Corwin and I had an awesome time down in Santa Fe this last weekend for the first annual Sweet Spring Sting Symposium event put on by Melanie and Mark of Zia Queen Bees in Northern NM (www.ziaqueenbees.com/). I really enjoyed getting to know all of the different beekeepers (both top bar and langstroth) down in Santa Fe. We also met Kirk Webster who has his apiary in Vermont.
Friday evening we had a yummy dinner of enchiladas, rice and beans with all of the presenters and other local beekeepers. I really enjoyed talking to Melanie Kirby about her apiary where they are one of the only open mated queen rearing apiaries in the US, they create and sell nucs for people to start hives with and they also sell some of their honey. Melanie seems like a totally down to earth, smart and very strong person. Yet she also has such a gentleness and soft way about her; especially when she speaks about her bees, she talks about them with such tenderness and caring. I really liked this balanced way of being Melanie seems to have as a strong and gentle person at the same time.
On Saturday morning were the presentations.
Corwin’s presentation was first. One part of Corwin’s presentation that I really enjoyed was what he said about swarming and how large of a role genetics play in the survival and vitality of the honeybees.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript he wrote for his presentation:
“I’ve talked a little bit about the concept of genetics being an encyclopedia held by the colony and this large portions of this encyclopedia is able to be passed on to other neighboring colonies through swarming and open mating. but what I see is that over the millions of years of this genetic evolution that these bees have developed a myriad of these traits and behaviors that can be visualized like the keys of a piano. For millions of years the bees have been playing all the keys. A concerto of bee music, the wonderful music of survival. Every key was absolutely important to the whole of the colonies repratwa of music. Then someone decided, “Well, let’s just manipulate the bees to play the honey song “Honey, honey, honey, honey, honey.” Right? And then when we started breeding for that one song that we liked and made money. This artificial and selective breeding programs begin to cause the other piano keys to start popping off at an ever increasing rate. So now the artificially created bees don’t have a full set of keys and cannot access the full range of traits that they once enjoyed.”
After his presentation, I explained a bit about my story of working with the honeybees these past few years and then I went up and presented a slide show that I created when I was 16 about my first year beekeeping.
It was really cool because Corwin introduced and gave all of the ideas and background information behind the backyard hive and bee guardian model and then I presented about how it has worked for me and what a first year of having a hive could look like.
People were really inspired by the natural bee guardianship model for working with honeybees! During the break, both Corwin and I were approached by all sorts of different people interested in this type of beekeeping using top bar hives. One person even bought a hive from the BYH website that very same day.
Nate Downey then gave a wonderful presentation about permaculture and creating bee friendly landscapes. He talked about the basics of permaculture utilizing bee friendly plants and finding the ideal place in your garden to have a hive.
Kirk Webster was next and gave two presentations with beautiful photos about his apiary in Vermont and how he overwinters the hives under such cold conditions as well as his work with raising queens.
Overall it was a great weekend and so much fun to meet more beekeepers from around the country!