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Beekeeper Newsletter – July 16, 2012

Current Almond and Bee Status

We have signed up most of our almond growers for the 2013 season, and, to date no grower has dropped us in spite of our $6/colony price increase. The current 2012 almond crop estimate is for 2.1 billion lbs — another record, due mainly do an additional 20,000 bearing acres; per acre yields will be down slightly. Almond prices are holding at around $2/lb for Nonpareils; hardshells are around $1.60/lb.. The gap between softshell and hardshell prices is increasing because the major China and India almond markets demand in-shell softshells due to their easier shelling by hand. New almond plantings are almost exclusively softshells.

Protein Power from Pollen

The protein and amino acid content of a number of different pollens is given in 2 tables in the March 2012 American Bee Journal, p.254 (copy enclosed for those that get the snail-mail form of this newsletter). Two interesting figures from the tables: the low (14%) protein content of blueberry pollen (could have a negative effect on bees that spend significant time in blueberries) and the relatively high (21%) protein content of alfalfa pollen. Alfalfa is a prolific pollen producer due to the millions of flowers per acre (if allowed to bloom profusely, as for alfalfa seed production); alfalfa likely produces more pollen than the roughly 5 lbs/acre produced by an almond orchard. Honey bees collect very little alfalfa pollen because it takes so darn long to get a load (probably 20X as long as it takes to get a load of almond pollen). Also, once the alfalfa flower is tripped (to release the pollen) it stops producing nectar, so honey bees have a vested interest in not collecting alfalfa pollen. Beekeepers don’t like to see pollen-collecting wild bees around alfalfa because they stop the honey-flow when they collect pollen.

Honey bees, surrounded by alfalfa, will fly 2 or 3 miles to get pollen from an easier source rather than undertaking the arduous task of collecting alfalfa pollen; in contrast, leaf-cutter and alkali bees thrive on alfalfa pollen.

Don’t get carried away with protein content, as tests in the 1970s showed that bees suffer when fed very high (50%) protein diets.

Start Supplemental Feeding by September

You want a hatch of young, long-lived bees as you enter the fall months. Start supplemental feeding by September for best overwintering results, unless you’re lucky enough to have a fall pollen source such as rabbit brush. Nutra-bee is the preferred feed for a number of successful beekeeping operations.

Varroa Control

Varroa populations peak out along with bee brood at this time of year (and varroa peek out shortly thereafter). Many beekeepers treat in July rather than waiting until September. Taktic (amitraz) is currently not available. Two vet suppliers have had Taktic on back order for months but don’t know when they will get it: (800)521-5767 and (800)419-9524. If you’ve been using Taktic for a few years, don’t count on low-dose Apivar (amitraz) strips to be effective.

Varroa-resistant queens are only effective if mated with varroa-resistant drones. Hopefully, there will come a day when the U.S. will be saturated with both varroa-resistant queens and drones.

Get the latest on best management practices (BMPs) at www.projectapism.org and www.beeinformed.org

The Swaziland Bee Project

Looking for a good cause? They don’t come much better than Clint & Janice Walker’s Swaziland partnership. Send donations to Walker Honey Farm, Swazi Bee Fund, 8060 E. US Hwy 190, Rogers, TX 76569. For more information, do a Search for Swaziland Beekeeping Project or contact Clint at Clint@WalkerHoneyFarm.com

Bill Mares – The R-Man from Vermont

Vermont beekeeper Bill Mares has been aptly dubbed by his peers as a Renaissance Man – a person well versed in a wide array of subjects. Bill’s book, Bees Besieged, enjoyed wide circulation in the beekeeping community a few years ago and made the general public aware of the problems facing beekeepers. Bill has authored a number of other books on a wide variety of topics. His latest, 3:14 and OUT compiles his 3+ minute segments on Vermont Public Radio. Each segment tackles a major (usually current) topic and boils it down to one and a half pages, a formidable task when one considers that others have written lengthy articles, even books, on the same subjects. Buy the book for an entertaining experience and you’ll likely learn something along the way. Bill is currently president of the Eastern Apicultural Society (and the Vermont Beekeepers Association) and will preside of the 2012 EAS meeting in Burlington, Vermont, August 13th to 17th.

Good Book, Good Cause

The Beekeeper’s Lament (aka the John Miller saga) by Hannah Nordhaus has received excellent reviews from a number of national publications and is selling briskly. Consider buying multiple copies, as I have, to give to almond and honey clients. As an extra bonus, for each book purchased, $5 goes to Project ApisM for bee research.

Another Good Book

California author and health guru, Cal Orey, has extended her Healing Power series of books with her latest, The Healing Power of Honey (previous titles covered Vinegar, Olive Oil and Chocolate). Her honey book would make a great gift (and sales tool) for your honey customers.

Muscat Ramble

The flavorful Muscat grape is competing with almonds for land in the San Joaquin Valley. Moscato wine, made from Muscats, has become wildly popular due to its reasonable price and appealing taste. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, don’t like paying more than $6 for a bottle of wine and are able to endure cutting remarks from your more sophisticated wine-drinking friends (Friends don’t let friends drink White Zinfandel/Moscato) you’ll enjoy Moscato wine.

Two on Two

Two of our more knowledgeable bee people, Jerry Hayes and Randy Oliver, tackle two controversial topics in the July ABJ – Monsanto’s GM crops and neonicotinoid pesticides, shedding light, rather than heat on the subjects.

Scope it Out, Save $

Having access to a microscope and using Randy Oliver’s Quick-Squash method for determining Nosema treatment levels can save you $ by avoiding unnecessary fumagillin treatments (see Feb. 2012 ABJ which can be accessed at Randy’s website www.scientificbeekeeping.com )

More than Montana?

The al-Queda magazine Inspire encourages readers to set fires in Montana’s national forests and urges them to set wildfires “in the valleys of Montana where the population increases rapidly” High Country News, May 28, 2012.

Knowledge Is Power

Knowing the viruses that are (or are not) affecting your bees helps in management decisions. Dave Wick offer virus identification at a nominal cost; see www.bvs-inc.us

Manuka, Manuka

You’ve heard of the medicinal properties of Manuka honey. Recent studies show that oil from Manuka trees can be an effective weed killer (both pre and post-emergence) and has great potential as a natural herbicide. See Manuka Oil, a Natural Herbicide by Franck Dayan in the October-December issue of Weed Science; available at www.wssajournals.org

Hey, Monsanto – how about scattering Manuka plantations across the U.S., selling Manuka oil to organic farmers and allowing beekeepers access to your trees?

Cautionary Note: There are different strains of Manuka; honey from some has far greater medicinal value than others; the same my hold true for Manuka oil as an herbicide.

Stay in Touch

I realize that no beekeeper, in this age of CCD, can predict how his bees will look like in February, but keep us posted on how both you and your bees are doing.

- Joe Traynor