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Beekeeper Newsletter – April 21, 2008

2008 Season
Although pollination and nut set was excellent, there has bee significant nutlet drop on some varieties. Nut set on the Nonpareil variety is always erratic and appears low this year (Nonpareil comprises 40+ % of the state almond acreage). The first (subjective) crop forecast will be on May 9 (available from the Almond Board at www.almondsarein.com

2009 Season
We will be setting our prices for the 2009 season next month and will send you a letter advising you on this. Growers are caught in a cost-price squeeze with lower almond prices and significantly higher production costs, esp. for chemicals and fertilizers. Your input on prices is appreciated. Let us know what you think.

Research $
We supported Frank Eischen’s work this year with $3400 in labor help. Once we finish collecting this year’s bee rentals we will donate addition $ to research to make a total of $2/colony on 34,500+ colonies rented — $1 will come from growers, $1 from us. If you’re having a good year, consider donating $1/colony to one or more of the following:

Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Fund, c/o Dr. Lynn Kimsey, Chair, Entomology Dept., U.C., Davis, CA 95615

Project ApisM, 1750 Dayton Rd., Chico, CA 95928

CSBA Research Fund, 7220 E. Grayson Rd., Hughson, CA 95326

Randy Oliver, 14744 Meadow Dr., Grass Valley, CA 95949

The latter 2 entities have the least overhead. Project ApisM is the best organized and the most efficient in channeling research $ to where they are needed most in a timely manner.

When making a donation, specify that you want the money to go solely to research and if you have a pet project, specify that you want your $ to go to that project.

Paramount Farming, the largest renter of bees in the world, made a generous offer to their beekeepers: if beekeepers kick in a dollar for research, Paramount will match that dollar. To date, only a very few Paramount beekeepers have stepped up to the plate with their dollar. If you know Paramount beekeepers, ask them if they’ve kicked in their dollar yet (we’ll do the same).

Fiscal Data
Funding of USDA bee work … $13 million/year
Funding of Iraq war …………..$10 billion/month
2008 Tax rebate …………… $117 billion
Total cost of Iraq war ……….. $3+ trillion

Consider reducing the tax burden of your grandchildren by returning your tax rebate to D.C.

Here’s a trenchant quote: “Its high time agriculture does its own research with its own money, financed by its own profits, and quits looking for a taxpayer handout.” Mark Dickson in April 2008 California Farmer.

The High Cost of Living
Eliminating risk in life should allow an animal species to better survive, and to pass on those survival genes to subsequent generations. It doesn’t work that way because eliminating risk exerts too high a price. Scientist Raphael Sagarin put it this way:

“Organisms inherently understand that there is risk in life. The idea that we can eliminate these risks would be selected against quickly in the natural world since any organism that tried to do so would not have enough resources left for reproduction or feeding itself.” February 9, New Scientist, p.49

Take home message: If you want to destroy a powerful enemy, be patient, and allow him to destroy himself by expending all his resources towards eliminating risk. And yes, of course, this also applies to0 organizations and countries.

And, it might be a good idea to teach your grandchildren Chinese. It could come in handy as China assumes more and more of our debt and takes over more and more of our country.

Mendes Smashes More Records
Those that saw the CCD panel at the National meeting in Sacramento this January had to be impressed with David Mendes, newly elected ABF Vice President and Pam board member. Mendes held forth for 30+ minutes – all good stuff – setting a time record for a beekeeping panel member. In February, at a large gathering of beekeepers at Mike Mulligan’s place in Shafter, Mendes expounded for over an hour on the connection between neonicotinoids and CCD (after Dave Hackenberg warmed up the crowd he had also done in Sacramento).

Later that same week, Mendes attended Breakfast with Frank [Eischen] with a passel of beekeepers at the local IHOP. These annual, daily confabs during the almond season start at 6AM and are usually over at 7, occasionally lasting until 7:30. At 7:30 this particular morning, Mendes was just getting warmed up so, after getting the evil eye from the waitress, the discussion resumed in the parking lot where Dave continued enlightening the group with his views – again, all good stuff – until around 8:30 when beekeepers started peeling off. This record should last a long time.

In March, Dave made an appointment to visit with Joe MacIlvaine, President of Paramount Farming. Mr. MacIlvaine has a low tolerance for talk that is devoid of useful information and his one-on-one talks rarely last more than 10 minutes. Mendes’ visit lasted 1.5 hours and Dave asked me the next day, “Joe, why don’t more beekeepers talk with almond growers and explain how things are?” I said “Dave, not all beekeepers are like you.”

