Thursday, January 15, 2009

American Beekeeping Federation in Reno: Day One

After its successful event in 2005 at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Reno, Nevada, the Federation has reprised its meeting at this location. The opening day was highlighted by President Zac Browning and VP David Mendes as they seek to lead the organization into an unknown future.

Jeff Pettis of the ARS USDA Beltsville Bee Laboratory provided an overview of why folks are loosing their colonies. The examination has now morphed from a look at Varroa and viruses to a more integrated approach, a measuring of interactions of Varroa, the new nosema (Nosema cerana), viruses, pesticides, etc. He did not specifically mention climate change, but that is the 800-pound gorilla lurking out there. There are some interesting developments that will be described in the next few days.

The Federation's lobbyist says things are whirling about with the inauguration and the transition of administrations. The Economist last week reveals how the Obama administration will look more toward science in developing policy; this is reflected in many areas. Fran Boyd, Myers and Associates, says the biggest thing for beekeepers to be engaged is the appropriations for the farm bill, which includes beekeeping in many more areas than before. Although money has been declared for among other things $5 million for CCD, there is none appropriated yet. Thus, beekeepers can expect to be enlisted in the effort to ensure something happens in this area, and if they are not alert, they could be caught out. The Federation vows not to let that happen.

George Hanson discussed the emerging philosophy to use funds in the Foundation For the Preservation of Honey Bees. More information on research results will be put on its web site. The Foundation will also attempt to cooperate with other organizations such as Project Apis m.

The day ended with the Special Interest Groups: The Package Bee and Queen Breeders was filled with information about new possibilities. Sue Cobey discussed her ideas as published in the latest Bee Culture, Marla Spivak talked about her California bee breeders project, which will continue next season. Jeff Harris of the USDA ARS lab in Louisiana discussed the new directions for the SMR, now called VSH program and molecular biologist Lanie Bourgeois provided a surprising analysis of genetic diversity, concluding that in spite of reports to contrary seemed robust enough at the present time.

A panel of breeders and researchers concluded the session. One of the recurring themes is that customer complaints about queen quality need to be tempered by how queens are treated once they leave the breeder's facility. Many consumers don't mark queens and few breeders are requested to provide them marked. In addition, much can go wrong during the queen's journey from producer to consumer.

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