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Beekeeper Newsletter – March 11, 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 Season

First, THANKS!! I feel humbled by the way (almost) everyone came through this year, without complaining about our sub-standard prices. Your efforts showed our growers a lot and certainly gives us a lot of credibility when we raise prices for 2006.

As far as prices, there were colonies rented for $100 (or more), but not as many as you might think. And some of the beekeepers that charged top prices are getting some blowback. In one case, a grower told the beekeeper he wouldn’t pay $100 unless the beekeeper could provide names of growers that were also paying $100. The beekeeper couldn’t come up with any names, so I sent him a few.

In another case, the grower had the county inspect the bees and wasn’t happy with the report and is refusing to pay the beekeeper.

A few beekeepers went back on their original agreement with their growers and informed the growers in January that the price would be $20 higher and they’d have to accept field-run bees, take it or leave it. Shame on them, and good on you!

2006 Season

Although we got burned this year by setting our prices too early, we will again set next year’s prices in May.

We’ve informed some of our larger growers of the impending price hike and, of course, they don’t like it. Our 2006 prices are approaching “gouging” territory from a grower’s point of view (the term has already been used by some of our growers.) It will take a lot of work on our part to shed the gouging label, but we are prepared for this task.

Enclosed is a form for you to sign for the 2006 season. We can’t sign up any growers (or continue our current agreements with them) until we get commitments from beekeepers for 2006. We gave careful thought to our 2005 prices and set them at what we thought would be high enough levels to cover increased fuel cost, mite control expenses, etc. However, we also gave careful thought to our 2005 prices and were wrong.

It is possible that our 2006 price will be too low. It is also possible that it will be too high (although we won’t lower it) if the bee supply increases due to beekeepers increasing their colony counts. Also, the demand could drop if growers start using less colonies per acre (some of our growers will be using less colonies next year if they get a good crop this year). Please give careful thought before signing and returning the enclosed form. If not enough forms are returned, we will search for bees elsewhere; if we don’t find them elsewhere, we will come back to you and ask what we should do, or we will cancel all our grower agreements and tell our growers that we won’t know what the prices and/or supply will be until October, or later; we’d rather not do this as its more work for us (and a lot of uncertainty for us and for you).

I feel you are better off signing up now as I believe we can get commitments from our rowers at these prices (although it will take some work). If we wait, and the bee numbers do increase significantly this year, we might be forced to give growers a lower price. At any rate, it’s your decision. Please give it careful thought. If you do sign up for 2006, be conservative on the number of colonies you can provide-don’t over-commit as some beekeepers did this year.

The 2005 almond crop looks good at this time although we won’t know for sure for a few more weeks. Almond prices should remain good this year as the pipeline is empty. After this year, almond prices could come down as new acreage comes on line.

High bee rental costs are forcing the almond industry to put more effort into developing both self-pollinating almonds and almond varieties that bloom in March. I’m convinced that the answer is for all growers to cut back 1/2 to 1 colony per acre, using 8+ frame bees; some growers are moving in that direction. How much they move will determine how many colonies we rent next year.

Based on the sharp spike in bee rental prices in January this year, some beekeepers feel they can get $150 to $200 for field-run bees in 2005 if they hold out till the last minute-a clear entry into gouging territory. Let’s hope these beekeepers get what they deserve.

Thymol

You’ve heard of thymol for varroa treatment, and Frank Eischen (Weslaco Lab) is enthused about Apigard, a thymol-gel product that will be out later this year (hopefully by May, probably later). Dr. Eischen says that Apigard will be “expensive” (as is the thymol product, Api Life Var). A number of beekeepers have their own thymol recipies; here’s one from Gib Earl and Jim Malsch (WA) who got it from a Florida beekeeper:

1# Thymol crystals (from EverydayMehndi)
1 gal. Canola oil
16 oz.. Tea Tree oil (Liberty Naturals)
Soak drink coasters in heated mixture
3 coasters/2 double deeps, every 7 days
Note: Thymol gives an off-taste to honey.

Cells

Steve and Josie Grigg, Porterville, have queen cells available at $2.50 each. (559) 781-8384.

Theft

So far, no bee thefts from orchards. The sign we plastered on your hives probably helped. