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Beekeeper Newsletter – April 10, 2005

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

Office located at:
1734 D Street, Suite #2
Bakersfield, CA
24 hr. phone (661) 327-2631

2005 Almond Crop

Statewide, the almond crop will be down by about 15 to 20%. Kern County growers are probably down 5 to 10% from last year. As you go north to Tulare, the crop is lighter. Prices for almonds have gone higher and are now in excess of $3/lb (vs. 80 cents/lb a few years back).

2006 Almond Pollination

We’ve received most of the slips back from you for the 2006 season. To date, only 1 beekeeper (a first-time beekeeper this year) has cancelled out. If you haven’t already sent in your slip, please do so soon so that we can solidify our 2006 arrangements.

Next year’s almond pollination prices will be all over the board. A surprising number of colonies came in this year from eastern and southeastern states and beekeepers all over the U.S. have shown an interest in almond pollination. Many beekeepers are increasing their colony count just for almonds. In 2006, there could just as easily be a surplus of bees for almonds as a shortage. We won’t know for sure until January.

Your agreement with us states that beekeeper “agrees not to rent bees to Scientific Ag Co. clients for a period of 3 years after doing business with Scientific Ag Co.” Please honor this clause. If you have any questions about who our clients are, give me a call. In 25 years, there has been only 1 beekeeper that has gone around us and hooked up with a grower. He lasted a couple of years with the grower before the grower came back to us.

Because we’ve received complaints from our growers on our projected price increase, I plan to have a grower meeting this month or next to explain the reasons for the increase.

Treat early, Treat often

The bee population explosion in individual colonies has started and will continue through the summer. It’s easy to forget about mite control when the bees look so darn good. Mite populations explode right along with bee populations and the mites are there, waiting to take down your colonies as soon as brood rearing slows down. Keeping mites suppressed with multiple (weekly?) “soft” treatments throughout the year will prevent that winter crash. With honey prices sliding and almond pollination prices rising, mite treatment takes precedence over honey production.

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid has proven to be an effective mite treatment for some beekeepers, less effective for others. Oxalic acid is considered a “soft” treatment with minimal chances of honey contamination (although contamination can occur at high rates, maximum residue levels are currently being defined). One recommendation is 35 grams of oxalic acid dihydrate in 1 liter of 1:1 sugar water, 30 cc of the mixture for a small colony, 50 cc for a large colony; either trickle (using a syringe) or spray. Oxalic only gets mites on adult bees, making repeat treatments necessary.

Interestingly, oxalic turns to formic acid with high heat (which is why those using evaporators feel they get better control). Oxalic is a hazardous material. Read all labels carefully.

Apiguard Due this Year

A thymol gel, Apiguard (by Vita) is due to be released sometime this year. It’s supposed to be relatively effective for varroa control (but also relatively expensive).

Fall Starts in August

If you delay your “fall” mite treatment until October (or even September), varroa can do a number on your bees. Forget about getting that last drop of August honey and concentrate on mite treatments with, perhaps, a follow-up treatment in October.

Nosema

High levels of nosema spores were found in some colonies in February. Nosema is easily controlled with Fumadil. Don’t neglect this important pest.

Tracheal Mites – The Silent Killer

If you’ve gone to state or national bee meetings, you’ve likely seen the data showing a definite difference among queen breeders as to the susceptibility of their stock to tracheal mites. Ask your queen supplier if his stock is susceptible or resistant; he should know.

Bee Nutrition

You’ve heard a lot about bee nutrition lately and, if you live in California, you’ve heard it for years from Eric Mussen. More and more beekeepers are discovering that healthy, well fed bees winter better and are better able to fend off mites.

Protein analysis of bees shows some striking differences between colonies that collapse in winter and strong, healthy colonies. The USDA Weslaco crew (Frank Eischen, Henry Grahm, Bob Cox, et al.) took bee samples in February from a number of different beekeepers, including many of you. You should be getting a confidential report on the protein status of your bees sometime in August or September.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about bee nutrition in the coming months and years.

