Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mass Bee Field Day 2013

On June 22 the Mass Bee Association held their annual "field day." This is a day full of bee-related expositions and demonstrations, held out at the UMass Agronomy Farm in South Deerfield, MA. Think of it as the "Comic Con" for beekeeping, but with not quite as many weird people :-)

I went last year, and had a good time, so I decided to go this year as well. I learned a couple of things based on last year's field day: 1) bring sun screen, and 2) bring lots of water. You literally spend the whole day out in farm fields (they have some covered areas, but the demos are all in the fields).

Here is the flyer from this year's field day (both sides) so you can see how the day lined up:

The demonstrations were targeted at both new beekeepers as well as experienced ones. Because there are only 4 sessions, I wanted to make sure I didn't pick the "how to spot your queen" type of demonstrations. Like last year, I was able to pick activities which interested me and where I may learn something new.

This year I picked the following:
  • First session - I split my time between "Queen Rearing" and "Nuc Management"
  • Second session - "Doolittle and Harry Cloake Queen Rearing Technique"
  • Third session - "The EAS Master Beekeeper Program"
  • Fourth session - there wasn't anything here that I particularly wanted to listen to, so I watched Ken Warchol do "Hive Inspections" and talked with some of the other beekeepers (networking).
Here's a view as I was walking from the parking lot:

The agronomy farm is just that - a real farm. As I was passing one of the wooden barns, that farm animal smell wafted over me, and brought me back to when I was a little child and visiting my grandpa's farm in rural Utah. Amazing how smells can do that!

One of the nice things about field day is that there are a couple of beekeeping supply vendors that show up selling their wares. You can pre-order ahead of the field day, and they will bring your order with them so you don't pay shipping. Or you can buy stuff directly from them that day. It's quite a savings, considering a lot of the beekeeping equipment is wooden, and therefore heavy and expensive to ship.

There was a big tent set up, and people could rest, talk, and get out of the sun.

You can see that there was a lot of people in attendance, around 250 I heard, coming from in some cases many hours travel away (from PA).

Here is Dean Stiglitz talking about queen rearing:

Daniel Barry from the Franklin County Beekeepers was giving a demonstration of Nuc Management:

As with most beekeeping demonstrations, the audience gets up close and personal with the bees!

Dan had a nifty dual Nuc arrangement in a full size box. I took lots of pictures to be able to make one myself. Here's an audience member checking it out:

Oh, by the way - the box she is checking out is full of live bees. Just thought you should be impressed! :-)

One of the problems here in the northeast is getting quality queens. Most of the queens come from the south (Georgia), and can't handle the colder weather up here (really!). You really want to have bees which are hardy and they aren't easy to find.

The Plymouth County Beekeepers recognized this problem, and instead of complaining about it, created a Queen Rearing Initative in their club. They have members do grafting and queen rearing as a group, to increase the quality of the queens in their club. That'd be something nice to have in our club.

Here is Bob Hickey giving a presentation on the Doolittle/Cloake method and the QRI.

And some pictures from the QRI:

Someone brought a big blow-up skep (traditional looking bee hive). It was hollow inside, and people were sitting in there during lunch. Not sure of the purpose...

During lunch there was the annual Smoker Contest. People vied for the honor of being the winner of the contest. This was my first year, and I thought I did well, but the choice of the winner was a little arbitrary...

Here I am taking a lunch break. I had someone take a picture of me since in most of the pictures I am absent.

And finally, here's Ken Warchol, the Bee Whisperer, giving a demo of a hive inspection. He is in his usual garb for such a thing (no veil, etc.)

All in all it was a good day. I enjoyed it, got to meet some new people, and talk to some of the regulars I usually see.

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