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Almond Grower Newsletter – April 20, 2001

Tough Times for Agriculture
Depressed commodity prices, pretty much across the board, have put many farmers’ backs against the wall. Almonds fare a bit better than most commodities, but most almond growers are faced with lower prices and higher expenses. In California, problems are exacerbated this year by the combination of a tight water supply and high energy prices, resulting in exorbitant pumping costs.

This year’s almond crop, like last year’s, is good, but not great. A large crop would have depressed almond prices further, however, and almond growers are happy that almond prices should rise or at least remain the same.

2002 Almond Pollination Prices
At this time, we plan no increase in pollination prices for the 2002 season. We have continuous pollination agreements with most of our growers, providing we let them know by mid-June what next year’s price will be. If enough beekeepers feel that a price increase is warrented, we can do so, but we need to hear from you on this. If we don’t hear from you we will assume that you will again be satisfied with this year’s price.

Remember, that our pollination agreement with you is also continuous, unless cancelled by June 1. Please give careful thought to whether you wish to cancel, and let us know by June if you do wish to cancel. We hope you elect to stay with us. Remember too, that a commitment is a commitment. Almond pollination prices could rise this fall and winter, however once we set our price (in June) we are locked in and cannot change. Don’t stay with us unless you plan to deliver the bees next February.

Our business depends on dealing with quality growers and quality beekeepers; we greatly value the hard work and dedication of the beekeepers that work with us. Our pooling program – payments from growers are pooled and each beekeeper gets paid equally – serves to lessen or eliminate the risk of a beekeeper getting badly stung by a no-pay account. The risk of no-pay accounts will increase in 2002, and our pooling system should become even more advantageous for beekeepers.

For the 2002 season, we plan to weed out slow-pay or poor-pay growers. We will likely rent the same or more bees in 2002 due to increased cols./acre on younger plantings.

Genetically Modified Plants (GMPs)
Several beekeepers took me to task for the statement in our last newsletter that ”the benefits of genetically altered plants, mainly less pesticide use, should far out-weigh the disadvantages.” These beekeepers have suffered summer bee losses and dwindling in areas dominated by GMPs (cotton in the San Joquin Valley, corn and soybeans in the mid-west; well over half the crops in these areas are GMPs). A gene from Bt (Bacillus thuringensis) gives these GM crops resistance to insects. It is certainly possible that such GMPs could adversely affect bees (don’t we need more research here?; it shouldn’t be that difficult to get an answer) but since GM corn and soybeans are consumed by humans (and by animals) apparently without ill effect, you’d think that bees would not be affected (we don’t know). The subject may become moot, since growers are finding it more and more difficult to sell GM crops. McDonalds recently said it would buy no more GM potatoes, candy manufacturers won’t use sugar from GM sugar beets and Gerbers won’t use GM produce in their baby food.

Are you selling GM honey? You probably won’t even be asked in the U.S., but in Europe, you might well be.

Varroa Resistant Bees
Dee Lusby (Tucson, AZ) will be selling a mite-resistant bee strain on small-cell comb (4.9mm diameter, vs a “normal” diameter of 5.4 mm) this fall. The bees + queen will come in nuc boxes and sell for about $100 each. Although it is possible that Africanized genes can be found in the bees, the bees are not considered “Africanized” (Dee can explain this better than I can). For more information contact Dee or Ed Lusby, (520)748-0542 (3832 Golf Links Rd., Tucson, AZ 87313). Dee is looking for trade-in nuc boxes.

Trachael Mites (TM)
Don’t forget about control of this mite. If we sample your bees and find high levels of TM (above 25%) in the almond orchards, we will send you a copy of the report.

Think Fall

Research done by Dr. C.L. Farrar and others some years ago pointed up the great importance to the wintering hive of adequate pollen reserves. Going into winter, a colony should have a reserve of some 500 to 600 square inches of stored pollen. This equates to roughly four to five frames packed with pollen. This pollen reserve makes it possible for an overwintering hive to begin rearing brood as early as January. Such a hive by spring has the new bees needed to replace winter losses. So, in a nutshell, fall pollen means spring bees. For a beekeeper, this is a crucial equation.

Richard Dalby (Utah) in a paean to rabbitbrush, ABJ, Oct. 1998, p.707.

Enclosed is a reprint of the entire article containing the above excerpt.

Fall is the most critical time to get strong bee colonies for almonds. If you don’t have a fall flower source, consider feeding pollen patties in the fall (and get those coumaphos strips on before drone ejection starts).

It is written (or one day will be): “If your bees shall be young and healthy going into winter, so then, shall they be healthy and prosperous during almond bloom.”

Stay in Touch
Best wishes for a successful honey season (and better honey prices). Call us anytime (on our toll-free line) to share how you are doing.

Joe Traynor, Mgr.

SCIENTIFIC AG Co.
P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303