2008 National Beekeeping Conference a Hit

Bee Culture (March) Vol. 136: 19-21




Malcolm T. Sanford



By any stretch of the imagination the 2008 National Beekeeping Conference held 8 through 12 January, 2008 in Sacramento, CA was much more than a success.  It featured, about 1,300 participants, one of the largest attendances at any U.S. bee meeting in recent memory.  It also included some additional sessions, not necessarily present at all meetings of the hosts, the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) and American Honey Producers Association (AHPA).  The week started out with the first-ever International Symposium on Honey and Human Health.1   This consisted of presentations by a wide range of experts, kicked off with a review of the subject by recognized honey chemist, Dr. Stephan Bogdanov, who recently retired from the Swiss Bee Research Centre2  where he was chair of the International Honey Commission.3

In keeping with this theme, Dr. Ron Fessenden, co-chairman of the Committee for the Promotion of Honey and Human Health , reviewed the information shared at Tuesday’s symposium on the following Saturday.  In addition, a live apitherapy demonstration was held under the auspices of the American Apitherapy Society by Reyah Carlson, former Board Member of the American Apitherapy Society and Frederique Keller, LaC, Vice-President of the American Apitherapy Society on health and healing from the use of all honeybee products, including a demonstration of bee sting application and technique.4

Danny Weaver and Mark Brady, respective presidents of the American Beekeeping Federation and American Honey Producers began the formal meeting with an upbeat analysis of how the meeting came into being, and the prospects for both associations cooperating more closely in the future.  In spite of these remarks, it was subsequently revealed that the two associations would meet in separate places next January.  Nevertheless, the atmosphere at this meeting seemed more favorable for cooperation than at any time since their combined efforts resulted in anti-dumping legislation, as reported in the 1996 Portland, OR meeting of the ABF.5

A special upbeat keynote presentation was given by California’s Commissioner of Agriculture A.G. Kawamura, a founding partner, along with his brother, Matthew, of Orange County Produce, LLC.  As an urban agriculturist, Secretary Kawamura has a lifetime of experience working along and within the expanding urban boundaries of Southern California.  It is most encouraging that he began his agricultural career as a beekeeper before entering into his family business as a produce salesman for Western Marketing Company of California.  His message was one of change; that agriculture (and by implication beekeepers) must shift from crisis to strategic long-term planning to succeed in the future.

The ABF legislative update was given by lobbyist Fran Boyd followed by that of Richard Adee, representing theAHPA.  Both were weighted toward discussing passage of one of the most important legislative initiatives for beekeepers in the next five years, the 2007 Farm Bill.  Mr. Adee focused his remarks on the work done by AHPA to reinstate the Byrd Amendment, otherwise known as the “Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act of 2000,” named for West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.  It authorizes the U.S. government to impose anti-dumping duties on foreign competitors and gives this revenue to the U.S. companies directly affected.  It seems that although damages have been awarded to beekeepers due to honey dumping, there continues to be a huge backlog in unpaid duties to those affected.

Another area of concern is setting loan deficiency payments.  The range is likely to be between $.62 and $.72 per pound, according to Mr. Adee, a higher level that in the previous bill ($.52).  There is a considerable amount of funding that has been authorized for honey bee research both on the House and Senate sides.  The Senate bill would authorize $100 million over five years, an increase of $14 million from the House bill.  The Senate research language was revised to make clear that this research funding would be available not only for CCD, but for other long-term challenges to honeybees that require additional research.  Although authorized, however, this does not mean funds have been appropriated.  Both Mr. Boyd and Adee urged those present to contact legislators at the federal level asking them to support honey bee programs as listed in the Farm Bill by “finding the money” to fund these efforts.

