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Beekeeper Newsletter – September 10, 2010

Scientific Ag Co., Bakersfield, CA
Joe Traynor, Mgr.

2010 Almond Season
The 2010 almond crop is estimated at a record 1.65 billion pounds. Most almonds are exported and the increased strength of our dollar relative to most foreign currencies has hurt sales. Almond prices are still high enough to allow growers to make a profit this year. For up-to-date information on the almond market and almonds, visit www.projectapism.org and click on The Cummings Report.

2011 Almond Pollination
An additional 20,000 acres of almonds will require bees in 2011. This increase, coupled with the spot shortages of bees this year has stabilized pollination prices. Most beekeepers will either make no change in price for 2011 or will increase their price. Some out-of-state beekeepers will raise their price by 7% to cover the 7% tax that California is aggressively pursuing on almond pollination income. Most out-of-state beekeepers have not paid this tax in past years. I know of no beekeepers that are lowering prices for 2011 bees.

To date, we have not lost any growers for 2011, and, in fact have picked up two new growers, both of whom rented bees from us in past years but dropped us for cheaper bees. Apparently they didn’t like what they were getting for their pollination dollar. Several of our growers have lowered colonies per acre from 2 down to 1.5 and even 1 colony/acre, based on what they see when they look at your colonies with us. Overall, we should be renting more colonies in 2011 than in 2010.

More growers would cut back on colonies per acre except for the fact that their crop insurance requires two colonies per acre. Insurance companies are considering changing to frames of bees per acre.

Breaking into the Sacramento Valley
For the first time, we will be supplying bees to an almond orchard in the Sacramento Valley (480 colonies on 300 acres near Willows). We have turned down past opportunities to rent bees north of Sacramento, but this orchard was picked up by one of our Merced-area growers who wanted our (your) bees. A queen breeder, who is also a top-notch beekeeper, will supply the bees.

Trolling Season
Buyers of almonds “test the market by trolling for a weak seller” according to Doug Youngdahl, CEO of Blue Diamond Growers (Almond Facts, July/August 2010) then use the resulting low price as a basis for future purchases. Youngdahl concludes that “managing this situation requires patient and disciplined selling.”

Almond growers also troll for low bee-rental prices to use as a benchmark for the industry. Don’t bite.

We’re Here for You
Facing increased operating costs across the board, almond growers are taking a close look at what they are getting for their pollination dollar. This year, a number of beekeepers received reduced pollination checks and were told “your bees didn’t meet standards”. In some cases, the beekeepers weren’t informed of this until after the bees were removed from the orchard, and thus had no recourse (other than to sue the grower). Our record of 100% collections and 100% payment to beekeepers shows that our growers are happy. We have your back when it comes to questions over colony strength.

Varroa or Nosema – Which is Worse?
Some beekeepers are convinced that varroa is the main culprit in CCD, others feel that Nosema is; both can transmit viruses. Most beekeepers feel you have to control both if you want good almond bees. Below are pertinent quotes for each pest.

Varroa:

“Varroa destructor, present in all regions where extensive colony losses have occurred, emerges as the most likely unifying factor”. Norman Carreck, Bee World, March 2010, p. 11,

Many beekeepers believe that summer control of varroa is critical. Steve Sheppard cites a study showing that

“treatment for Varroa in the late Fall may fail to prevent losses of colonies because the physiology of the bees has already been impaired.” Bee Culture, Sept. 2004, p.16.

Nosema: Steve Sheppard cites a Spanish study and remarks that:

“they noted that the reduced immune response of Nosema ceranae infected bees could make them more susceptible to various honey bee viruses and, in instances of co-infection with Varroa (also known to suppress honey bee immune response), the results could be devastating for honey bee colonies.” Bee Culture, August 2009, p.28.

David Kelton in the July 2010 Bee Culture (p.10): 30 out of 32 colonies treated with fumagilin survived the winter while 29 of 30 untreated colonies died.

“it only takes a few hundred spores to be present in a colony at a time of any confinement of bees over 3 or 4 days without medication for the spore count to jump from 100 spores per bee to 50 million spores per bee.”

Nutrition: There is ample evidence that good nutrition boosts the immune systems of honey bees so that they can better resist both varroa and nosema, and the viruses they transmit.

Almonds and Pistachios (wholesale outlet)
Beekeepers often ask where they can buy almonds and pistachios. See Primex Farms southwest of Wasco, 16070 Wildwood Rd., Wasco, CA 93280. (661)758-7790. (east side of Wildwood Rd., between Kimberlina Rd. and Hwy 46).

Christi Heintz, Superwoman
You know Christi Heintz as the Executive Director of Project ApisM and maybe for her stellar career with the Almond Board of California. In July, a friend of Christi needed a kidney and Christi donated one of hers (how many of us would do this?) then attended and presented at the Eastern Apiculture Society annual meeting in early August. Amazing! Note: Christi’s column, The Bee Box appears in Blue Diamond’s bi-monthly magazine Almond Facts and serves to educate almond growers on issues in the bee industry; an excellent bridge between the two industries. Check out The Bee Box at www.projectapism.org

Pattycake, Pattycake, Yes You Can
Some of our best almond bees are those that receive several protein-pollen feedings in the form of 5 to 7 pound layer-cakes, rather than the skimpy 1 pound patties that many use. See Keith Jarrett’s demo at http://www.youtube.com/user/NutraBee

Adding Fumagilin to Supplemental Feed
Bees don’t like the taste of fumagilin, and the douse/drip application method can be time-consuming. Some beekeepers add fumagilin to their supplemental feed, along with a tasty additive like Honey-B-Healthy or lemongrass. Mann Lake will custom-add fumagilin to their feed patties (it doubles the cost of the patties).

Eric Here for The Duration!
“I have enjoyed very much my nearly 34 years working with honeybees and the beekeeping industry, and I hope to extend that enjoyment well into the future.” Eric Mussen, Capital Press, August 6, 2010.

Leave ‘Em Room
Frank Eischen has shown that if bees spend extra time searching for a cell to deposit their pollen loads, the colony collects less almond pollen.

Maintaining Pollination Prices
The only way to maintain price is to deliver a superior product, which means continuing to invest the necessary $ to get those strong almond colonies.