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Lusbys Receive W.A.S. Memorial Award

ABJ – December, 1997

The Western Apicultural Society is proud to announce the selection of Ed and Dee Lusby, Tucson, AZ, as recipients of the A. I. Root Roy Thurber Memorial Award for 1997. The award, which has been presented intermittently since 1986, specifically recognizes ‘Inventiveness in Beekeeping’.

Ed and Dee are full time commercial beekeepers who rely on native desert plants rather than cultivated crops for their honey and pollen production. Ed is a fourth generation beekeeper. His great grandmother, Ada Duncan, of Newsite, Alabama began keeping bees in the mid 1800′s. After marriage to his great grand-father, Joseph, they continued to keep bees on the frontier plains near Amarillo, Texas and later on the Sandstone Creek north of Elk City, Oklahoma Territory. To assure a family livelihood following a severe decline in the cattle business around 1888, the family turned more to beekeeping. In 1927, his grandfather Bill moved to Tucson where the family business has thrived ever since. Dee grew up in Montrose in Westchester County, New York, but spent many summers on her uncles upstate farm. Her uncle kept a few colonies of bees as a hobby and it was here that Dee was first exposed to the world of bees. After a stint in the United States Air Force, she married Ed in 1984 and began beekeeping in earnest.

Dee and Ed work side by side in all phases of their operation. In addition to the conventional activities of beekeepers such as maintenance of equipment, colony management and the harvesting of honey and pollen, they mill their own woodenware and wax foundation, select and maintain a stock of slightly smaller bees highly adapted to their area, produce their own queens, and market a portion of the bee products they harvest. Their non-chemical ‘back to basics’ approach to beekeeping leads them to spend much of their spare time in libraries where they search for obscure bits of information which, when assembled in logical order, yield insights into old problems such as bee kills due to the use of pesticides, and new problems like parasitic mites. Such has been their pursuit of an understanding of the importance of comb cell diameter, an issue emanating out of their bee breeding activities and search for non-chemical methods of resolving disease and mite problems.

The Lusbys found that comb cell diameter differs among the various sources of foundation manufactured in the United States and around the world. Following publication of this discovery in 1990, they undertook an all out effort to resolve the question of optimal natural cell diameter and its potential impact on colony vigor. Having identified, to their own satisfaction, optimal cell diameter for their geographic area (Southern Arizona), they have nearly completed converting their entire operation to a natural system incorporating their concept of smaller cells. They have widely reported to beekeepers that their use of optimal natural cell diameter has significantly reduced disease and mite infestation in their colonies while simultaneously increasing brood viability and colony productivity. Convinced, a number of beekeepers have embraced the Lusby’s management strategies. Ed and Dee have now turned their attention to developing a world map that will identify, for beekeepers, optimal natural cell diameter by latitude. Publication of this map will be forth-coming.

The Lusbys have worked tirelessly over many years to mitigate the impact of agricultural pesticides on honey bee colonies, even though their own apiaries are seldom if ever impacted by these chemicals. They have established an informal bee/pesticide information network which beekeepers, particularly those in southern Arizona, often access. They have taken the time to learn the rules and regulations governing the use of pesticides, to assure that state and federal authorities are adequately informed regarding the hazards of pesticides to honey bees, and to encourage these authorities to ascertain when pesticides are improperly applied and take appropriate corrective action.

Dee and Ed hold or have held elective offices in the Southern Arizona Beekeepers Association and the Arizona Beekeepers Association. They have contributed to or written several publications. They share a passion for improving the business of beekeeping, not only for themselves, but for the welfare of fellow beekeepers around the world. To this end they have selflessly contributed their time, including the hundreds of hours they have spent in libraries and on the phone gathering facts, as well as their own financial resources. They are known to generously share their time, ideas, and knowledge with fellow beekeepers around the world. Beekeepers in Third World countries are particularly interested in their ‘do-it-your-self’ approach to producing one’s own hives, frames and foundation. Least well known is the quiet generosity that Ed and Dee have shown in assisting beekeepers less fortunate than themselves, some of whom they have been known to help financially on occasion.

Ed and Dee are to be applauded for their selfless dedication to improving the art and science of beekeeping for beekeepers everywhere. Their contributions reflect the true spirit of the A. I. Root Roy Thurber Memorial Award.