There's a buzz of activity this week at Eastern Kentucky University.
Hundreds of beekeepers from several states and outside the U.S. are in Richmond participating in the Eastern Apicultural Society meeting.
A group of a dozen or so beekeeping enthusiasts donned veiled protective hats Monday and gathered around demonstration hives. Jen Keller is an apiculture technician at North Carolina State University. Whether it be a business or hobby, Keller says splitting bee hives is one method used to expand an operation. "It's one way of increasing your number of hives without having to purchase a new hive, so you can save money and also a lot of times hives will swarm if they get too crowded, so this is a swarm management technique as well," said Keller.
Joining Keller in the Apiary was Don Hopkins who's been a beekeeper for decades. He says industry demographics are changing. "It used to be something that grey haired males used to do. Now, it's pretty wide open for everybody. Everybody seems to be getting into it now," said Hopkins.
While research continues into colony collapse disorder and the loss of honey bees, Hopkins believes the situation is improving in his home state of North Carolina. "In our state, I would say our losses have not been terribly severe. A number of new beekeepers has actually sort of displaced the colony losses overall over the state. We're doing pretty well," added Hopkins.
Hopkins says both beekeeping professionals and hobbyists are participating in the week-long event at EKU.
He says the jump from raising bees for fun to doing it to make money typically starts when the bee colony count hits 250.