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Beekeeper Newsletter – April 10, 2011

2012 Prices
Our 2012 pollinations prices will remain the same. There was significant price-cutting by beekeepers this year and we anticipate the same in 2012. There will always be price-cutting but almond growers are becoming more bee-savvy and most realize that a low price often equates with sub-par colonies.

Fungicide Sprays
Several of you called to inform us that growers were spraying fungicides in the middle of a warm day. Most growers try to time fungicide applications when there is little or no pollen in the orchard (pink bud or petal fall) or apply fungicides when there is no bee flight (later afternoon or at night). Eric Mussen gives a good discussion of bee-fungicide issues in his Nov/Dec 2008 Newsletter; do a Search for UC Apiculture News then click on the Nov/Dec. 2008 Newsletter.

We sent the accompanying March 21st Newsletter to our growers, partly out of frustration that many growers wouldn’t release their bees in spite of the fact that no almond pollen remained in their orchards. Also, because maybe, just maybe, not all fungicide applications are needed (at least, not in Kern County).

Because I haven’t heard from any of our beekeepers that fungicides are causing significant problems, I must conclude that they’re not. This contrasts with beekeeper reports from further north where a number of beekeepers feel they are being badly hurt by fungicides. Possible explanations are: more fungicide use as you go north, spraying when there is more exposed pollen, and possible interactions with chemicals in the hive that greatly increase the toxicity of these chemicals. It would be prudent of make sure there are no mite-control chemicals in your hives during almond bloom. The new formic acid strips can kill brood and temporarily set back colonies. If you can live with such a setback, you should be able to live with a fungicide setback.

Eric Mussen’s Newsletter
Information on how to subscribe to Eric’s Newsletter is given on the page mentioned above. While you’re on this page, check out the March/April 2011 Newsletter where Eric makes a plea for funding.

Times Change
We’re at the 50th anniversary of President John Kennedy’s inauguration where he spoke the oft-quoted words “Ask not, what your country can do for your, bur what you can do for your country.” No politician today would dare utter similar words; and we probably won’t hear them in the future until the current entitlement generation passes through.

Tea Party Alert
If any beekeepers are members of the Tea Party (and I don’t know of any that are) they should note the recent embarrassment endured by many newly elected Tea Party congressmen when they were asked to resolve the government $ they and their families received (amounting to millions in farm subsidies over the years) with their stand against questionable government spending. Beekeepers that receive CCD or honey-money and are also member of the Tea Party are faced with several choices, all of them difficult: return the $ to the government or resign from the Tea Party and register as Democrats. Most Tea Party congressmen have chosen to tap dance.

Many Tea Party members are hard-working stiffs who have been conned into thinking it’s a really, really good idea, in these times of economic stress, to cut taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans and continue giving tax breaks to corporations. The con men perpetrating this fraud are usually in that top 2% or are congress people beholden to the $ they receive from corporations and the top 2%. Corporate lobbyists far out-number congressmen in D.C. and its not an overstatement to say that lobbyist run our country. (To be fair, a number of our wealthiest 2% — Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Stewart Resnick, and many others get it — they donate multi-millions to worthy causes.

The Best and the Brightest
General Electric has 975 lawyers who spend much of their time searching for loopholes in the Tax Code (GE pays no corporate taxes). Many of our brightest young people are drawn to careers where the most money is — financial institutions and corporate lawyering — fields that leave little lasting benefit to society. Japan, China, India put a premium on Science, which is why many think that China will surpass the U.S. as a world power.

The Apiary Research Commission
When a proposal was made to have the CA Apiary Board set up a Commission to raise research $, I was skeptical, based on the past history of lack of beekeeper support for research. Then Roy Brant gave a great presentation at the November CSBA convention giving details of the Commission, and a number of prominent beekeepers in the audience voiced their support of the Commission. These were all CA beekeepers, however, and the fate of the Commission will be decided by out-of-state beekeepers. Some out-of-staters feel that CA is making a power play to get more money. Not true. A CA-based research tax is simply the most efficient way to get research $ from commercial U.S. beekeepers. This money will be spread across the U.S. and will benefit all beekeepers. The collected $ will be overseen by Commission members composed of beekeepers, including one out-of-state beekeeper. The assessment (tax) set by the Commission cannot exceed $1/colony and can be as low as 1 cent.

The American Bee Federation voted in Galveston not to support the Commission, probably due to insufficient information. ABF president, David Mendes, supports the Commission as do many prominent ABF members — and AHPA members.

Now is the time for beekeepers to get in step with other ag commodities and provide significant funding to tackle the many problems facing the bee industry. When it comes to raising money via taxes, don’t follow the timid example of our current congress and administration — to kick the can down the road and let future (more enlightened?) generations solve today’s problems.

Beekeeper Registration Forms (for Commission Referendum) You need to file a Registration Form by May 30th to vote in the upcoming Referendum to implement the Apiary Research Commission. Forms are available at www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/bees

Research Tax Reimbursement
If the Apiary Research Commission is established we will reimburse you for the entire tax that is levied on the colonies you supply to us in a given year. We can do this because we are already using $1/colony from almond pollination collections for beekeeper donations to research. If you rent bees elsewhere, adding a $1/colony research surcharge isn’t going to break an almond pollination deal.

Sell Your Honey in China!
Its certainly possible to sell a quality honey in China. According to Robin Wang, director of SMH International, a China-based marketing firm “Chinese consumers consider nutrition benefits, food safety, and a healthy life-style. They prefer to import food products.” March 19, 2011 pistachio article in Western Farm Press www.westernfarmpress.com

A major reason for the robust health of the almond and pistachio industries are the markets they have developed in China. (Sioux Bee, take note).

Correction
In our last Newsletter we said the U.S. is spending $1 billion a week in Afghanistan. The actual figure is $2 billion a week.

And the Iraq war (debacle?) is closing in on $3 trillion in costs. Chalk up another trillion or two to the Wall Street Wizards. What to do with all this red ink? The current remedy is to make big cuts in education and government services — but for gosh sakes, don’t raise taxes!

Ask not….. doesn’t float any more.

Eliminate “Fall” from Your Vocabulary
The term Fall Treatment for Mites has created problems for some beekeepers. Time and again when we see almond bees collapse in January its because the beekeeper got his “fall” mite treatment on too late – in September/October instead of July/August.

Randy Oliver says it best in the April ABJ: “Simply knocking the mites back in fall is no longer adequate for successful colony wintering. Mite management must begin by mid-summer at the latest.”

Or, as Kim Flottum said earlier: “Take care of the bees that take care of the bees that go into winter.”

Summer mite treatment does create a host of management problems: prematurely knocking the hives back to doubles cuts short a honey flow and can plug out the brood nest, thus reducing populations of young bees needed for successful wintering, unless individual frames are removed; lots more work and lots less honey, which is why beekeepers are reluctant to do it. Those that do usually come out ahead in the long run: they are able to qualify a much higher % of their bees for almond contracts, with the added almond income more than making up for the lost honey income and the extra management expenses.