Notorious Beekeepers: Warwick Kerr

You may not know Warwick Kerr by name, but he is the much maligned researcher whose work unfortunately brought us the media scare-fest, the “Killer” Honey bee.

First of all, Warwick Kerr is a Brazilian Entomologist and Geneticist whose work in studying honey bee genetics, particularly genetic sex selection goes back to the early 1950’s.

In fact, in the mid 1950’s he was contracted to try to help Brazilian farmer’s improve pollination seeing as western honey bees weren’t showing the same degree of successful adaptation to the tropical/sub-tropical environment in South America.  What did they opt to do?   Why they brought in a known successful sub-tropical adapted honey bee from Africa to inter-breed with the historically well managed western European honey bees.

Things were actually going well in the research until a day in 1957 when some of the African honey bee Queens being worked with escaped the confinement area and began to occupy and breed with European bees out in the un-managed open areas of Brazil.

African bees, due to their nature and adaptation to a tropical environment, breed rapidly and aggressively to take over other established colonies in a region.  This led to a new mix breed of honey bee we now know as the Africanized Honey bee.

I refer to Dr. Kerr as “notorious” because he has been treated rather poorly in the media and through history being in charge of the experiment gone awry.  The man has since continued to contribute a great amount of research and study to the study of bees and is somewhat a victim of the politicization of science.  He has published well over 600 various research articles on various related topics over the years since then.

Warwick Kerr, due to his bee genetics research and his historic blunder, if you will, of the introduction of the Africanized Honey Bee, is undoubtedly one of the most significant beekeepers of the 20th century.

Notable and Notorious Beekeepers

The topic for the Bee Smart beekeeping project website this week is learning a bit more about the notable and notorious beekeepers that have moved the world of beekeeping over the years.

Some have given us great innovations in methods and equipment.  Others have increased our understanding immensely.  Still others have given us experience in what not to do rather than do what they actually did.

Let’s chat about some if the great minds and personalities that have helped modern apiculture become what it is today, shall we?

December 2016 Marked 185 years Since Huber Passed Away

Francois Huber is one of the most notable beekeepers and bee researchers in all of beekeeping history.  His story is amazing.  Born in 1750 he began to go blind at about age 15.

He had a personal assistant named Francois Burnens and was married to Marie Lullin who acted as his proxy eyes in the field.

His most notable accomplishments include his book, “Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles” (New Observations Upon Bees” in 1792 with a second volume in 1814.

This past December marked 185 years since he died.  His research and writing however makes him an immortal in the world of modern beekeeping.

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