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January 20, 2018

On the Road: Reno, Nevada

When: January 10-12, 2018
Why: American Beekeeping Federation’s Conference and Tradeshow

Thinking about visiting Reno? Don’t. That’s probably a bit too harsh of an assessment considering I was only in the city for two days, and spent most of the time in a hotel at meetings. Still, the times I did venture out into the night air, I was not too impressed.

What I was impressed with was the amount of information I learned at the American Beekeeping Federation’s (ABF) Conference and Tradeshow. This was the 75th anniversary of the show, and attracted close to 1,000 beekeepers to attend technical sessions on everything from the impact of agrochemicals on honey bee foragers to in-depth analysis of honey bee biology and behavior.

I was there to learn and to present. I had 30 minutes on Thursday morning to talk about food and beverage trends, so I spent most of my time attending sessions and learning about honey bees.

I know a lot about honey. I thought I knew a lot about honey bees until the conference. The ABF Conference is attended by beekeepers and bee researchers from around the world. The level of research being conducted on honey bee health today is staggering, and for good reason.

These amazing insects are responsible for an estimated 35% of the calories we consume in the United States. If honey bees go, so do some of our favorite foods, including apples, avocados, coffee and more. I don’t think I want to live in a world without honey bees, apples, avocados or coffee. They are some of my favorite things.

During the conference, I sat in sessions so beyond my intellect that I didn’t have a prayer of following along. Still, I loved every second of it. The passion of the presenters was amazing, and it was clear every effort is being made to strengthen honey bees in the United States and around the world.

Here are a few things I learned about honey bees at the event.

The proboscis of the honey bee not only extracts nectar, but also analyzes the quality of the nectar to ensure there is enough sucrose (calories / energy) in it to warrant a repeat trip. If it’s a good source of food, the honey bee will tell all the other forager bees where to find it.

Honey bees are endothermic, meaning they  produce their own heat. This  keeps the colony alive during the winter and allo allows bees to live anywhere in the world!

Honey bees see in ultraviolet. Humans do not. Whereas we may see a patch of yellow flowers, they may see pink stripes on the flowers that act as guides to lead bees to good sources of nectar.

When a male honey bee (drone) mates with a Queen bee, it dies. I knew this. What I did not know is that it makes an audible popping sound as the male bee’s abdomen explodes.

Finally, honey bees and all pollinators need help. Their forage area grows smaller every year, which leads to poor nutrition. Plant wildflowers and encourage your local municipality to build pollinator gardens in public parks.

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