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Home > Conference Archive > About UD

Agriculture, Bees & EAS at
the University of Delaware

by Dewey M. Caron

The University of Delaware recently celebrated its 150th birthday - bees share that tradition for the last 50 years. The school started as New Ark College in 1834. After a name change to Delaware College in 1843, Agriculture was added as a course of study in 1849, in part because farmers of New Castle County requested scientific agricultural information to help them farm and for their children to gain a practical education; bees would not arrive until 100 years later and the first Delaware EAS was hosted in 1977.

However, the new Delaware college would close within 10 years (1858) after President James Buchanan vetoed the bill of Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont that would have granted federal lands to states to assist them in establishing a nationwide system of agricultural and mechanical colleges. President Abraham Lincoln was more understanding, signing this bill in 1862; Delaware used the sale of 90,000 acres of western land it was given under the Morrill Act to reopen in 1870; among its offerings was a 4 year agricultural course of study.

Early Agriculture & Entomology

While the College's classical students mastered Latin and Greek, the agricultural students studied principles of drainage, math and chemistry, soils and principles of germination and growth. Textbooks were scarce as there was little agricultural research to reference so most of the coursework was in related scientific fields rather than practical agriculture. Entomology (Insects Injurious to Vegetation) was a required course in 1886 but bees were only mentioned in passing (this was prior to widespread understanding of the pollination service bees provide.)

Passage of the federal Hatch Act in 1887 helped Delaware establish an Agricultural Experiment Station. With a second Morrill act in 1890 and completion of a library and new building complete with laboratories, an entomologist/horticulturist, E. Dwight Sanderson, was hired (Delaware was primarily a fruit-growing state.) With no farm at the college, and labs and textbooks that were becoming outdated, few agriculture students chose to go to Delaware. In 1906, when the lone full-time agriculture faculty member retired in midterm, he was not replaced. Experiment Station scientists primarily did research although the second station entomologist, C.O. Houghton, continued to teach entomology until his retirement in 1942.

In 1907 the state purchased "Fairview," a 200 acre farm in Newark and gave it to the College [today it is simply called the Farm]. By 1910, Rockefeller funds were used to fund corn clubs, a forerunner of 4-H programs. In 1911, the first funds for extension work in Delaware were approved, three years ahead of the federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914 that mandated an extension service in each state.

Entomology Department created

Following World War I the College established a rehabilitation department for returning veterans. The 20's saw the beginning of the age of mechanized agriculture, addition of a College of Agriculture and name change to University of Delaware (1921). Entomology was separated from Horticulture and became a Department in 1925 with Herbert Dozier as chair.

L.A. Sterns became chairman of Entomology in 1930, a post he would hold until 1957. He helped expand the program during his tenure to include marsh-biting flies, although fruit entomology continued as the major emphasis. John Amos was an early entomologist hired with interest in honey bees and pollination. Though he would leave for a distinguished career at VPI, extension work in Apiculture continued under Stearns and later Dale Bray, his replacement. Both assisted the state bee association, both serving as the association secretary.

photo of Dr. Dale Bray Dale Bray superceded Sterns as Department chair in 1958. He inherited 7 undergraduate and 1 MS student. The faculty under Dale's leadership chose to emphasize the teaching program, beginning an ecology and IPM research emphasis and he expanded the library and entomological museum. Department growth under Dale was spectacular. Faculty increased from 5 to 9 (we now have 8 full-time faculty). The undergraduate program zoomed with the interest in ecology during the 70s and 80s to number 90 majors, the largest number of any Entomology program in the entire US at that time (currently we have 124 majors, still one of the largest U.S. programs, although most undergrads are in Wildlife conservation rather than Entomology or Plant protection). Graduate student enrollment zoomed from 1 to 25, a number maintained today.

Apiculture and bees at UD

The early Apiculture effort was largely extension oriented. Roadside markets were surveyed for honey sales activity in 1937 (by John Amos). There was an active 4-H project on Beekeeping dating to 1933. The Delaware State Beekeepers Association was organized by Dr Stearns on December 10, 1936, and the current Delaware apiary law was enacted in 1947. Following death of Sterns, the Association was inactive for 3 years in the late 50's; Dale Bray helped reestablish the DE Beekeepers Association in 1960. Dale was not a beekeeper but he appreciated the role honey bees played in crop pollination and he encouraged the bee association and the establishment of an apiary on the Farm in the early 60s.

Dale retired as Chair in 1981 and I replaced him as only the 4th Chairman in 55 years. I served 4 years and then became a regular faculty member after leave in Panama helping the University of Panama establish an MS program in Medical Entomology. My extension activity has included apiculture and pollination as well as youth entomology and Ornamental plant Insect control. Beekeeping was first offered as a course in the late 70's with hire of Chuck Mason. I have taught both lecture and lab beekeeping courses for the past 20 years.