Pollen Nation – The Movie
Those that attended the Sacramento meeting in January are aware of the several film crews getting footage for documentaries on honey bees – a hot topic with the recent stress on the recent stress, CCD. Singeli Agnew and Joshua Fisher started work on their 25 minute film Pollen Nation in 2006, well before the current hullabaloo. Agnew and Fisher are (were) in the graduate journalism program at U.C., Berkeley and put together their film on a shoestring budget. The end result is a surprisingly professional piece of work with a great original soundtrack.

The film features several U.S. beekeeping stalwarts, Jeff Anderson, Dave Hackenberg, George Hansen and Dave Mendes with just the right dose of scientific input from marvelous Marla Spivak. A testament to the skills of the film makers is that they condensed their hours-long interview with Dave Mendes into an information-packed 1 minute segment. The film has Jeff Anderson reprising his role in the May, 1993 National Geographic feature with cameras following him on his trek from Minnesota to California. We’re purchasing 60 DVDs of the film to give to growers. You can order the DVD ($20) at www.pollennationthemovie.com Consider purchasing some to give to your growers and to land owners along with your location rent.

Another Good Documentary
There’s another good documentary, Body or War that should be playing now at your local Landmark theatre. The film follows Iraq veteran, Tomas Young, as he maintains a surprisingly active life style in spite of being paralyzed from the chest down. Mr. Young volunteered for duty in Afghanistan and was surprised to wind up in Iraq. He wasn’t in Iraq more than a week when his ill-armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, changing his life forever.

Mr. Young is a totally unpretentious young man from the heartland of our country, and the way he is coping is inspirational. Mr. Young lives in very modest circumstances with few material possessions, yet when the producers of the film gave him $100,000 for his participation, he turned the entire sum over to IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). Now that is giving – and it could also be deemed a truly Christian act.

Twin morals here:

1. Your leaders have more credibility if their sons and daughters go to war along with yours.

2. If you leaders have had no war experience, be skeptical about their justifications for a pre-emptive war.

It is noteworthy that those responsible for our Iraq adventure, Addington, Cheney, Feith, Perle, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz …… and President Bush, have no combat experience, and that Colin Powell, the only one in the higher levels of government with war experience, expressed serious reservations about invading Iraq. Unfortunately, Powell was badly outnumbered by those that could be considered draft dodgers.

Another telling Iraq documentary, No Way Out, is now available on DVD.

Beekeeping Islands
Its tough to maintain mite-resistant genes in an outfit. As a New Zealand article in the January Speedy Bee stated:

“Normally, the ‘resistance’ levels reach only about 20% because the ‘resistance’ genes are constantly watered down through interbreeding.”

New Zealand worker, Mark Goodwin, is trying to circumvent this problem by transporting instrumentally inseminated (II) queens to an isolated island to build up mite-resistant populations.

Some beekeepers have locations that could be classified as “inland islands” – sites where there are no other bees within 3+ miles. Dave Ellingson used such an “island” in southeast Texas to build up populations of Minnesota Hygienic stock. If you have an island location, consider using II queens at that site. And get queens from queen breeders that are using the same technique (as many are).

Queen Age
It has been well established that queens held for 28 days in nuc boxes at the queen yard have significantly better acceptance than those held for 14 to 17 days. The higher pheromone levels in the older queens is the reason for their better acceptance. Ask your queen supplier how much more you’d have to pay to get 28-day old queens. Dean Spellman says “I would gladly pay $20 for a 28-day-old queen over a 17-day queen any time.” (Bee Culture, April 2008, p. 8).

As we tell our almond growers, “you get what you pay for”. 28-day-old queens won’t become commonplace until beekeepers demand them.

Chinese Pollen being Recalled
The USDA has announced a recall of Chinese pollen used as bee feed. Glory Bee has sent out notices that they will give refunds and pay shipping costs for all returned products containing pollen from China. Beekeepers using Chinese pollen in their patties haven’t had a problem, possibly because they have the pollen irradiated after if arrives from China before they use it.

Look for a shortage of pollen patties this fall-winter; and for an increase in the sales of Mega Bee.

Consider trapping your own pollen this spring-summer and/or lining up a pollen supply from another source, including Canada. In any case, line up your supplemental feeding program well ahead of time.

Watch those Mites – and Nosema
As your colony populations build up in May and June, remember that it is likely that varroa populations are building right along with the bees. Treat early and treat often enough to keep mites at low enough levels so that your fall treatment will be effective. And don’t neglect Nosema control.

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You
Beekeepers that supply a good product to almond growers – this means you – will be in demand in 2009 and in subsequent years. You will likely be courted by growers – if they can find you.

I still feel that our program is the best for first-class beekeepers and that our program of showcasing your bees to growers eliminates any possible complaints about the product you provide.

Look for our next Newsletter in May.

Joe Traynor