The Eastern Apicultural Society (USA) 2009 meeting

From Bee Craft: October 2009

Andrew Gibb

Mike and his nephew exchange e-mails across the Atlantic

THIS IS an e-mail from Mike to his nephew, Rob. Mike is a busy international executive taking a few days holiday visiting the 2009 Eastern Apicultural Society (HAS) meeting at Holiday Valley Village, Ellicottville in New York State. Rob is always interested in his uncle’s travels, particularly where beekeeping is concerned.


Welcoming banner

The EAS met in Ellicottville this year in upstate New York. I flew into Buffalo on the Sunday, hired a car and drove a rather pleasant journey 60 miles south to Holiday Valley Resort.

This was the first time for many years that a university campus wasn’t used for the meeting. The event was sponsored by Al Root, a long time supporter of the EAS and a supplier (called vendor in America) at the initial EAS meeting in 1954. They publish Bee Culture magazine. A state beekeeping association is usually the sponsor.

Around 425 people attended this year.


This was the theme for the 2009 short course and conference, a topical subject with so much concern in the media about the use of pesticides and the possible link in America with Colony Collapse Disorder. Even I learnt from these talks!

The first talk I attended was given by Paul Kozak of Cornell University who spoke about wintering bees indoors. Not something that’s common in the United Kingdom even in Scotland because we don’t have such cold winters but interesting all the same.

It’s necessary with the extreme cold in the northern United States and Canada to control the external environment of colonies within a building. This is done with suitable temperature control (3-6 °C), adequate ventilation and air circulation (2 litres per second in winter and 5 litres per second in Spring and Autumn) to remove moisture and carbon dioxide generated by the bees. Colonies are stacked in a single brood chamber, all daylight is excluded and any bees that leave a colony are lost. As bees can’t see the colour red, red lights are used for beekeepers to gain access.

Secondly, Ernesto Guzman from the University of Guelph spoke about how to develop a selective breeding programme. Characteristics should be variable, heritable (at least 25% effected by genes) and have a sampling method that is reliable, repeatable, practical and economical. We were shown how to keep some basic honey yield records that can aid a breeding programme as shown below.

Other factors that can be conveniently assessed are defensive behaviour after smoking and tendency of workers to run, fly, sting and pursue on a score of 1 to 5 at each apiary visit.

Ernesto also touched on mating control which is the most difficult part of selective breeding and includes geographic isolation, instrumental insemination and a massive production of selected drones.

You know, Mike, this speaker reckoned that good beekeeping management can improve honey production more than a selective breeding programme; now there’s an interesting observation!



On a related topic, Larry Connor, a well-known speaker at EAS, led an apiary session on reading a colony where we were shown how to measure brood area which is especially important early in the season when assessing colony growth between apiary inspections.

In small groups we were issued with rulers to measure brood on each side of brood combs (see picture). This can be a useful additional technique to assess when swarming is about to occur since the brood area will diminish as the queen is taken off laying in preparation to fly with the swarm.

I think you and I, Mike, should look at this next year as I’m sure, with a bit of practice, we could do a fairly accurate assessment without using a ruler each time.


Microscopy sessions proved very popular. Here Jim Bobb, President of EAS this year, counts Nosema spores

‘Pesticides in our beehives’ was the title of a talk given by Maryann Frazier of Penn State where she spoke about the fungicides, herbicides, acaricides and insecticides, etc, found on pollen collected by bees.

An amazing total of 121 different pesticides were found in over 900 samples of pollen collected. At least 14 were systemic substances with an average of 6 different pesticides (maximum 31) found in each pollen sample.

The pesticides found were assessed individually for their LD50 level, ie, the level at which 50% of a sample of bees died in laboratory tests. Fortunately few samples collected reached this level on their own but what happens when they are found together in a pollen sample is so far unknown.


Nick Calderone of Cornell University led a very helpful workshop on how to diagnose Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae where the level of infection by spores in the ventriculus (stomach lining) of the bee was evaluated.

After going through the signs and symptoms of the disease, we looked at the equipment needed to analyse for this parasitic microsporidian. We worked in small groups to prepare a sample and view it through an optical microscope.

Larry Connor also led three microscope sessions which were very popular and became oversubscribed. We each had an optical microscope to work with having xio and X30 magnification available and he gave guidance on dissecting a queen, drone and worker bees.


Larry Connor demonstrates how to measure brood area which is an important factor you can use to assess the rate of colony growth. With practice, it should be possible to get a close enough figure by eye

I found this was much easier than the hand lens we use at home. Larry and his assistants also had compound microscopes available to look at drone sperm.

You’ll think me daft but I attended a session that ran from 6 am to 8 am on Thursday morning!


He hosted us at their extraction facility and put on a demonstration at one of their migratory beekeeping apiaries. You might remember last year how I commented to you on the way commercial beekeepers manage their bees where colonies can travel up to 8100 miles in a year for pollination.

Merrimack also breeds 2000 queens a year, splits their colonies twice a year and loses about a third to a half of their colonies each year. Andy reckons that, although varroa is not yet overcome in the US, colony resistance to it is generally getting better.

An interesting point was made by a US Department of Agriculture (Defra equivalent in UK) representative present that, although commercial beekeepers push their bees hard, they are the ones most open to innovation. Andy told us that Merrimack Valley Apiaries has produced around 1,500,000 lb of honey so far in 2009.


Andy Card hosted a visit to one of the apiaries of Merrimack Valley Apiaries

Wednesday evening there was a pig roast and chicken BBQ supper at Merrimack Valley Apiaries. Besides the food, there was some free drink and a local band to entertain us whilst eating.

In the unusually cold weather for this time of year in the US, many beekeepers complained about the impact of the weather on their pollination experience and honey yield. As it became a bit chilly outside towards dusk many of us departed early.

Another BBQ was held on Thursday evening although the food this time was consumed inside, at the local Yodeller Lodge. We were much warmer on this evening and so were able to stay for the completion of the auction, one of the main EAS money spinners; and no, I wasn’t tempted to bid for anything this year!

As usual, Friday evening dinner was the banquet where Jim Tew from Ohio State University was the after dinner speaker. I’m not sure if you mentioned going to the National Honey Show in England this year, but Jim will be one of the lecturers there. I’ve heard him speak before and he always gives an amusing talk interspersed with his cynical views on beekeeping.


Ann Harman inspects one of Andy Card’s colonies which is being used in a research programme to determine the degree of hygienic behaviour in the bee


As planned, we were present at EAS with a stand promoting Bee Craft America. You’ll remember I told you that this digital only version is published quarterly especially for American beekeepers.

Launched at this event last year, it’s emailed directly to readers’ computers. We

have Ann Harman and Dewey Caron, two well-known US beekeepers, as editors, Erin Bradley as advertisement manager and typesetting done in the UK. There was an amazing amount of interest shown and there’s every likelihood it’s about to take off after the three free issues published so far. We’re now starting to collect subscriptions from US beekeepers who have given us their e-mail addresses.

The picture of our stand (below) shows Alison Hull, Claire Waring and Maya Althouse. Alison is the 2009 American Honey Princess. She comes from Minnesota where she attends technical college and is a fourth generation beekeeper. Maya is the Pennsylvania Honey Queen 2009. She attends high school in Rebersberg and was encouraged to keep bees by two experienced beekeepers.


A royal visit! Alison Hull (American Honey Princess), Claire Waring and Maya Althouse (Pennsylvania Honey Queen) in front of the Bee Craft stand

Well Rob, I must stop now as the plane to Philadelphia has just been announced. I’ll send this e-mail on to you and speak probably when I return to the UK.

Uncle Mike 


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