One of our favorite ways to bond on this trip has been to get a morning cup of coffee and try to do the daily crossword together (I get the Bible ones and the entertainment ones and Trav gets all the rest). The paper in Cookeville had an announcement in it about the beekeepers convention that was happening this very weekend at Tennessee Tech (The Heartland Apicultural Society, specifically), so Trav gave them a ring and got us two passes to learn about bees. The convention itself was a fantastic learning experience (bees are such complex creatures!) and we got to meet with the president of the HAS, Jim Garrison.
When we arrived at the conference, an auction was taking place; this beautiful quilt featuring bees and an outline of the state of Tennessee was up for grabs. It yielded several thousand dollars, and the winner then announced that he wanted to give it to Jim and his wife as a gift for all of their work.
Jim and his wife have their own apiary and sell honey, and they are sought out among the beekeepers gathered at the conference. Jim told us about the bee business of pollination; some beekeepers have huge collections of hives of bees that they contract out to pollinate those crops that can only be pollinated by bees (California almonds are the poster-child reference for large-scale hive usage). Changing locations so dramatically in these operations can be hard on the bees, and many die from the stress of moving. There is question about the oft-talked-about colony collapse disorder and whether it is a problem of bees in general or a result of those industrial operations.
His advice is to encourage anyone who is able to have a hive of bees- it’s a wonderful hobby that yields a delicious byproduct and provides a necessary function.
The rest of the day we went from class to class regarding beginners' beekeeping and the technical side of bee reproductive systems and filled our heads with dreams and knowledge.