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The North Dakota Beekeepers Association will hold its annual convention in Jamestown, N.D., Oct. 12-14. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

ND Beekeepers Association offers sessions for hobby beekeepers

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — It was a few years back, Will Nissen remembers, when beekeepers in North Dakota started getting calls from hobby beekeepers asking whether there were regular meetings of beekeepers groups, apparently a common practice in some places.

Alas, there were no such meetings, but Nissen, the president of the North Dakota Beekeepers Association, suggested a portion of the association's annual convention be allocated to sessions on hobby beekeeping.

The association first held such sessions last year.

"Last year we had quite the turnout," Nissen says.

They're hoping for a similar reception this year. The convention, scheduled for Oct. 12-14 at the Gladstone in Jamestown, includes a Saturday session all about hobby beekeeping.

Nissen says the conference will be an opportunity for hobby beekeepers to get up to speed on what's going on in beekeeping, with sessions on mite control, feeding and other vital topics.

Nissen estimates that 90 percent of beekeepers in the state are commercial in nature, while the rest keep bees as a hobby.

"Our convention was always geared toward commercial guys," Nissen says.

He explains it isn't unusual for a hobbiest to become a commercial beekeeper, and there are plenty of reasons to accept the part-timers into the fold.

Hobby beekeepers "need to be heard" and can offer different perspectives, he says.

"Some of the most brilliant minds in America are hobbiest beekeepers," he says. "Everyone brings something to the table."

Since diseases can spread from hive to hive, Nissen says catering to hobby beekeepers also helps ensure that they have the tools to keep their bees — and the bees of others around them — safe.

One topic likely to come up is the requirement of getting a veterinary feed directive for certain antibiotics, just as other livestock producers now do. Nissen says the requirement has thrown some beekeepers for a loop, and it's important to continue proper treatment of bees even if it's more of a hassle now.

Providing special programming for the hobby beekeepers also helps bolster attendance, Nissens says. Though there are roughly 200 beekeepers in North Dakota, attendance at the convention typically hovers around 60 to 70. He hopes to start seeing some younger beekeepers as the association serves as an important voice for the industry.

"Our numbers are not where they should be," he says.

Of course, he concedes it's hard to find a good time of year for the convention. The commercial guys are moving from honey production to shipping bees to warmer climates right now.

"There's never a good time," he says.

But Nissen says he looks forward to the convention each year because it's an opportunity to get together with like-minded people.

"A lot of these people I only see once a year," he says.

Melanie Freeman, treasurer of the association, says attendees can register when they arrive at the convention. For more information, contact Freeman at 701-448-9153.