Finally, it looks like the new honey board is about to take shape.  This reporter missed the session on this critical area, an unfortunate effect of concurrent sessions.  However, the AHPA’s fourth quarter 2007 newsletter reports progress as follows: “In recent weeks, the AHPA has successfully addressed concerns about the National Honey Board language in the Senate version of the Farm Bill, and has developed new language to deal with issues raised by USDA staff, the American Beekeeping Federation and the Sioux Honey Association.  The AHPA will continue efforts before both Congress and the USDA to make sure the U.S. Government treats U.S. producers fairly as they seek their own marketing board for USA honey.” 6  Stay tuned.

Besides the ABF and AHPA meetings, the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) met.  The latter group sponsors the American Bee Research Conference (ABRC).  I wrote about some of the history of this alphabet soup of associations/organizations when I reported on the ABF’s convention in Reno, NV in 2005. Bee Culture (Mar, Apr, May, June 2005), Vol. 133.7

The American Bee Research Conference included over thirty abstracts delivered by scientists in a number of areas of expertise.  Dr. Wayne Esias described the latest situation with respect to his efforts to use beekeepers to examine climate change.8  I reported on this program in the September 2007 Bee Culture.9  Papers included developing genetic stock identification of Russian bees, estimates of mating frequencies by queens in commercial populations of the honey bee and new answers to an old question; improved methods for the cryopreservation of honey bee semen (freezing in liquid nitrogen). 

The afternoon of the first day was taken up with “Shared Interest Groups” or SIGs, representing commercial beekeepers, package bee and queen breeders, honey producer-packers, and hobbyist/sideliner beekeepers.  Again, I can only report on the second session above.  I introduced the goals and aspirations of the Global Bee Breeders Association.10  Bob Danka of the Baton Rouge lab discussed the future directions for breeding mite resistance into bees.  Dr. Marla Spivak described a grant for $80,000 she will use to help California bee breeders improve their stock.  And Sue Cobey discussed her breeding program that will be established at the University of California at Davis, CA.  Dr. Stephen Pernal, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Beaverlodge, Alberta described the new nosema (Nosema ceranae) that I wrote about in the February 2007 Bee Culture.11.  His research shows a troubling trend.  Whereas traditional nosema levels caused by Nosema apis fluctuate throughout the year with sharp peaks, that of Nosema ceranae maintains a high level most of the active year, meaning that the new nosema appears to potentially be much more virulent.

I attended the luncheon honoring young scientists, sponsored by the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees.12  The six honorees included Queenie Chan, U. of British Columbia; Katie Lee, U. of Minnesota; Elina Niño, North Carolina State U.; Jodi Swanson, U. of Minnesota; and Geoff Williams, Acadia U. (Nova Scotia).  Each was awarded a $2,000 scholarship by the Foundation.  The featured speaker was a treat for all in attendance.  Feisty, retired Dr. Bill Wilson challenged the new scientists to go to work with gusto, employ as much collaboration as possible and study what others have done before them.  And he exhorted them not to forget the industry and the beekeepers, who he said were some of smartest bunch of folks in agriculture.  His pithy remarks took me back to when he retired at the Fort Worth, TX American Beekeeping Federation, January of 2000..13  At that time I wrote, “Bill Wilson has perhaps become the best example of the beekeeper’s researcher.  He is unabashedly pro beekeeping and has fearlessly stepped into controversial issues squarely on the side of the industry, helping to cut red tape when necessary.  Among his considerable accomplishments, Bill is credited with being instrumental in developing the antibiotic extender patty.”

Two other events are becoming part and parcel of any national bee meeting are the Kids ‘n Bees program (this year called The Buzz About Bees) captained by Kim Lehman of Austin, TX and the Serious Sideliner Series (3rd edition) headed up by Dr. Larry Connor of Wicwas Press. 

This year the children’s event was held off the convention site at the Clunie Community Center.  Ms. Lehman was featured at last year’s Texas Book Festival <http://www.texasbookfestival.org/Calendar.php?selected_day=3> with the following description of her activities, “By combining stories, music, and simple props, Kim Lehman specializes in entertaining educational programs and workshops for children and adults. Past performances include Texas Storytelling Festival, Texas Library Association and frequent appearances on a local children's television show. Selected for the Texas Commission on the Arts Touring Roster, she's educated and entertained children for over 25 years.”  This event is sponsored by the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees.  <http://www.honeybeepreservation.org/>.

