February 3, 2004

Forget the Birds. Learn About the Bees

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Bzzzzz … so you want to be a beekeeper? Cornell, fortunately, has a Master Beekeeper Program this spring and summer at Dyce Lab, run by Prof. Nicholas W. Calderone, entomology.

There are three different workshops: Apprentice Level Spring Workshop, Integrated Pest Management and Inspecting Colonies Field Day.

The program is for both people interested in starting with bees and those with more experience. The Apprentice Level Spring Workshop focuses on the history of beekeeping, honey bee biology, starting with bees and equipment, colony inspection, pests, diseases and spring and summer management. Integrated Pest Management looks at identifying honey bee pests and how to manage them with the least amount of pesticides. The Inspecting Colonies Field Day class offers a chance to inspect bee hives.

“Without a lot of experience and having only seen a few hives, it’s hard to distinguish a good one from a bad one or judge the health of a colony,” Calderone said.

There will be a master-level class offered in the future for experienced beekeepers to learn how to make presentations to public groups.

“They serve as the ambassadors of beekeeping to the broader society,” Calderone said.

Katrina Thomas, an administrative assistant in entomology who took the apprentice class last year, said, “The workshops are very intense; they cover a lot of information in a very short period of time and give you a better understanding of beekeeping.”

Calderone explained that there are many different valued products from honey bees. These include candles, honey, creamed honey, pollen and royal jelly. Honey can also be flavored with blueberry or cherry extract, among others. Propolis is a product collected by bees from trees containing antibiotic compounds and is used in various home remedies.

Beekeeping is a fairly small industry, but bees have a large impact on agriculture.

“Fewer than 2,000 people in the country make most of their money from bees, but there are about 90 crops that are partially or totally dependent on honey bees — about 200 million pounds of honey produced each year — and honey bees can increase the quality or size of crops,” Calderone said.

There are other pollinators that cultivate crops, but since they are not usually sufficient to meet the needs of farms, farmers tend to rent bees. There has also been a large loss of honey bee colonies recently because of certain parasitic mites.

Laurie Buck, the teaching program coordinator for computer science, decided to attend the workshops because she has just started beekeeping.

“Anybody who is serious about beekeeping should consider doing it; the most useful part for me was the information about pests and diseases,” she said.

“Bees are a valuable part of our culture and economy but have a bad reputation because of the stinging,” she added.

“The class makes it a lot easier and more fun to keep bees and talks a lot about what is needed to be successful,” said Jase Baese, who supplies computer support for the horticulture department. An additional 2,000 square feet has just been added to Dyce Lab where the program takes place.

“It’s more convenient to have the class right next to the bee hive instead of having to go somewhere else,” Calderone said. He is also looking to expand the program to include a honey processing class because the department already has all the equipment for it.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman