Walter Pett, assistant pro­fessor of ento­mology at Michigan State Uni­versity, who has over 30 years of bee­keeping expe­rience spoke about the vari­eties of bees and their unique func­tions, the dangers to bees, and the steps to prevent colony loss. COLLEGIAN | JAKE UMHOLTZ

The cries across the internet to save the bees have not fallen on deaf ears in Hillsdale county as local bee­keepers are serious about pre­serving the trade and pre­venting honey bee decline in the area.

A local Hudson-based Bee­keeping asso­ci­ation, Hidden Lake Bee­keepers, part­nered with the Michigan Agri­cul­tural Envi­ron­mental Assurance Program (MAEAP) to bring a hon­eybee workshop to Hillsdale county in order to better educate local and aspiring bee­keepers on the ento­mology of hon­eybees, the function of the hive, dis­eases, and the basics of local and com­mercial bee­keeping.

Walter Pett, assistant pro­fessor of ento­mology at Michigan State Uni­versity, who has over 30 years of bee­keeping expe­rience spoke about the vari­eties of bees and their unique func­tions, the dangers to bees, and the steps to prevent colony loss.

“What I love about bees is once you open up a hive you see thou­sands of little tiny eyes staring right back at you. It’s amazing,” Pett said.

Jamie Walters, 2017 Ohio State bee­keeper of the year and Northwest Ohio Bee­keeper Asso­ci­ation vice pres­ident, who is also an Ohio State Uni­versity pol­li­nator spe­cialist addressed the group and spoke about the process of becoming a great bee­keeper by assessing one’s resources, goals, and how to acquire the knowledge.

“Go to the col­leges for infor­mation,” Walters said. “Read books and talk to experts about events. If you know where to look you’ll find events every­where.”

The event was held at the Perennial Park com­munity center on Feb. 23 with 21 bee­keepers in atten­dance. Rollin Lauber, the founder of the Hidden Lake Bee­keepers club, said that last year’s event hosted by Lost Nations Bee­keepers Asso­ci­ation had over 63 in atten­dance.

“We had minimal adver­tising this year, people can’t go to some­thing if they don’t know about it,” Lauber said. “But next year, that won’t happen again. I’d expect much more people.”

According to Lauber, the Hidden Lake Bee­keepers club is just six months old.  

“The club was founded for the purpose of teaching the art of bee­keeping,” he said. “The club spec­ifies that we go back to the basics of bee­keeping.”

Lauber part­nered with the MAEAP in order to grow the program.

He said he wanted “to help draw attention and focus to the local pol­li­nator program and basi­cally increase the local habitat of the honey bee.”

According to Pett and other similar, extensive research, bee pop­u­la­tions are in decline not just in the midwest but globally.

“I myself like many other bee­keepers, lost a lot of bees this winter,” said Pett.

This comes as a great alarm, as according to Pett, “one-third of our diet is dependent on insect pol­li­nation and bees are the primary pol­li­nator. They are critical in pro­viding pol­li­nation ser­vices.”

This is espe­cially hitting hardest among rural com­mu­nities and farmers, much like Hillsdale county, as the decline is not only affecting crop yields and farmers markets but also wildlife, as like us, they are dependent on the honey bee for cre­ating food sources according to Pett and Lauber.

Jan Lawson, an attendant of the event and a bee­keeper from Battle Creek Michigan with over 53 years of bee­keeping expe­rience said the decline in bees could pose real problems.

“Without bees, our food supply is in very serious trouble,” Lawson said.

Some good news amidst the decline of the honey bee is that, according to Pett, colony col­lapse dis­order hasn’t been very prevalent in Michigan and much of North America in recent years.

This is good news as no one had a defin­itive answer for what was causing “the majority of bees to just leave the colony, resulting in the colony to just dwindle down and com­pletely dis­appear,” Pett said.

Yet, there are many steps that must be taken to prevent the loss of the species as the speakers pro­vided sug­ges­tions.

The first step is through edu­cation.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of bees. Unless you squoosh them, they aren’t going to do any­thing to you,” Pett said. “People have a common mis­con­ception that any­thing that stings you is a bee, but it’s not. You most likely got stung by a yellow jacket or a hornet, not a hon­eybee.”

Pett also pointed out how bees can com­mu­nicate with humans through some­thing called the “waggle dance.”

“Bees are incredibly intel­ligent. They are one of the only few species who have the capacity outside of humans to com­mu­nicate sym­bol­i­cally,” Pett said. “The Waggle Dance is how bees tell each other where a source of pollen is located. It accounts for the movement of the sun over time.”

This allows bees to adapt to being trans­ported to other hemi­spheres, like Aus­tralia.

Sup­porting hon­eybees sur­vival will also help prevent the loss of the species, according to Pett.

“I want bee­keepers to be bee­keepers,” Pett said.

Walters also said that a great way to support bee­keeping is getting involved locally.

“Support your own bee clubs. Become active and support your local com­mu­nities,” Walters said.

According to Lawson, clubs are a great way to extend knowledge and care of bees.

“The best way to become a bee­keeper is to join a club, because the clubs are going to support you, and give you a mentor,” Lawson said. “There is so much knowledge, learning about bees is not just enough, you have to learn how to manage bees. That’s the part where a mentor can really help you.”

Getting the younger gen­er­a­tions involved is also a current chal­lenge of local bee­keeping orga­ni­za­tions.

“The average age of a bee­keeper is around 60,” Lawson said. “We need young bee­keepers des­per­ately, oth­erwise, the pro­fession of bee­keeping is in trouble.”

With around 21 bee­keeping clubs in Michigan, Lawson said there are numerous oppor­tu­nities to get involved.

“We want you to become the next gen­er­ation of mentors. We need more bee­keepers,” said Walters.

The local clubs in the Hillsdale area are Hidden Lake Bee­keepers Club and the Lost Nations Bee­keepers Asso­ci­ation.