Catch the buzz: A Q&A with Amber Cann, president of Kentuckiana Beekeepers Association

Today, there are an estimated 2,000 hobby and commercial beekeepers in Kentucky. Amber Cann, president of Kentuckiana Beekeepers Association, is a fourth-generation beekeeper and has been keeping bees in Louisville for five years. She said beekeeping is “a meditative hobby,” but it also has economic, environmental and health impacts on the community. We caught up with her recently to learn how local hives support wellness locally:

LEO: What is beekeeping?

Amber Cann: Basically, beekeeping is the practice of setting up beehives, or homes, for the purpose of maintaining colonies of bees. The beekeeper, or apiarist, keeps bees to collect honey and other products, pollinate crops and/or produce other bees to sell. There are mixed sources about how long beekeeping has been practiced, but most agree it has been at least 1,000 years.

LEO: Tell us about Kentuckiana Beekeeping Association.

AC: The KBA is a local beekeeping club serving Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Our goals include providing support and mentorship to beekeepers, seasoned and new-bees. We offer education about the importance that bees play in our community by hosting field days, workshops and general meetings. By connecting our local farmers and suppliers to beekeepers,we highlight how valuable each hive plays in the health of our community. KY beekeeping currently has 125 members. Most members are hobbyists with a wide range of backgrounds.

LEO: Tell us how beekeeping supports the health of our community and the larger environment.

AC: One of the greatest benefits for me is that beekeeping is a meditative hobby. I get such a relaxed state of mind when working with bees. Connecting to nature and animals has been proven to be a great stress reducer, and [that] is certainly the case with me. Another great benefit to having urban beehives is that they create more pollinators. More pollinators equate to healthier plants, trees, flowers, gardens and farms. Our general green space in the community can be transformed with larger bee populations. Finally, my domestic hive and natural beehives can create diversity in the bee population! When hives are crossbreeding, it strengthens the population and creates genetic diversity. The most obvious and widespread believed benefit is that local honey is a great way to help support and alleviate allergy symptoms. Our economy certainly benefits form the buying and selling of the bees, honey and products created from the pollinating.

LEO: How can we support the bees?

AC: Planting bee-diverse crops will attract and nurture the bees to do what they are experts at: pollinating! … [M]ost farming is mono-crops, all corn, or all soy, which robs the bees of nutrition. Bees, like humans, enjoy variety. Be mindful of what you are using on all of your greenery. Pesticides are one of the greatest threats to bees. There are natural alternatives to controlling other insects that won’t affect bees. Become a beekeeper. Rebuilding the population will help the bees and our entire ecosystem.

LEO: Describe some of your educational opportunities?

AC: Our workshops and field days are hands-on experiences, when we actually open up and look inside beehives. Our general meetings include a business meeting and an educational program. These are held at the Bon Air Regional Library, 2816 Del Rio Place. I

LEO: What are some barriers your club faces?

AC: Lack of knowledge is our largest barrier as a club, and also for the general population. The average person is not aware that bees support us, and are directly connected to our food chains. One out of every three bites that we consume are, in some way, contributed to [through] the effort of a bee. Fear of bees is also something that we hear often. We like to reassure our audience that bees are not aggressive … Swarming can be terrifying, and most respond with ways that harm the bees. We help to protect the bees, and calm those that encounter a swarm, by maintaining a swarm team that will come to your location and collect the bees, and they usually arrive within 15 minutes.

LEO: Who and how can someone become a beekeeper?

AC: Anybody can be a beekeeper! Hives can be kept in urban or rural communities. You don’t need land, as rooftop hives are a great alternative. All you need is proper equipment, and there are starter kits that are available online. Beekeeping is a great family hobby: Children are natural beekeepers, as it offers exposure to science, and a natural connection with the earth and animals. We are fortunate to have Louisville Metro as a great supporter of beekeeping. They don’t have a lot of restrictions about beekeeping, but it’s always best to check with your [homeowners association], and let your neighbors know that you are planning to raise bees. •

To report a swarm, email: [email protected] Include your name, address, phone number and description and photo of insects. Response times are typically less than 30 minutes.