“You don’t have to have bees to be a member of the association. You just have to be interested and willing to support them,” Dysart resident Kennith Hoover, 57, said.
Hoover serves as the association’s president — answering phone calls, coordinating educational opportunities and gathering information for the organization.
“If we don’t educate, people are naturally afraid of bees because they sting,” Hoover said. “There’s no need to fear honeybees because they sting for three reasons: defend their life, defend their home, or you did something stupid.”
According to Hoover, the association’s monthly meetings, which are hosted at various locations throughout the three counties, consist of a short business meeting followed by an educational program. The meetings’ topics change in accordance with the season, such as the meeting on March 17, which focused on how to manage beehives during the spring.
“That’s when a lot of learning takes place because you get older and younger beekeepers talking and sharing ideas,” Hoover said. “They can hash out their difficulties.”
Honeybees are important to the environment mainly because of their ability to pollinate, according to Hoover.
“You have to have good pollination for trees and plants to reproduce,” Hoover said. “For example, apple trees will blossom and those blossoms have to be pollinated for them to set fruit. If it is not properly pollinated, the fruit gets deformed, and it’s not a nice-looking apple.”
Honeybee pollination is directly and indirectly responsible for the creation of many different foods, according to Hoover.
“We can live without honey, even though it is sacrilegious for me to say that,” Hoover said. “The good, solid variety of food that we have is because of honeybees. It’s not just the fruits and vegetables. It’s also in the livestock feed, like alfalfa.”
Hoover currently has 11 hives and grooms the plant life in his yard to benefit his honeybees’ desire for nectar, which sweetens the honey that bees produce.
“People cuss dandelions something ferocious, but bees love them,” Hoover said. “They aren’t a huge source of pollen, but they have a lot of nectar. When you come to my house, you’re going to see a yellow carpet of dandelions with beautiful violets.”
In addition to hosting informationals meetings, 2 Cs and a Bee communicates with Penn State University and Penn State Altoona’s agriculture departments to share resources concerning honeybees and the threats they face today.
“Bees are born with a college education. We’re still learning,” Hoover said. “They will do things that are totally against what you just read.”
One of the topics the association and the universities are working to learn more about is the colony collapse disorder, an issue which surfaced several years ago when Dave Hackenburg, a beekeeper in Florida, observed a bizarre phenomenon occurring within his box hives, a type of artificial beehive used for keeping bees.
“(Hackenberg) noticed he had colonies that were strong, and a week later those colonies were gone,” Hoover said. “The boxes were there. The bees were gone. You would find a very small amount of bees and maybe the queen and young brood just abandoned. All of the rest of the bees were gone.”
Researchers have yet to uncover a cause for the abrupt disappearance of honeybees, but the publicity surrounding the insects has benefitted the association and beekeeping industry in general.
“We found all kinds of problems we didn’t know we had,” Hoover said. “There are a lot of diseases. We started finding things when (researchers) started digging deep.”
Pennsylvania State Apiarist Karen Roccasecca, 55, of Harrisburg, collaborates with Hoover, beekeepers at Penn State University and others in the beekeeping network to help address such problems.
“There’s a lot of (issues),” Roccasecca said. “Of course pesticides are a concern both agriculturally and in the yard. Different environmental things like hard winters, floods, tornados, hurricanes all come into play. There are different pests that go after honeybees, like varroa mites. There are viruses that bees can get from different things, and some plants have the viruses.”
Roccasecca, like Hoover, encourages the growth of bee-friendly plants, like the black-eyed susan, coneflower, bee balm and other perennials.
“It provides a variety of nectar and pollen, different sources they can go to,” Roccaseeca said. “Different times of the year, it’s good to have different plants available.”
Aside from discussing these issues and solutions within meetings, 2 Cs and a Bee distributes an informational monthly newsletter via email, attends local fairs and farm shows and conducts presentations for community groups like Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops to share their knowledge.
Bernie Svidergol, 60, of Ebensburg, serves as the vice president of the association, and enjoys the commaraderie he has with the other members.
“A beekeeper is a special individual,” said Svidergol, who has been a member for seven years. “Once you get stung, you’re hooked. They’re very honest, real nice people. There are no secrets in beekeeping. If someone has a problem, you help them as much as you can.”
Svidergol has seen an increase in the attention surrounding honeybees since the colony collapse disorder happened and hopes the association can continue to draw the public’s attention to honeybees.
“For the future – there’s just looking up,” Svidergol said. “There’s no limit to what we are doing. We are involved in everything – education, helping the public with their bees and their education. There are a lot of really intelligent people in the organization. They’ll do anything for the public.”
For more information about 2 C’s and a Bee, visit www.cccbee.org.