West Chester University to host beekeepers' convention

More than 700 beekeepers (apiculturists, if you want to get technical) will descend on West Chester next week for the Eastern Apicultural Society's annual conference.

Attendees can hear everything from a symposium on apitherapy -- a therapy that combines acupuncture sites and bee venom -- to chats with bee experts to the "Bee Olympics," which includes "a race where teammates carry a 50-pound hive."

The conference this year is focusing on industry newcomers and small-scale beekeepers looking to learn about the fine art of apiculture, and includes day-long "bee yards" (exactly what they sound like) where seasoned beekeepers will answer questions about the craft. (If you're allergic to bees, avoid this one, and if you're not, wear light-colored clothing and nix the perfume to avoid attracting bees.)

World-renowned bee experts, scientists and sustainable agriculture practitioners will give lectures and training, beekeepers can peer at pollen through microscopes or learn about ways to combat the latest natural and chemical threats to their hives. There’s a free session for the public to learn what they can do to ensure a healthy local pollinator population.

Organizers are encouraging the public to attend -- even if they're afraid of bees.

"Our bees in Pennsylvania are very gentle. They’re so busy collecting pollen to make honey so they can overwinter that they generally fly over people’s heads, literally on a beeline to a flower, ignoring you," Jim Bobb, the Eastern Apicultural Society chairman, said in a press release. "Bees get a bad rap because they are lumped together with all stinging insects."

You can learn more about the conference at www.easternapiculture.org