The apiarist’s dilemma: Educating swarms of amateur beekeepers


    Swarms of beekeepers are primed to alight in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild’s annual symposium Saturday.


    Vermont-based apiculturist and keynote speaker Mike Palmer, who will discuss “Beekeeping in Frozen North America,” joined NewsWorks Tonight to talk about the sudden loss of bee colonies in recent years with host Dave Heller.

    Beekeeping has moved into the spotlight recently due to “colony collapse disorder,” a massive die-off of bees for seemingly no reason.

    Palmer says there is no consensus on why this is happening. At first, researchers placed blame on a pathogen, but there was no luck in pinpointing a specific culprit.

    “I wonder if part of the problem … is because of lack of forage,” he said, referring to American farmers focusing on a small variety of money-making crops.

    “Now we have corn, which the bees don’t work; soybeans, which the bees don’t work; or alfalfa, which the farmer cuts three or four times and the bees never get a flower to work on,” he said.

    Colony collapse disorder has brought in an expanding number of amateur beekeepers to the community, Palmer said. But while they have good intentions, they bring an entirely new problem — a lack of education, he added.

    A widescale lack of education can lead to colony diseases that easily spread to the hives of professional beekeepers, Palmer warned.

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