The Madison County Retired Educators Association met at the Ila Restaurant Jan. 14. After a devotional given by Karen Harrison, the group welcomed special guest, the University of Georgia’s Jennifer Berry, a scientist in beekeeping who has visited several countries around the world to share her expertise.

Berry shared many interesting facts about the life and operation of a bee colony.

For instance, she said that although chemicals in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides do harm to a great many bees, the leading cause of bee decimation in this country and around the world is actually an insect introduced from Asia that carries a virus that is very harmful to bees. When colonies are mingled it is difficult to stop the spread of the virus. Loss of habitat along with chemical sprays are depleting insects, and therefore birds, bats and other animals around the world. One of the best ways to encourage the bee population and others is to plant trees. A tree often provides more pollen-bearing flowers than acres of flowers.

Berry went on to share that lessons in beekeeping are now being shared in prisons around the country. She said many prisoners are coming out of prison with the knowledge, license and expertise to give back to society and the economy in a very meaningful way. They are equipped to start their own business and provide for themselves, depending on the level of certification that was reached.

Berry said one of the best ways to support local beekeepers is to buy their products. She said you can be assured that they are not adulterated with fructose corn syrup. Here in Georgia, there is a wide variety of flowers and there are many flavors to choose from.

“We appreciate the time and effort that Ms. Berry took to educate us on bees,” MCREA leaders said.

The retired educators also voted on nominations for teachers of excellence in Madison County. Those will be introduced and recognized at an upcoming meeting. Also upcoming is the grandparent essay contest for fifth grade students. The topic will be about a favorite teaching experience with a grandparent or similar person. The next meeting in February will be at a Valentine banquet hosted by the culinary arts class directed by Lynn Booth at Madison County High School.

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