by Len Lear
Vincent Aloyo, 69, who has lived in Blue Bell for 26 years, has been a beekeeper for over 45 years. The master beekeeper has also taught undergraduate beekeeping courses at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown and Temple University, Ambler. In addition, he has taught at continuing education levels, engaged in hive-side mentoring
and given countless talks to community groups, nature centers and schools
Aloyo, who earned a Masters Degree and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Tennessee, will teach a two-weekend course on Feb. 20-21 and March 19-20 at Temple’s Ambler campus for those who want to learn about honey bees and beekeeping or are considering becoming beekeepers. Some of the subjects covered will be: Honey bee biology and behavior; Building an apiary and harvesting honey; Apiary equipment and supplies, and
Management practices for each season. Last week we conducted this interview with Dr. Aloyo:
•Where are you from originally?
I was born in Brooklyn, NY, but at an early age my family moved to a farm near Deposit, NY.
•How did you get interested in beekeeping as a young person?
I took a course taught by the famous honey bee researcher, Dr. Roger Morse, while an undergraduate at Cornell University. I have now been keeping bees for 50 years.
•Since you have a doctorate degree in biochemistry, have you also worked as a chemist?
No. I spent my working career as a neuroscientist or neuropharmacologist doing basic research on brain function.
•In light of all your teaching and lecturing over the years, do you think the public has become better educated in the past few decades about the importance of bees to our ecosystem?
Yes, the publicity regarding CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) has increased public awareness of the critical importance of honey bees in producing our food supply.
•What is the reason for the die-offs of honeybees we have been reading about in recent years?
There are three main causes for the loss of honey bees and other pollinators; more lethal insecticides, increased use of herbicides both in agricultural setting and by home owners, and newly introduced honey bee pests that carry viruses.
•Do you think the situation has reached crisis levels?
No, but I feel that we are close to a crisis level. Increasing modern agriculture requires more pollinators than are readily available. We need to create a pollinator-friendly environment such that feral honey bees and native pollinators can survive.
•What can be done to prevent this potential tragedy?
I am optimistic that through better education of the general public, farmers and our politicians, we can promote healthy honey bees. Individuals can help honey bees by planting less grass and more flowers and also decreasing their use of herbicides and insecticides. Individuals should also consider keeping a few hives of honey bees in their back yard to increase pollination of local gardens, trees and wild flowers.
•If honey bees all disappeared, what would be the effect on our lives?
Without honey bees, there would be a drastic reduction in the availability of nuts, fruits and some vegetables.
•Are you finding that there are more hobbyists keeping bees than in decades past?
Yes, according to the PA state Apiarist, Karen Roccasecca, the number of new beekeepers in PA has been increasing by 300 to 500 a year for the past few years.
•Where else did you live before Blue Bell?
•Since you went to graduate school in Tennessee, how did you wind up in the Philly suburbs?
I obtained a position In the Department of Pharmacology at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.
•How many people on average show up for one of your courses and workshops?
The number is quite variable, ranging from a handful to over 30.
•How much it is to take your two-weekend course in February and March?
•If you could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, who would it be?
There are many great honey bee researchers. I would love to spend a few days with Dr. Yves Leconte in Avignon, France. Dr. Leconte and his colleague are investigating the chemical language of honey bees.
•Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes. There is controversy on the spelling on honey bee. Dictionaries usually spell it as one word, whereas entomologists spell it as two words.
Dr. Aloyo can be contacted at www.vincemasterbeekeeper.com or on Twitter at