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Home > Conference Archive > Bee Wranglers

EAS Bee Wranglers

by Dewey M. Caron

The EAS annual conference this year August 6-10 is proceeded by a Short Course. Bee colony activities are a prominent feature of the Short Course and the 'Walk in the Apiary' workshops are popular features at each conference. Instruction directly in the bee colonies is an excellent way to learn from bee Masters – well worth the registration fee to see and learn from the best mentors available.

The 2007 EAS Short Course will be in a working apiary; most conferences utilize bees moved to the conference site itself. The University of Delaware has had a working apiary since the 1960’s, begun to provide pollination for the varieties of fruit being researched on the University farm. For the last 30 years it has also served as a teaching apiary for the popular undergraduate beekeeping lecture and lab courses.

The UD apiary normally consists of up to 30 colonies and includes a small building that holds smokers and bee items plus empty supers. There is additional storage and extracting facilities in a nearby barn. Each year, the spring beekeeping class establishes package bees, captures a swarm (conveniently hung the night before class in a low hanging black cherry), make divides as part of swarm control and prepare colonies for summer pollination.

At the annual Short Course and Conference, EAS has designated Bee Wranglers to be sure colonies are ready for instructors. Wranglers insure all equipment is in place to assist the workshop presenters and to help "read" the colonies. This year Bill Troup will be the EAS wrangler, a function he has been doing since the 2000 EAS in Maryland. Bill will have able assistance from DE apiary inspector Bob Mitchell and NC Apiary Supervisor Don Hopkins.

Bill Troup takes an EAS vacation each summer, now from his half-time MD Apiary Inspector position. Bill is owner/operator of HoneyField Apiaries of western Maryland. Bill manages 150 colonies in MD with his wife Nancy. Both he and Nancy are EAS Master beekeepers, passing the tests at the 1990 Salisbury, MD EAS. Both are very active in training of new beekeepers through the Hagerstown Valley bee club and other county associations in MD. Bill retired from MD Weights and Measures in 2003 and Nancy last year from the Washington County school system so they can do bees "full time" now.

Bill started bees in 1979 when a friend asked if he would like to help him move 12 colonies inherited from a family member. Bill continued his interest after his friend decided to quit bees. He moved a colony to the home site so he and Nancy could both work bees. And beekeepers know the rest of the story … that one colony grew and grew and grew…. Fortunately their two sons Bill and Dan also became involved with the bees. In 1999, Bill started as part-time apiary Inspector with MD Dept Ag with responsibility for the 3 central counties of MD.

Bill and Nancy produce and sell about 100 nucs from their colonies each spring. They also sell Brushy Mountain bee equipment and use colonies to pollinate apples and pumpkins. Bill is a master craftsman of honey in the comb and at one time almost exclusively produced this product. They have a unique outlet for their honey to health resorts and most of the sales are in gallon or 50# buckets. A new venture is to produce quality queens from survivor stock. Their dream is to be able to sell nucs with their own queen stock in a couple of seasons.

Bob Mitchell will also be a DE EAS Bee Wrangler this season. Bob started bees in 1972 when he was working alongside his dad on the family farm in Lewes DE (alongside coastal DE). The farm produced vegetables and pollination was considered necessary so when Bob found bees available from a recently deceased beekeeper he took them over. He split those colonies which allowed for expansion of their fresh vegetable production. Honey was sold at the farm market alongside other farm produce.

One spring Bob got a call from a watermelon grower asking if he would rent colonies for pollination so Bob increased his colony number to provide pollination service. At one time he had 150 colonies - currently he manages about 100 for honey production and pollination in watermelons. The family farm market has been closed for a few years as Bob became DE apiary inspector in 1985. He plans to retire next spring and return to reopen the farm stand next season. He expects to run colony number up with splits to take on more pollination contracts as increasing vine crop acreage fuels demand for quality pollination units.

The second state apiary inspector who will help wrangle the bees in the University apiary and the hives moved to the EAS Convention site at the University of Delaware Clayton Hall conference center this year will be Don Hopkins. Don is state apiarist of North Carolina. He supervises a staff of 6 full-time bee inspectors in North Carolina and is a very active manager, more often in the field performing inspections than supervising from his office. He, like Bill and Bob, brings lots of teaching and beekeeper experience to the EAS attendees.

Don began keeping bees at age 10 in New Jersey. He credits long-time NJ bee inspector Jack Matthenius (and EAS Board Chairman) for his early beekeeping education. When he moved from NJ to NC as an apiary inspector, he was not able to take his bees southward – this was during the time of tracheal mites and such movement was not permitted. Since NC does not permit it, he continues only with a few hobbyist colonies at present. Inspection of NC bees gives him plenty enough in-hive experiences to last each week.

Both Don and Bob have been active with Partners of Americas in beekeeping development projects. Bob experienced his first Africanized bees in Panama with the award-winning DE-PNA beekeeping project. Don has participated in Partner projects in Haiti and Bolivia as well as Kazakhstan with 11 overseas assignments focusing largely on diseases and varroa mites.

Bob in a DE classroom Don in a Haiti apiary

Like Bill Troup, both Don and Bob are very active with in-state Short courses and workshops. In addition to their skills in diseases and mites, all three wranglers bring a practical, down-to-earth approach to bee colony management. All are masters at hive inspection. It is a pleasure to merely watch them manipulate a colony and "read" the bees so effortlessly. All three are real beekeeping artists.

These three EAS Bee Wranglers are a great resource to assist EAS Short Course and Conference attendees learn how and why to inspect bee colonies. The extensive bee sessions during the short course and our "walk in the apiary" arranged for every workshop period utilizes different experts, who with the assistance of EAS Bee Wranglers, make each bee colony visit an invaluable training experience. EAS is fortunate to have such skilled and highly effective bee wranglers. I and the three Bee Wranglers invite you to come and experience colony inspection with the best. EAS will be held August 6-10 at University of Delaware.

Posted March 2007