Supplemental Feeding

Some of the best bees we had this year (and the same is true every year) were those that were provided with supplemental fall-winter feeding, using varying combinations of pollen, brewers yeast and soy flour. High almond pollination prices should allow more beekeepers to provide an extra nutrition boost to their colonies. October, or when natural feed is limited, is a good time to start.

Pollen Sources

Check the classified ads under POLLEN in the bee publications. Ernie Fuhr (Canada) sells pollen that has been sterilized (by electron beam) (250) 785-4808. Consider trapping your own pollen. All pollen used for feed should be sterilized since bees can add a lot of “bad stuff” to pollen traps (chalk brood mummies, AFB cleanings). Gamma irradiation is commonly used to sterilize pollen.

Extreme Makeover

I’ve subscribed to Bee World for a number of years-a great publication with pertinent articles from all over the world. Recently, Bee World changed its format from a small, well, stodgy little magazine with occasional black and white pictures to a large, glossy magazine with great color photos and graphics. Still the same great articles, but presented in a more accessible way. For information on joining the IBRA and subscribing to Bee World (published quarterly) check their website: www.ibra.org.uk or their classified ad in the American Bee Journal or Bee Culture (under Periodicals).

Note: The current (March) issue of Bee World has part I of a great 2-part article on pollen nutrition of bees.

Great New Book!

I always have mixed feelings when someone writes better than I do, but I must give due credit to Bill Mares for his great new book Bees Besieged. Bill tackles a difficult subject and pulls a myriad of disparate facts together in a coherent and thoughtful way. Best of all, unlike much writing on beekeeping, Bill’s book comes to life due to his numerous on-site interviews with beekeepers and bee people from all over the U.S. It took Bill 4 years (and a lot of miles) to put the book together, and he did it with the skill of an investigative reporter (which he used to be).

This book belongs on every beekeeper’s shelf and deserves a wide audience among the general public. Order from A.I. Root Co., (800)
289-7668; 20% discount for 12 or more. I just ordered a dozen and will be giving some to almond growers.

In Praise of Courtliness

In his interview with beekeeping’s top dog, Bill Mares (above) used the apt adjective “courtly” to describe Richard Adee (the first time I’ve seen “courtly” and “beekeeper” in the same sentence). Although I don’t agree with much of his philosophy, I have unalloyed admiration for Mr. Adee’s courtliness.

Courtliness is a disappearing trait in U. S. society in general (and beekeeping in particular). It may be too late for some of us, but courtliness is a virtue that the younger generation should aspire to-or maybe, like charisma, you either have it or you don’t. There is likely a correlation between Mr. Adee’s success in beekeeping (and as a strong leader in the bee industry for 30+ years) and his courtliness.

Be Careful Who You Vote For

Shortly after Terri Schiavo passed away, President Bush made this surprising statement:

“The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak.”

Sounds like a typical Democrat to me. Perhaps our president has been brainwashed by bleeding-heart liberals. Who knows, maybe next he’ll start putting more money (your tax dollars)* into education like he promised earlier; or maybe rescind the tax cuts for the strongest 1% in our society and, like a Democrat, transfer this hard-earned money to the weakest. Crazy! Or, maybe it’s Christian.

*If you really want to get worked up about where your tax dollars are going (and why there’s no $ for bee research) get the book, Iraq, Inc: A Profitable Occupation.

The Answer Man

The Classroom, by Jerry Hayes, is a regular feature in the ABJ. It’s a Q&A column and because most of the questions come from hobbyist beekeepers, commercial beekeepers might ignore it. This would be a mistake as the depth and breadth of Mr. Hayes knowledge is truly impressive. There’s not a beekeeper out there who wouldn’t benefit from going back to The Classroom.

Looking Ahead

We hope to have 2006 commitments from almond growers by July-August since out-of-state beekeepers must make their plans by then. We’ll get a newsletter out in October. If you want an update on how things are going, please call either of our toll-free numbers at any time.

Best wishes for a good summer. And remember, it’s a whole new ball game. Honey production takes a back seat to almond pollination and to mite control.

Joe Traynor