Conference Seeks to Educate About Beekeeping

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By Jared Roberts
By Nick Hausen

CARBONDALE -- Honeybees play a special part in the ecosystem. It's estimated that a third of our food was pollinated by bees, but honeybee numbers have been in decline for years. That's why beekeepers say their industry is so important.

Bees are often given a bad rap. Many people are afraid, assuming the insects are simply out to sting, but beekeepers says that's far from the truth.

"Everybody says bees, oh how horrible," said Ava beekeeper Susan Nellis. "But it's neat to watch them and their society. We find them very gentle. They never give us an issue."

Nellis started beekeeping about four years ago when she found a swarm in her backyard. After reading about population declines, she and her husband decided to keep them around. She says they quickly saw the impact.

"Honey is a great benefit," explained Nellis. "But that's not your only benefit. We see our crops, I have a garden, just on the local level, my garden produces better."

Many bee lovers like Nellis are attending the 13th annual Heartland Apicultural Society beekeepers conference at SIU this week. Those in attendance are teaching old tricks, and learning new ones, from beginners and experts.

"There's nationally known speakers and then there's some local backyard beekeepers so to speak and people that make their full living out of nothing but bees that are here teaching and sharing some of their knowledge," said Heartland Apicultural Society president Phil Goodman.

Goodman is a beekeeper himself and he's seen the number of beekeepers in Southern Illinois rapidly grow over the last decade, but there's always a need for more.

"It would be nice to see more people have them because the more they have them, the less people fear them," explained Goodman. "They realize, well my neighbor's got some, and I've never been stung. They don't really bother us ever."

As more people learn about honeybees and keep bees themselves it can only help prevent population declines in the future.

Several beekeeping clubs in Southern Illinois specialize in removing unwanted honeybees. They recommend calling local police who can put you in touch with a beekeeper nearby.

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