Dr. Connor is well known via his writings and regular appearances at beekeeping meetings across the country <http://www.wicwas.com/>.  This year’s event included sixteen sessions ranging from a delightful description of John Talbert’s educational efforts through his own business, Sabine Creek Honey Farm <http://www.heraldbanner.com/features/local_story_219020850.html> and the Texas Beekeepers Association <http://texasbeekeepers.org> to descriptions of “How I Did It” (HIDI) for web site development, bee breeding and bee removal (pest control). 

Concurrent sessions with the above events were a number of interactive workshops and special seminars on everything from nosema identification and control to small hive beetle biology, to improving bee nutrition.  Other activities included visits to the new outlet for Mann Lake Supply and the Heidrick Agricultural. History Center,14 and the renovated Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Bee Research Facility at the U. of California, Davis, CA.15

The formal session of the convention featured a full half-day session on the latest phenomenon affecting beekeepers, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  These sessions were packed with standing room only in the hallway.  Most of the major players reported, including those at the Beltsville Bee Laboratory.16 The Pennsylvania State University17  and Bee Alert Technology.18  The latter organization has obtained a technology known as IVDS.  “This new invention utilizes the physical properties of virus, virus-like and other nanometer particles to determine a concentration, distribution and information for discrimination and characterization of nanometer particles (1 nm equals one billionth of a meter).  This analysis can identify many known virus families pathogenic to man, as well as a new means for detecting unknown and emerging viruses.  Another great advantage is that the IVDS instrument does not require complicated chemistry or reagents.”19

Dr. Kevin Hackett, USDA Agricultural Research Service reported on activities with regard to bee health.  Also there were individual reports from labs in Baton Rouge, Beltsville, Tucson, and Weslaco.20  A pollination panel revealed how the Almond and beekeeping industries are cooperating via Project Apis m.21  The reason for all this is the continued planting of almonds (50,000 new acres are expected to come on line next year), signaling for the first time a shift of beekeeping income from honey production to that of commercial pollination.  The year 2007 is the first that beekeeping income from pollination has surpassed honey production.  A report from Dr. Colin Stewart provided a controversial ending to the general session, revealing that USDA APHIS did not appear to be communicating with beekeepers and the industry about critical issues, including semen and fresh pollen importation.

As noted above, the ABF and AHPA will go their separate ways in 2009.  However, the year 2010 offers a unique opportunity for them to consider meeting together again.  That year the Canadian Honey Council (CHC)and Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) will come to Florida.  There won’t be a better opportunity for the next edition of the National Beekeeping Conference to take place than in the Sunshine state.

References:  All URLs accessed January 22, 2008.


1. <http://www.prohoneyandhealth.com/>

2. <http://www.bee-hexagon.com/>

3. <http://www.alp.admin.ch/themen/00502/00555/index.html?lang=en>

4. <http://www.apitherapy.org/news.html>

5. <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/portland.htm>

6. <http://www.americanhoneyproducers.org/ahpa_4th_qtr2007.pdf>

7. <http://home.earthlink.net/~beeactor/papers_htm/BC2005/ABF_in_Reno_full.htm>

8. <http://honeybeenet.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.htm>


10. <http://gbba.vze.com>

11. <http://apisenterprises.com/papers_htm/BC2007/A%20New%20Nosema.htm>

12. http://www.honeybeepreservation.org/>


14. <http://www.aghistory.org/cgi-bin/default.asp>

15. <http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/dept/beebio.cfm>

16. <http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=12-75-05-00>

17. <http://maarec.cas.psu.edu/>

18. <http://beealert.blackfoot.net/~beealert/index.php>

19. <http://www.bvs-inc.us/>

20. <http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/program/305/NP305ActionPlan-Final09-04.pdf>

21. <http://www.projectapism.org/>