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The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is taking steps to assure bees remain a vibrant part of food production. To ensure that crop pollination is not threatened in the state, Alabama Extension created a new beekeeping program that includes educators from Auburn University and Alabama A&M University.
“Bees pollinate about 30% of all food crops so it’s important we support the state’s beekeepers,” said Paul Brown, Alabama Extension associate director. “A number of stressors, including parasites, disease and pesticides, can impact honeybee colonies.
“Extension’s new apiculture team will provide critical education and support to the state’s beekeepers. Extension professionals working at both Alabama A&M and Auburn universities and an Auburn University faculty member form the team’s core,” Brown said.
Bees provide more than just pollination. According to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, between 14,000 and 16,000 colonies are spread across the state. USDA’s most recent honey report showed these colonies produced on average more than 52 pounds of honey annually. In 2016, honey production totaled 364,000 pounds in Alabama and was valued at more than $1.25 million.
“We’re excited to serve all Alabama beekeepers, whether they are just getting started or have many years of experience,” said Celvia Stovall, Alabama Extension associate director. “Our program incorporates the latest apiculture research in Extension learning opportunities. We offer on-site pest and disease inspection at bee colonies, and pollinator plant recommendations and training. This will be one of the most robust programs in the nation.”
Hunter McBrayer, the Alabama Farmer’s Federation Director for bee and honey producers, called the Extension commitment to beekeepers exciting.
“The new apiculture team will help improve our bee and honey industry in Alabama,” McBrayer said. “Extension professionals will be a great educational resource while connecting beekeepers to spread knowledge, share successes and gain an understanding of the challenges that face the bee and honey industry in Alabama.”
The new team will guide the System’s beekeeping educational efforts. Dr. Geoffrey Williams, an assistant professor in Auburn’s Entomology and Plant Pathology Department, will provide research-based information on emerging bee topics and will coordinate a portion of his research to support the Extension apiculture program. Extension agent Jack Rowe, who is affiliated with Auburn, will lead the development of the apiculture education programming, including the annual Bee Symposium. The symposium boasts the largest attendance of any Extension educational event. More than 600 people attended the most recent one held in February.
Phillip Carter, who is affiliated with Alabama A&M, will inspect colonies for pests and diseases as well as collect honey bee swarms as needed and remove colonies in structures when deemed a health hazard. Carter’s Alabama A&M colleague Allyson Shabel will focus on creating materials to support beginning keepers as well as pollinator plant classes for adult and youth audiences.
For more information, visit www.aces.edu.