East Coast Current

The Volusia Beekeepers Association: Education, Training, Community

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Residents interested in learning about honey bees, native bees and beekeeping techniques may join the Volusia Beekeepers Association (VBA). The association, currently at 60 members, is a local network of bee enthusiasts ranging from backyard hobbyists, local equipment suppliers and commercial hive operators. Among its members is Marlin Athearn, a certified master beekeeper – one of 22 in the state of Florida. 

“Our goal is to spread awareness about the importance of honey bees and all of Florida’s 300+ native bee species,” states Marlin. “The anatomy, biology, community and work ethic make the insect an amazing organism.”

The association, founded in 2010, is family friendly and open to all ages with VBA’s current youngest member at 8 years old. The cost to join is $20 annually per family. Membership includes monthly meetings, flow hive field trips, education opportunities, hands-on beekeeping training, a network of local mentors and special events.

Donna Athearn, president of the VBA and wife of 24 years to Marlin, is passionate about the association’s mission, “to spread education about the fascinating life of bees.” Donna explains, “Beekeeping has been around for centuries. According to history, most beekeepers were women. A part of our mission is to share beekeeping techniques in underdeveloped countries and train the women to care for the hives.”

At the end of each year, the VBA hosts a special meeting at the Volusia County Fair. Members are eligible for recognition in several beekeeping categories including honey, hive results, wax and bee-inspired art. 

The VBA will have a booth open to the public at the Daytona Home Show event, August 9 – 11, 2019. The Athearn’s will be available on-site to answer general questions, provide the year-round Florida beekeeping management calendar, equipment consultations and offer honey and honey related products for sale.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), located  in Gainesville, Florida, is home to a $4.5 million state-of-the-art honey bee lab and research facility. The facility, opened in August 2018, is dedicated to researching how to keep honey bees flourishing throughout the world. A museum is planned to be built in the final phase. 

“Now is a good time for beekeeping. The general population is becoming more aware of the importance of bees and their global impact,” said Doug McGinnis, local apiarist at Atlantic Center for the Arts and former owner of Tropical Blossom Honey. “Anyone with interest in bees can truly benefit from joining a club,” recommends McGinnis.

McGinnis assisted the UF/IFAS in raising money for the new lab by connecting with contacts in the honey packing industry. Tropical Blossom Honey was in business for 75 years. The factory was sold in 2015. McGinnis donated his family’s antique collection of equipment, honey pots and smokers to the museum. The museum will be dedicated to his parents, David K. and Helen McGinnis.

For answers to FAQ and membership, contact VBA President, Donna Athearn, at (386) 428-0838. Members of VBA meet at 6:30 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of the month at the UF/IFAS agricultural center located at 3100 E. New York Ave., Deland, FL 32724. Visit www.UFhoneybee.com for other resources and information about protecting the honey bee.

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