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Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
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Get the Buzz on Bees: A Backyard Beekeeping workshop in Bloomington

Posted by Kelly Allsup - Bugs

Get the Buzz on Bees with Backyard Beekeeping

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension welcomes you to a day of beekeeping education connecting local beekeepers to researchers and educators from the University of Illinois. The day-length workshop is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 15 at the McLean County Extension Office.

The local University of Illinois Extension office realizes the growing need for further educating local beekeepers on the issues they are facing while connecting you to the latest in research from the University of Illinois. According to USDA statistics, Illinois beekeepers lost 40% of their hives this past year and the Varroa mite identified as the number one stressor. Local beekeepers also have concerns about the availability of flowering plants around his hives to feed his bees.

A labor of love and utter fascination for these incredible insects keeps beekeepers ready to overcome these obstacles. Dr. Berenbaum describes most people's fascination with honeybees poetically, "Bees are scary in that they have no business being so smart. They are organized and capable of unbelievable feats, such as communicating exact locations to their nest mates by orienting to polarized light and the sun. Honeybees air-condition their home and know directly when more foragers and nurses are needed."

Featured speakers include Dr. May Berenbaum, Entomology Department Head at the University of Illinois, Lesley Deem, Director of the University of Illinois Pollinatarium, Ian Traniello, Ph.D. student for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, and Jim Wellwood local apiary inspector for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Dr. May Berenbaum has been on the faculty of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois since 1980, serving as head since 1992. Due to Honeybee populations mysteriously crashing, May, studies "colony collapse disorder" and its consequences. In her presentation, she will educate local beekeepers on research conducted at University of Illinois and across the country.

Lesley Deem is the director of the University of Illinois Pollinatarium. The Pollinatarium is the first freestanding science center in the nation devoted to flowering plants and their pollinators. Their motivation is to increase the level of knowledge about pollination in public and emphasize their importance as an ecosystem service while maintaining the vast diversity of flowering plants. Lesley Deem will educate on assessing sites for bee friendly plants and talk what plants bee like most.

Ian Traniello is a Ph.D. student under Dr. Gene Robinson at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois. Ian studies the social behavior of the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera) with a focus on the neurobiology of aggression, a behavior that reflects a combination of genetics, environment, and experience. Ian will talk about precautions you can take to avoid bee stings and how to manage the event of being stung.

When asked, what is the one thing that gardeners can do to help avoid bee stings? Ian says, "Know your surroundings! Honeybee aggression is a defensive response to a colony threat. Remember that bees, unlike wasps, are vegetarian: they forage for pollen and nectar, not prey. When they are on a foraging flight, they are not looking for a fight. Generally, you can avoid being stung if you are sufficiently far from a colony and take care not to agitate bees on flowers. Having bees in your yard is both great for your garden and the bees, but walking barefoot during foraging hours is probably not the best idea."

Jim Wellwood is our local apiary inspector through the Illinois Department of Agriculture to service the Central Illinois beekeeping industry. He provides free hive inspections to help detect invading diseases and pests. Jim is also available by phone, text or email to answer any questions and provide advice free of charge. His goal is to protect bee colonies by determining health and minimizing disease spread. Jim works with hobbyists and full-time beekeepers. Wellwood will share what he sees in his daily work as well as give a comprehensive talk on bee diseases. He will also have advice on how to address issues that we commonly see in our hives accompanying ample time for audience questions and discussion.

If you would like to stay in the buzz and visit with these beekeeping experts, please join University of Illinois Extension for this day of beekeeping education. A $40 registration fee includes four speakers, handouts, lunch, and more. To register, please visit or call the McLean County Extension Office (1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington) at (309) 663-8306.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please call 309-663-8306.

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