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Robert "Bo" Sterk
Robert "Bo" Sterk, who resides in St. Augustine, FL, is a 1975 graduate of Kent State who resides in St. Augustine, FL, is a 1975 graduate of Kent State University. Presently, Mr. Sterk divides his time between photography, illustrating, beekeeping and lecturing. His expertise in beekeeping is requested for several seminars covering various aspects of the beekeeping industry including the African Honeybee Symposium and lectures in public schools. With FAVACA, Mr. Sterk traveled to Barbados and St. Kitts and Nevis to deliver lectures in extracting and marketing honey, inspection of beehives and how to set swarm traps. Most recently, Bo helped organize the Bequia Beekeepers Association in Bequia Island and delivered various lectures about the Beekeeping industry in St. Vincent and Trinidad & Tobago.
Caribbean Beekeepers Promote Organic Methods
Guyana once had a thriving beekeeping operation and was one of the leading honey producers in the Caribbean. Docile Italian bees thrived in the region creating bountiful honey and easy to manage hives; however increased shipping brought Africanized bees in the mid-1970s. More aggressive, Africanized bees forced many producers out of the market. Similar stories throughout the region increased demand for adaptive methods of beekeeping. The Caribbean Beekeeping Congress holds an annual conference to exchange ideas, provide scholarly works, and discussions for apiaries. The Fifth Caribbean Beekeeping Congress was held in conjunction with the Guyanese Ministry of Agriculture in Georgetown, Guyana. This year's theme was "Promoting Organic Beekeeping in Guyana and the Caribbean through Strategic Investments." Longtime FAVACA volunteer, Bo Sterk, presented two lectures: Beekeeping in St. Vincent and The State of Beekeeping in Haiti calling for Caribbean beekeepers to adopt a regional approach and assist hive rebuilding efforts in both countries. Sterk traveled to Guyana November 8-15, 2008.
GREAT OUTCOMES ENVISIONED FROM BEEKEEPING TRAINING The Regroupement des Jeunes de Mathurin, a non-for profit organization in Haiti sought beekeeping training to boost their production and increase sustainability of their hives. They requested FAVACA's assistance to help assess regional beekeepers needs and train more than fifty individuals mostly made up of members of the regional beekeeping association. Volunteer of the year award recipient Bo Sterk, Jacksonville, lead a group of three bee keepers to provide the training. Sterk has a decade of experience as a beekeeper and has focused on organic methods of pest control for the past 2 years. He was joined by Mr. Ray Chasser and Ms. Sophie Gekler who are private beekeepers in Miami, and who have previously worked with beekeepers to enhance quality and quantity, and to help develop a plan for honey production in the western region of Haiti. Traveling April 27-30, 2007 the team worked with fifty members of the association and taught ways to produce their own hive boxes.
TOBAGO TRAINING IN BEE KEEPING: Since 2004, farmers on the island of Tobago have been experiencing a significant decline in the amount of honey that is being produced on the island. Investigations into the cause for the loss in production seem to point toward the presence of varroa mites and the wax moth. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) requested assistance from FAVACA to provide volunteers to conduct workshops for farmers and technical staff in order to be able to identify these pests and the diseases affecting honey bees. Bo Sterk, Jacksonville, and Tom Mozer, St. Augustine, traveled to Tobago November 25- December 3, 2006 in order to provide training to 20 members on how to recognize symptoms of different diseases in honey bee populations. While there were some signs of disease, the volunteers did not see significant problems of disease that can be found in neighboring islands. However, the volunteers did observe that unlike the United States, Tobago sprays for mosquitoes during the day which has resulted in a decline in the honey bee population and they have suggested to IICA to change the spraying cycle.
ST. VINCENT BEEKEEPERS RECEIVE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT TRAINING. Goodwin Daniel, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture coordinator in St. Vincent and the Grenadines requested a follow-up training for Bee Inspectors on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture. The bee population has declined very rapidly, from over 100 hives three years ago to ten hives presently. Return volunteer Bo Sterk, Jacksonville, traveled to St. Vincent January 21-29, 2006 to provide workshops and consultation on integrated pest and disease management with special emphasis on sustainable "organic" strategy, queen-rearing methods, and monitoring surveys. Sterk met with 17 beekeepers and two technical personnel from the Ministry of Agriculture. Building on previous integrated pest and disease management training, Sterk endeavored to encourage beekeepers that had lost colonies to reestablish apiaries once a supply of healthy bees could be procured. The Ministry has assumed responsibility to assist beekeepers in their efforts to resuscitate the industry.
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS RECEIVE FOLLOW UP BEE KEEPINGTRAINING. Augustine Merchant with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, St. Kitts requested assistance in the control of the bee attacking varroa mite. Over the past year there has been a devastating decline in the local population of honeybee causing a dramatic reduction in the production of local honey. Bo Sterk, Jacksonville, has as a decade's experience as a beekeeper and has focused on organic methods of pest control for the past 2 years, traveled May 8-18, 2005 to provide the training. Sterk provided training on pest management including the identification and control of the varroa mite, organic techniques, hive maintenance, inspection and harvesting. Sterk inspected more than 90 hives, including seven in the wild, and provided training and assistance with three "swarm calls"; capturing and retuning to hives, bee swarms that were causing disturbances among the local population and tourist areas.
BARBADOS MOVES TOWARD SUSTAINABLE BEE INDUSTRY. On behalf of the Chief Agricultural Officer, Entomologist Ian Gibbs requested follow-up training for Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development entomologist and extension agents as well as local beekeepers. In past years, there has been a devastating decline in the local population of the honeybee due to the varroa mite. Several small producers were forced to give up honey production. This has contributed to reduced pollination of agricultural crops in Barbados including fruit trees and a dramatic reduction in the production of local honey. The Ministry sought support to develop a program to deal with the mite and rejuvenate the industry. Past Volunteer of the Year Award recipient Tomas Mozer, identified and traveled with first time volunteer consultant Bo Sterk to train ten existing beekeepers and five Ministry of Agriculture personnel January 9-16, 2005. The pair also provided "Start Up" training for 10 beginning and novice beekeepers in pest management, organic hive establishment, and harvesting for retail sales including secondary bee products such as beeswax. The consultants also conducted field tests as follow up to Mozer's initial visit in December 2003. Mozer worked for several years as an apiary inspector with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and is now an independent consultant. Sterk Bo has a decade's experience as a beekeeper and has focused on organic methods of pest control for the past 2 years. Local demand for honey is high and there is good potential for rebuilding the honey industry. Natural resistance to varroa also opens the possibility of marketing organic honey.