This past weekend, I had the honor of speaking at the Georgia Beekeepers Association (GBA) Fall Conference and it was a blast! At the conference, I led two breakout sessions on honey bee physiological and behavioral immunity, gave a talk about my recent findings on honey bees and dirty water, learned some really cool (and useful!) things about beekeeping, and met so many amazing people!
The atmosphere at the conference was friendly, supportive, and engaged—though I was a bit anxious about leading my first breakout session, I was welcomed so warmly that I quickly forgot my nerves. By the time I gave my research talk that afternoon, I had made so many friends that I wasn’t nervous at all (despite facing my largest audience yet)!
One of my favorite parts about sharing my research with beekeepers is hearing their ideas, anecdotes, and questions following my talk. There is always at least one conversation that makes me step back and think about my research from a different perspective. (I must admit—the GBA president, Bear, told me I was probably going to be asked about honey bees and swimming pools so I was ready for that one.)
At the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) 2015 Conference, a beekeeper brought my attention to the presence of pesticides in many dirty water sources. Where agriculture is involved, the “dirty” water sources the bees prefer likely contain pesticide run-off in addition to minerals—a fact with direct implications for my research findings that I hadn’t yet thought of.
At the GBA Conference this weekend, an Alabama beekeeper asked me about heat shielding bees (discussed in my breakout session) and the effectiveness of an in-hive thermostat he had recently installed. He is always looking for effective ways to keep his hives from overheating in the hot Alabama sun. Beekeepers are honestly some of the most innovative people I have ever met!
With the nature of my research, I also always get a personal story (or two) about honey bees and dirty water, which is always fun. At the ABF 2015 Conference, I heard stories of bees foraging on “cat turds,” in the salty water that was used to boil crawfish, and in a compost pile. At the GBA Conference, I heard stories of bees foraging at dairy farms and in pig troughs.
As a conference attendee and a backyard beekeeper myself, I learned so much about the different ways of keeping (and successfully overwintering) bees. Michael Bush discussed the benefits of treatment-free beekeeping, and tricks to being a lazy (yet effective) beekeeper. Steve Page enlightened us with his revolutionary method of making sure he is insured for winter losses. Dewey Caron taught us how to identify various honey bee diseases, and what to do when you find one. And husband-and-wife team Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Ramona Herboldsheimer stressed the importance of staying up-to-date on the scientific literature on bees and continuing to ask questions—something that resonated with me as both a scientist and a beekeeper.
Some other cool things I learned this weekend: how to make a homemade vacuum to aid in swarm removal, how to organize a honey show, and that a pound of honey is actually only 12 fluid ounces!
Overall, it was a great conference experience and a wonderful stay in Georgia. Thanks to everyone for the great Southern Hospitality. Next stop, the Greater New York Honey Bee Conference in October!