The American Beekeeping Federation Annual Conference

Added by Kent Pegorsch on

Every year in early January, the American Beekeeping Federation holds its annual conference.  The ABF is the national organization representing beekeepers and honey packers of all sizes from hobbyist to commercial. This year the conference was in Schaumburg, Illinois.

The conference runs Tuesday through Saturday and includes speakers, workshops, social events and culminates in the Saturday night banquet.

The keynote presentations include the best speakers in the industry.  This year those speakers included Dr Samual Ramsey.

Dr. Ramsey shook up the beekeeping world by proving that our biggest challenge, the Varroa mite, feeds primarily of honey bee fat body tissue and not on hemolymph.  Hemolymph is the term for what many might call the the honey bee's blood.

Dr Ramsey is now spending time in Thailand studying what may become our industry's next big challenge, the Tropilaelaps mite.  

The highlight of the conference for me was hearing Eugene Killion speak on his life in beekeeping and his recent involvement with Marriott Hotels.  Mr. Killion is 96 years and can truly be classified as one of the greatest beekeepers to have lived.  He began beekeeping under his father Karl Killion in Paris, IL.  They ran as many as 1000 colonies producing incredible amounts of section comb honey.  That is comb honey produced in basswood sections.  It is a very difficult process but the product is one of the most beautiful honey products available. His father wrote the book Honey in the Comb in the 1940's and Eugene updated it in the 1980's.  The book describes their system to produce section comb honey.

During an ABF Annual Conference at Sawgrass Marriott resort several years ago, Eugene met Chef Matt Sanchez.  He began mentoring Matt in beekeeping. Matt develop a micro farm at Sawgrass to produce vegetables and significant quantities of honey to be used in the kitchen at Sawgrass Marriott.  

Marriott noticed and is working on duplicating the program at other appropriate Marriott properties.  Marriott hotels that don't have the real estate for a micros farm will be looking to ABF to meet member beekeepers who can provide local honey to be used in their kitchens. 

Eugene Killion

I had the honor of having lunch with some very interesting beekeepers.  Each with their own unique beekeeping legacy.

Among those beekeepers were David Hackenburg, Matt Sanchez-Marriott, Eugene Killion, Jim and Karen Belli and Ron Fischer.  Ron is seated to my right, furthest left in this photo.  Ron is a long time experience beekeeper and sold honey for many many years in a Chicago area farm market.

Ron became somewhat of a celebrity for answering an ad in the bee journal from world famous photographer, Richard Avedon.  You can read more about that story by clicking this link to a Chicago tribune story

But here is the resulting famous photo.

Another interesting development at this conference was ABF's new project, Story Corps spearheaded by Dr. Katie Lee.  

Story Corps is a project to record the story of people with the mission to preserve history.  These stories will be available to listen to online and will be preserved at the Library of Congress.  Katie has brought this program to ABF to preserve the stories of beekeepers.  

At the conference, beekeepers could pair up with record their stories.  A mobile app is available for your phone so you can interview beekeepers anywhere.  ABF will be providing more information on how you can participate.  For more information on StoryCorps, click here.

I could go on but enough said.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from the conference, and to give you an idea of how many speakers we had, a partial list of speakers. 


Dr. Troy Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Dan Aurell, Texas A&M University
Brent Barkman, Barkman Honey, Hillsboro, KS
Catherine Barry, National Honey Board
Dr. May Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Fran Boyd, Meyers and Associates
Gene Brandi, Gene Brandi Apiaries, Los Banos, CA
Zac Browning, Browning’s Honey Co.
Lewis Cauble, North Carolina Department of Agriculture
Dr. Joseph Cazier, Appalachian State University
Susan Cobey, Washington State University
Dr. Steven Cook, USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Lab
Dr. Vanessa Corby-Harris, Tucson USDA-ARS Lab
Dr. Bob Danka, Baton Rouge Bee Lab
Dr. Jay Evans, USDA Bee Research Lab, Beltsville
Andrew Garavito, University of Maryland
Krispn Given, Purdue University
Joan Gunter, Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees
Dave Hackenberg, Hackenberg Apiaries
George Hansen, Foothills Honey
Jerry Hayes, Bee Culture
Matt Hoepfinger, University of California Davis
Dr. Brandon Hopkins, Washington State University
Dr. Jody Johnson, Cullaborate, LLC
Anna Kettlewell, Badger State Apiaries
Eugene Killion, Bee Hill Micro Farm Mentor, Paris, IL
Mike Klem, Cardinal Country Apiary
Deborah Klughers, Bonac Bees
Joe Komperda, The Average Joe Beekeeper
Rachel Kuipers, University of Maryland
Dr. Katie Lee, University of Minnesota
Josette Lewis, Almond Board of California
Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, Blue Dasher Farm
Eric Malcolm, Bee Informed Partnership
Jeremy Margaron, JM Apiaries
Dr. Rebecca Mastermann, University of Minnesota
Tim May, American Beekeeping Federation
Quinn McFrederick, University of California
Dave Meyer, Meyer Bees
Jay Miller, 2J Farms, Blackfoot, ID
Amy Mitchell, USDA Farm Service Agency
Matt Mulica, Keystone Policy Center
Dr. Medhat Nasr, Bee Culture Solutions
Dr. Stephen F. Pernal, Agri-Food Canada
Fred Proni, Véto-pharma
Dr. Samuel Ramsey, University of Maryland
Dr. Frank Rinkevich, USDA-ARS Baton Rouge Bee Lab
Ben Sallmann, Oregon State University
Matthew Sanchez, Marriott International
Kristi Sanderson, Sweet Prairie Honey
Jeannie Saum, BEEpothecary
Corky Schnadt, Illinois State Beekeepers Association
Dr. Steve Sheppard, Washington State University
Blake Shook, Desert Creek Honey
Dr. Michael Simone-Finstrom, USDA-ARS Baton Rouge Bee Lab
Dr. Kim Skyrm, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Dr. Edmund Stark, Michigan State University
Dr. Vera Strogolova, Strong Microbials
Becky Tipton, Country Creek Honey
Steve Tipton, Country Creek Honey
Tim Tucker, Tuckerbees Honey
Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, University of Maryland
Tim Wilbanks, Heritage Honeybee
Dr. James Wilkes, Appalachian State University
Dr. Geoffrey Williams, Auburn University
Lance Wilson, Certified Master Craftsman Beekeeper
Dan Winter, Winter Apiaries
Dr. Judy Wu-Smart, University of Nebraska-Lincoln