been reduced since the 1980s because of predaceous mites, according to the OSU Honeybee Lab Web site.
An essential insect
Morano said the importance of bees as pollinators is seen in every-day life, and without bees, life possibly wouldn’t exist.
“Albert Einstein once said that if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would only have about four years left,” she said. “I believe it is up to us as concerned citizens, as beekeepers, and as keepers of the earth, that we do not have a chance to prove Einstein’s theory correct.”
During opening remarks, the Ohio State Beekeepers presented a lifetime achievement award to Jim Tew, OSU Extension beekeeping specialist, for his many years of service to the University’s beekeeping program.
“There’s nothing else I could ever do besides this,” he said with humility, as he accepted a plaque. “It is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
The event was a project of OSU Extension and Tri-County Beekeepers’ Associaiton. It was the 32nd annual workshop of its kind.