Beekeepers Association seeks increased numbers

Dylan LightfootStaff

February 27, 2013

The Ashe County Beekeepers Association held its 2013 Winter Short Course at Family Central Saturday, featuring presentations by veteran beekeepers designed to educate and encourage beginners who are starting their first hives this spring.

“The ACBA exists to expand the knowledge of people, not only in our area but statewide, to the beekeeping craft,” said ACBA board member Doug Ehrhardt, an entomologist who lectured on the biology, anatomy and caste system of the honey bee.

Other slated speakers included Theresa Haislip, who spoke on the honey bee’s role in human history, Lyn Soeder, who gave an overview of beekeeping equipment, and Greg Hershner, who detailed hive design, set-up and upkeep.

Approximately 12 novice beekeepers attended the free, eight-hour course.

“They loved it,” said Shelley Felder, proprietor of The Honey Hole, who gave a presentation on controlling diseases and parasites affecting honey bees. “They had no idea it was so involved.”

“Our mission is community education, teaching people to be good stewards of the bees,” Felder said.

The 56-member ACBA will be receiving an official charter from the N.C. State Beekeepers Association on March 14. North Carolina has more commercial and hobbyist beekeepers than any other state, Ehrhardt said.

“Our organization works to educate everyone about bees, support our membership who are already engaged in beekeeping, and extend the invite to anyone who may desire to get started in the fascinating science of beekeeping,” he said. “We meet monthly, primarily to exchange ideas and discuss best practices for the purpose of keeping our ‘girls’ healthy.”

“The importance of beekeeping can’t be overstated,” he said. “Almost two thirds of everything we eat in this country is pollinated by bees.”

The need to increase the number of beekeepers — especially hobbyist beekeepers — is urgent, Ehrhardt said. The epidemic of Colony Collapse Disorder in recent years, and the ever-present use of pesticides in the U.S., including some chemicals already banned in Europe, have threatened the honey bee population nationwide.

“In Ashe County, the proximity of any beekeeping effort to the other major commercial crop, Christmas trees, means that there needs to be a heightened awareness of the potential for improper pesticide applications that could do irreparable harm to bees while trying to bolster tree production,” he said.

“I am raising bees more for the bees than the honey,” said ACBA President Harry Galer. “I am alarmed at the sudden drop in honey bee population throughout the country, and it is my hope that I might play a small part in helping reestablish a strong honey bee population.”

For more information on the ACBA or to learn more about getting involved in beekeeping, contact Harry Galer at: