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Beekeepers to converge on Belton for convention

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Beekeepers to converge on Belton for convention

A bee extracts nectar from a Rosemary plant in a flower bed near Lake Belton. An annual survey of beekeepers showed that America’s honeybees had a hard winter with colony rates decreasing.

BELTON — The Bell County Expo Center will be buzzing with bee enthusiasts this week as it hosts the 2016 Texas Beekeepers Association annual convention.

More than 300 beekeepers from across the state will be in Belton to learn more about the hobby while engaging with fellow hive aficionados, TBA Director of Communications Chari Elam said.

“It’s a social group, but it’s also an educational organization that educates beekeepers and the general public on the industry,” Elam said.

The organization was formed in 1880 as a way for beekeepers to share their experiences. It now consists of more than 3,000 members making up 39 local clubs.

The three-day convention will feature a number of different workshops sessions that will focus on various aspects of beekeeping. It will begin Thursday with a workshop led by Vermont beekeeper Mike Palmer, who will share thoughts on how beekeepers can make the most of their resources.

“It’s going to teach how to generate your own stock of bees and perpetuate that,” Elam said of Palmer’s presentation. “His workshop will teach us how to save money and do it in our own environments.”

Elam and her husband started beekeeping as a hobby in 2012. They’ve since made a career of it by opening a beekeeping supply store in Willis.

Elam said the hobby has exploded in popularity in recent years, which has had a positive impact on the bee population. She said a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder, caused by pesticides and airborne contaminants, has depleted the population of honeybees in the past decade, but those effects are slowly being reversed by hobby beekeepers.

“Small-scale beekeepers have made up for losses across the board. With the overwhelming excitement in hobby beekeepers, we’re contributing to the leveling out of that loss,” Elam said. “We’ve got 3,000 hobby beekeepers in Texas alone, so there is no way that can’t possibly impact the repopulation of the colonies.”

While helping the bee population is a nice side effect, TBA Director of Publications Chris Doggett said the true reward of beekeeping is the fresh, natural honey.

“When you taste honey out of your own hive, you’re stuck with bees forever,” Doggett said. “It doesn’t taste like what comes from the store.”

Doggett, who lives in Thrall, joined the Williamson County Beekeepers Association when he picked up the hobby about 10 years ago. He said the social aspect of the hobby is what makes it so worthwhile.

“I love the crowd of people that are beekeepers,” Doggett said. “There are people who will go out of their way to help you.”