While most of the news regarding bees has been dire for the past several years, Palm Beach County has reason to get excited about honeybees this week.
Busy beekeepers from across the state are gathering together to buzz all about (all right, we're done with the jokes) the ins and outs of starting and maintaining hives.
Thursday through Saturday, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in West Palm Beach, apiary enthusiasts are converging to explore all topics pertaining to honeybees. The event is designed for all level of expertise, from entry-level hobbyists to commercial keepers, with presentations by 22 nationally recognized industry insiders, authors, scientists, and educators.
But it's not all seminars and lectures. The event also includes live demos at the apiary on the hotel's rooftop as well as a honey judging contest. Vendors will be displaying the latest equipment and accessories. Gifts will be passed out. Live and silent auctions are included.
"Palm Beach County had to put its hat into the ring to bid for the conference to come here," says Al Salopek, president of the Palm Beach Beekeepers Association. "It came down to two places, Gainesville and West Palm Beach. We held out and won it."
This year's conference has changed dramatically. In past years, it was geared toward the commercial industry. But as individuals have learned about the plight of the honeybee, backyard keepers are increasing significantly.
"This is the first year we set up the conference to accommodate backyard, commercial, and treatment-free beekeeping," says Salopek. "We have three tracks at the same place."
In addition, the first evening is open to the general public for free.
"Most of the time, keepers have to order products online," says Salopek. "We'll have all the major vendors in one location. So it's a great opportunity for people to see what's going on without incurring a fee."
With the conference, the Florida State Beekeepers Association is attempting to educate apiarists and the general public about the importance of honeybees to the economy.
It has pulled stats from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' publication 2013 regarding agricultural numbers in the state:
- First in the U.S. in the value of production of oranges and grapefruit.
- First in value of production of fresh market snap beans, cucumbers for fresh market, cucumbers for pickles, squash, sweet corn, fresh market tomatoes, sugarcane for sugar & seed and watermelon.
- Second in value of production of bell peppers, strawberries and tangerines.
- Third in value of production of honey.
Tickets range from $60 to $250. On Thursday, the event is free.
The Embassy Suites Hotel is located at 1601 Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach. Visit beekeepingconference.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.