Latshaw Apiaries focuses on the production and development of highly productive and well-adapted honey bees for beekeepers across the United States and strives to perfect and improve the instrumental insemination of queen honey bees through constant research and development.
Dr. Joe Latshaw
About Us: A Beekeeping Story
Joe's love of insects, especially stinging insects, developed early in life. He started keeping bees at the age of 8, just as soon as he could save enough money to purchase his first colony. Jim McAdams, a local beekeeper, graciously supplied Joe with bees for that historic colony. The opportunity to keep and explore an entire colony of bees was just the beginning. Joe’s father worked as a professor at The Ohio State University, and his office was not far from the honey bee lab that was run by Dr. Rob Page at the time. During the summer Joe was allowed to accompany his dad to work one day a week. Once Joe discovered the bee lab, he was hooked. Naturally, Rob was concerned about having a young boy visiting the bee lab on a regular basis. Joe was not easily deterred, however, and Kim Fondrk, Rob’s assistant, was more receptive to the idea of a little tag-a-long.
It was from Kim that Joe first learned the basics of queen rearing by observing the daily operations around the honey bee lab. Kim was also responsible for performing the instrumental insemination of queens for the lab. Joe then realized there was more to keeping bees than making honey. Queen rearing and bee breeding seemed like so much more fun!
In 1988, Rob Page accepted a position back at UC Davis, and Kim accompanied him. At the same time, a new bee lab was nearly completed at OSU, and Sue Cobey and Brian Smith were to be the new occupants. Sue was kind enough to welcome Joe into the lab and even allowed Joe to help around the lab during the summers. It was about this time that Joe was old enough to get his driver’s license, and his first real summer job was working as an apiary inspector for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Joe was the youngest apiary inspector to work for the State of Ohio. As far as Joe was concerned, it was the best job anyone could have. Being paid to work with bees was almost too good to be true!
After completing high school, Joe enrolled at The Ohio State University to pursue a degree in Food Agriculture and Environmental Science. Around this time Joe also helped to found Ohio Queen Breeders. Initially Joe started rearing and selling a small number of open-mated queens from selected stock. However, there was always an interest in using instrumental insemination to improve the quality of the stock.
As an undergraduate student, Joe worked for Sue Cobey at the honey bee lab, where he learned the art of instrumental insemination. The equipment used for instrumental insemination was expensive and a bit out of Joe’s price range, so Joe decided to make his own equipment. Joe was not a machinist, but his wood-working skills were put to the challenge of making a smooth working instrument, just as the early researchers in the field had done. The prototypes were designed, tested, and redesigned until a working model of the Latshaw Instrument was in place.
The Latshaw Instrument was awarded the highest honors at Apimondia, an international beekeeping conference held every two years, and represented a completely new concept in instrument design. Joe began selling his instrument and also used it at Ohio Queen Breeders, where the breeding program began to slowly grow. By this time, Joe had completed his undergraduate degree and beginning work on his Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Brian Smith at the OSU Honey Bee Lab. Joe’s Master’s work focused on learning and behavioral ecology in honey bees.
Upon completing his Master’s degree in 2002, Joe began work on his doctorate degree, again working with Brian Smith. Throughout his schooling, Joe continued his work with Ohio Queen Breeders, ultimately developing one of the largest breeding programs in the United States. Joe raised and instrumentally inseminated just over 900 breeder queens annually while working on his doctorate degree.
In 2005 there was a major restructuring project underway at Arizona State University. Rob Page was asked to be the Director for a new School of Life Sciences. As part of his vision for the school, Rob began to develop an extensive social insect research program. Brian Smith was asked to join the School of Life Sciences and offered Joe the opportunity to accompany him to Arizona. In the fall of 2005, Joe transferred to ASU in order to continue working on his degree, while at the same time maintaining his connection with Ohio Queen Breeders. In 2007 Joe started his own business to develop the Latshaw Italian and Latshaw Carniolan strains and to pursue his own goals in honey bee breeding and instrumental insemination. Latshaw Apiaries was established with the distinct emphasis of producing sustainable and productive lines for the beekeeping industry. Joe's ultimate goal for the breeding program is to reduce the need for drugs and chemicals to sustain healthy and productive colonies in the ever-changing beekeeping landscape.
After many years of work, Joe received his doctorate from Arizona State University in the spring of 2008. He now focuses his attention on Latshaw Apiaries and mentoring other young beekeepers in the area. Joe's wife Leah and son Jacob are also active in the family business. Leah focuses mainly on honey processing and packaging to deliver products to the local market. Jacob enjoys tagging along to help with the bees, much like Joe did many years ago.