Honey bee specialists and native pollinator experts will address the 31st annual Western Apicultural Society (WAS) Conference, Aug. 17-20 in Healdsburg, Sonoma County.

The main conference sessions will take place in the Dry Creek Inn and Krug Event Center, 198 Dry Creek Road.

"The conference provides an opportunity to learn about bee health and disease research and to interact with professionals," said WAS President Eric Mussen, UC Davis Cooperative Extension apiculturist.

WAS, founded in 1978, is a non-profit, educational, beekeeping organization that draws its membership from beekeepers throughout western North America, but all interested persons throughout the world may join. The last WAS conference took place in Victoria, B.C.

Besides presentations on bee health and disease research, the conference will include such topics as beekeeping with minimal chemical input, cooperative rearing of local honey bee stocks, identifying non-Apis pollinators, impacts of native bees on commercial crop production and the biology and management of honey bees. In addition, various aspects of honey and human health will be addressed.

Registration takes place from 3 to 5 p.m., Aug. 17, followed by wine and honey tasting.

On Aug. 18, researchers from three universities will speak:

• Jerry Bromenshenk, University of Montana, Missoula, will discuss "Pathogens Found Associated with Honey Bees."

• UC Davis Haagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow Michelle Flenniken, also a researcher at UC San Francisco, will speak on "Honey Bee Resistance to Viral Infections."

• Steve Sheppard of Washington State University, Pullman, will cover "Washington State Honey Bee Health Program: Breeding, Diagnostics and Insecticide Tolerance." On Aug. 19, participants have a choice of taking a Glen Allen apiary tour or attending an additional-cost seminar taught by bee expert, writer and instructor Larry Conner of Kalamazoo, Mich.

The tour participants will hear a talk by Anne Teller of Oak Hill Farm, Sonoma, an organic producer of field crops, flowers and baked products; and visit the Glen Ellen hilltop apiary of Serge Labesque, who will discuss demonstration hives and watering devices.

The afternoon of Aug. 19, three native pollinator experts will present lectures:

• Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor at UC Davis, will discuss "Introduction to Native Bees."

• Neal Williams, a newly recruited faculty member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, will cover "Native Bees in Crop Production in Eastern States."

• Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at UC Berkeley and an affiliate with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, will discuss "Native Bees in Crop Production in Western States."

On Aug. 20, participants will hear "Effects of Honey on Human Physiology" by Ron Fessenden of Haaddam, Kan., founder of the Committee for the Promotion of Honey and Health, Inc., and co-author of the books, "The Hibernation Diet" and "The Honey Revolution."

Also on Thursday:

• Incoming WAS President Dewey Caron, emeritus professor of the University of Delaware, Newark, and author of the textbook "Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping," will discuss "Colony Natural History."

• Liz Applegate, a nationally renowned expert on nutrition and fitness and member of the UC Davis Department of Nutrition faculty, will speak on "Honey and Exercise Physiology."

• Randy Oliver, a Grass Valley beekeeper and also a part-time researcher, teacher and author, will offer "Beekeeping Tips Based on Experimental Trial and Error."

The conference ends with a silent auction and awards banquet. Awards to be presented are "Outstanding Service to Beekeeping" and the "Thurber Award for Inventiveness."

Those attending the four-day conference are invited to bring jars of honey to share at the tasting session and/or to share with other beekeepers. Those planning on visiting the apiary should bring their veils.

Registration is $130 per person and is due July 15. Registration forms, the conference schedule and hotel reservation suggestions are online at http://groups.ucanr.org/WAS. More information is available from Mussen at (530) 752-0472 or ecmussen@ucdavis.edu.

Mussen said membership in WAS is "encouraged from anywhere in the world." However, the organization was designed specifically to meet the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon; and the states of northern Mexico. Annual dues range from $7.50 to $15.