Kenwood Press

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News: 08/01/2015

Even experienced beekeepers need more training

By Thea Vierling

What is happening to the bees?” Do you know how often I am asked this question? OFTEN! It is so important to keep up with the ongoing scientific research being done and, also, new ways of managing the beehives. One thing I have learned about beekeeping is that there is always more to learn. Maybe this is true with everything in life. There is something very important about keeping the buzz of all the bee information upfront in a beekeeper’s head. Much of beekeeping is assessing the state of the hive, identifying problems and then forming strategies to solve the problems. There is no simple recipe for beekeeping.

To keep up with the latest information and research from around the world, we have classes, trainings and lectures. The beekeepers in Sonoma County meet once a month on the second Monday of each month, from 6 to 9 p.m., in Rohnert Park at the 4-H Center. These meetings are open to the public. Luckily Sonoma County is filled with active and curious beekeepers. During our monthly meetings, speakers from all over the United States keep us abreast of the scientific research regarding bees and, especially, why are they dying. Presently, it seems that the bee die-off is being caused by a combination of pesticides, monoculture, and diseases carried by a Varroa mite, the Varroa destructor.

On Aug. 10, our speaker will be Sam Comfort, a world-renowned beekeeper from Vermont. He is the Johnny Appleseed of the bee world. Although he is well known for his unusual top bar hives, he also uses traditional Langstroth hives, the type you are likely to see along the roadside. Comfort has been all around the world studying different ways people raise bees. He is an all-around successful beekeeper with experience in every area of beekeeping. His real skill is listening to the bees. As he says: “Bees can tell you so much just by the sounds they make. Here, put your ear next to this box and listen.” A beekeeper from Napa, Rob Keller, who himself is a well-known expert in the beekeeping world, says that Sam taught him new things regarding the bees. Keller says, “The single best thing I learned from Sam Comfort last year was just watching him. He is so gentle and it has changed the way I do beekeeping.”

In addition to speaking at the meeting, Comfort will be leading hive dives around the county for four days. What is a “hive dive”? Well, beekeepers dive into a hive! These dives are set up for groups to explore various hives together in order to learn what is happening in that hive. Does it need to be re-queened? Does it need more food? Will it make it through the winter? Does it have the dreaded Varroa Mite?

There are over 400 members in the Sonoma County Beekeepers association and we are really looking forward to hearing the latest from Sam Comfort. Sam will be singing some of his songs at the general meeting and I hope selling some of his CD’s. Here are a few websites to check out his style, knowledge, and entertaining personality. You can also go to YouTube and see him in action.

If you have any specific questions, please send them to

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