10. Catch the Buzz: Organic Beekeeping
The American honeybee faces many challenges due to the introduction of numerous exotic pests and diseases as well as synthetic pesticide overload. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the resulting loss of (these) pollinators has awakened our understanding that we must nurture honeybees. Ross Conrad, author of Natural Beekeeping, will cover natural/organic control of mites and pests, nosema, and foulbrood as well as discuss how to promote the overall health of bee colonies and their environment. Aaron Brin, organic inspector and Wisconsin beekeeper, will review the proposed US organic apiculture standard. This course will be most useful to those with some beekeeping experience.
As with all aspects of organic production, it is best to understand the challenges you may face and how to deal with them through management. Providing honeybees with healthy and abundant forage throughout the season can encourage them to avoid crops that may challenge their immune systems or even worse. Your choices and handling of hive equipment and tools can have a positive effect on promoting overall colony health. Exploring various methods of hive reproduction, choosing queen and drone genetics as well as the types of hives you may have all affect whether you may have your bees survive the winter and possibly grow your colony numbers, either for your own use or to sell nucs in the spring. Best management practices for preparing your hives for the cold months will also be discussed.
Most of us keep honeybees, not only for their pollinating benefits, but also for the many wonderful products we can extract. Honey, beeswax, pollen and more are some of these highly prized bee products, and Ross will discuss the least stressful methods (both for the bees and the beekeeper) to obtain these gifts from the hive.
Aaron will give an overview of the National Organic Standards Board-proposed organic apiculture standards provided to the USDA National Organic Program in 2011. These regulations closely align with European and Canadian organic apiculture standards which are in full implementation, while ours are still under review by the USDA. If you are interested in selling certified organic bee products, this short discussion will help you understand what may be required by the NOP in the future, although many organic certification agencies are already using these proposed standards as the basis for their organic certification of bee products.
This course is geared to those who have worked with honeybees and understand the basics of managing hives. There will not be discussion of how to start up a beekeeping operation, nor an overview of basic bee biology or management. If you are interested in beekeeping, but have never worked with bees and still want to take the course, we recommend you read about beekeeping before attending. Two small and easy to understand beginning beekeeping books are First Lessons in Beekeeping by C.P.Dadant or Beekeeping for Dummies, each available through your local bookstore or online for under $13.