The Illinois Department of Agriculture has officially renamed its Carl Killion Trophy as the Carl and Eugene Killion Trophy, making a ceremonial presentation to Gene Killion at its Springfield headquarters on June 26th.
The award is given each year as the Illinois State Fair’s “Sweepstakes” trophy, to the top Open Class exhibitor in the Bee Culture category. The platter is engraved:
2019 Illinois State Fair
Carl and Eugene Killion Trophy
Bees and Honey
The trophy was presented by Agriculture Director John Sullivan in an event attended by Gene’s son Mark Killion, Illinois Chief Apiary Inspector Brian Rennecker, and a number of other inspectors and board members of the Illinois State Beekeepers Association.
In his comments, Mr. Sullivan mentioned that his wife has been trying to talk him into getting a hive of bees, but that he unfortunately would need a good deal of help getting started.
“I’m still available,” Gene quipped.
Eugene E. Killion is a legendary beekeeper and patriarch of American beekeeping. His father, Carl, started beekeeping in 1916 as a young boy when he cut down a bee tree in Indiana, and kept what is called a log hive. Gene had his first beehive when he was five. The family moved to Paris, Illinois in the 1920s.
Gene Killion is a World War II veteran, having served in the United States Army Air Force for 3½ years in Calcutta, India.
Carl Killion served as the fourth Chief Apiary Inspector of Illinois. He was appointed to the position in 1938 and served for 32 years. When he retired in 1970, Gene was offered the position, which he held for 18½ years.
Gene started the Illinois Registration of Beehives Program in 1970. The registration is mandatory and free. Gene also wrote the honey house sanitation guidelines for the State of Illinois Health Department in the 1970s. The American Honey Producers and Packers copied it for their national guidelines for honey house sanitation.
Gene was successful in getting the United States Post Office to issue a commemorative stamp featuring the honey bee. Carl had worked for 25 years at this endeavor. The postmaster notified them of approval of the stamp two days before Carl passed away.
The honey bee stamp was issued on October 10, 1980 at the Paris, Illinois Post Office. This inspired the first Honey Bee Fest, which has been held every year since then in Paris.
When Gene retired from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, he became the University of Illinois Extension Specialist in Beekeeping.
At the 2006 American Beekeeping Federation Convention held in Louisville, Kentucky, Gene was the recipient of the ABF President’s Award.
In 2011, the Illinois State Beekeepers Association awarded Gene Killion its Beekeeper of the Year Award.
Carl and Gene may be best remembered for setting a world’s record for comb honey production in 1951. They averaged fourteen wood section supers per hive over 100 hives.