Monday, February 23, 2009

The Middlesex, Elgin and Oxford Beekeeper's Association

With a little Googling around the internet and a couple emails, I was able to find out where and when the local beekeepers in my area meet.

I was quite pleased to hear they are an active group that meet monthly almost all year round.

I attended the first meeting in May last year (2008). I'll never forget walking into the room and seeing the sea of white hair. There were approximately 40 people in the room, mostly men, and almost all of them were seniors.

Two thoughts struck me almost simaltaneously: What a vast amount of experience and knowledge in that room; and that the industry could be doomed if younger people didn't start to jump on board and get into beekeeping.

I have to confess that I have developed a deep love and respect for seniors. I certainly didn't always feel that way though. When I was younger I didn't care much for "old" people (my grandparents were always an exception). I thought they were grumpy and very set in their ways. Maybe some of them were but what I was completely overlooking at that time was that maybe they were grumpy for good reasons. And maybe they were set in their ways because they'd tried everything else and they knew what worked and what didn't!

Some things I guess you can only appreciate once you get closer to it yourself. I'm approaching 50 myself, having just celebrated my birthday this month.

I had my most consistent contact with seniors while I worked out of my home as an aesthetician. My most loyal, dependable and entertaining clients were the seniors. They came to have their feet done - toenails trimmed and calluses or bunions smoothed out. For them the pedicure wasn't a luxury, it was a necessity--older joints, arthritis, and artificial hips preventing them from doing their own foot care. What was a reality for them was a blessing for me. It brought in income at a needed time and it also opened the world of the older person to me--the life and times of the golden years.

So, when I entered that bee meeting and I saw seniors, I got excited. All that wisdom and experience in one place. I knew beyond a doubt there would be those that would be more than willing to mentor me in beekeeping, to share their knowledge, to pass on something of themselves. And I knew too that I would be obliged and happy to pay it forward for them too by helping someone else in turn.

The bee meetings are very interesting. They have professionals from all aspects of the industry speak at each meeting. Many bring a video or slideshow to share the scientific facts coming out about our poor beleagured bees. Topics discussed are Diseases, Overwintering of Hives, etc., etc. Many of the topics presented these days relate to the science of bees.

I overheard one beekeeper recently say to another how much the professionals--scientists--are now getting involved in beekeeping. And they need to be too. With bees in serious trouble world wide, the beekeeping and scientific community are coming together, not always in agreement, but at least coming together to try to find out what exactly is going on with bees today. Agreement, I think, mostly exists in a fictional utopia, but I do believe that people in the bee industry are working toward a common goal. What they do agree on is that they want to help the bees.

I was very pleased to see that some of the white heads at the local bee meeting were women! I gravatated to them and it was like kindred spirits meeting to chat about old times.

The bee club also arranges to have visits to beeyards where we can open up some hives and see someone else's operation. Last summer (2008), we met at Bill Ferguson's Apiary ( in Hensall, Ontario. We spent part of the day touring some of his 700 hives. He breeds and sells queens as well and he showed us his queen rearing operation. His honey house is a real commercial operation with equipment for large beekeeping operations. (See my next blog coming soon for photos and details).

The club works closely with the Ontario Bee Association (OBA) ( and many events are arranged in common, such as the annual summer meeting and the Annual Beekeeper's Convention in December--both of which I'll blog on later.

Last month, the bee club had a presentation of a video on bee migration in China. It was very interesting to watch a few months in the life of beekeepers in China. They certainly do things very differently there compared to here. This week there will be a presentation on the results of experiments with frozen bee spermatoza. The range of topics is certainly enough to satisfy the beekeeping appetite.

And the seniors, oh yes, they are more than willing to answer my questions about bees and behives. They are very patient and I can tell they enjoy an opportunity to share their wisdom and experience.
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