Today extension remains the principle beekeeping activity. I have a research project on pollination of cucurbits and Chuck Mason, since coming to Delaware in 1972, has researched soybean pollination, and had other research projects in honey bees. A course in Apiology has been taught since 1976. It is one of the more popular entomology courses with enrollment over 50 students each spring semester. It is now available as an OnLine course as well as on campus version.


Dale Bray brought the first EAS convention to the University Aug 17-20, 1977. The site was Clayton Convention Center. John Root gave the keynote address Thursday AM to start the conference [there was no short course at EAS conferences during this time]. Program speakers included John Ambrose, myself [then a faculty member at University of Maryland], Tom Rinderer, Jake Matthenius, and Elton Herbert of USDA; Larry Connor had the "distinction" of being last speaker Saturday morning [he also had assumed editorship of the EAS journal from Jake]. We recognized S.E. McGregor as the Hambleton Award recipient. This was before we presented a student award.

I brought EAS back to Delaware and Clayton Hall in 1986, serving as the president with Bob Mitchell, Delaware Apiary Inspector as Vice President. It was held Aug 5-9. Our theme was Small Wonders and Jerald Eli's granddaughter came up with the attractive logo which we featured on a gift handbag and T-shirt. The program started on Thursday and finished Saturday noon. Registration for the conference was only $17.

A short Course preceeded the conference. The short course theme was Management and Dr Larry Connor organized the 2-day (Tuesday and Wednesday) program (cost $55); there were 64 attendees. Program participants included Hambleton winner Eric Erickson of USDA; Daniel Pesante, a student at LSU, later apiculturists in Puerto Rico was the student award recipient. Program speakers included Roger Morse, Jim Tew, Mike Burgett, John Ambrose, Rick Fell, Matt Scott and Brian Sheriff from England. Honey tasting in the Clayton Hall lobby was a popular feature and we had a bee beard contest out behind the high rise dorms. We had dancing following the BBQ on Thursday night and listened to a local humorist at the banquet before Dewey did an impromptu "dance" after handing the gavel over to incoming president Frank Fulgham of VA. Total cost for week of Short course and conference was $308.25; over 550 persons attended.

1997 EAS

Warren Seaver was the President of the 1997 EAS (Aug 11-15) with Communication our theme. The program had an international flavor with Canadian (Cynthia Scott Dupree), Panamian (Jose Camargo) and English (Richard Jones) speakers the first afternoon. Both Steve Sheppard of Washington State University, our Hambleton award winner, and Elizabeth Capaldi the student award winner, gave presentations on their research. Program speakers included Marion Ellis of Nebraska and Scott Camazine of Penn State as well as favorites Maryann Frazier, Larry Connor, Anita Collins, Jeff Pettis and Clarence Collison. We had a surprise special recognition for Roger Morse and had the pleasure of hearing Jim Tew at the banquet. Delaware's Jerry Caldwell was the Divelbiss winner announced at the banquet.

Our Wednesday social featured watermelon queens and an impromptu seed spitting contest (apparently one of the LI Bloom brothers was the winner). We had movies following the indoor picnic Thursday night. Besides morning lectures there were concurrent workshops in the afternoons. Larry Connor organized the 3-part Short course. Costs were SC: $65 Beginners level and $95 intermediate, The conference registration fee was $60 ($90/couple) with the total one week package costing $461.25 for a single staying in the dorms. Our souvenir was a bee pin. Attendance was just shy of 500 individuals - 99 attended the Short Course.

2007 will be our 4th opportunity to host EAS at the University of Delaware. We will again use the Clayton Hall Conference center. Dates will be August 6-10. Ben Bauer will be the President and Dewey has organized the Short Course and Conference programs. Over 60% of the speakers are new or have not been on the EAS program the last few years. Short course features Drs Ernesto Guzman of Canada, Dave Tarpy of NC State, Dennis van Engelsdorp of PA Dept Ag and Kent Williams of KY; also favorites such as Larry Connor, Clarence Collison, Maryann Frazier and Jim Tew will be teaching the 3 offerings. The bee work will all be in the University of Delaware apiary.

UD Apiary

The 2007 conference program has concurrent morning lectures and afternoon workshops with top speakers and practioners of beekeeping featured. Our fun activities will include a bee Bawl Wednesday evening (you have to wear something BEE to attend and we judge and award the best hat, vest, pin, socks, tattoo, bee joke etc with a BEE award), an indoor picnic Thursday with the Bee auction afterwards (with a celebrity auctioneer) and banquet with award presentations Friday evening. There will be the usual large vendor show, a honey products show and the popular honey exchange (you bring 3 of your best bee products to exchange for the best from others in attendance) and of course bees on site to examine and view with our experts.

You will NOT want to miss EAS 2007, August 6-10, 2007.

Posted October 2006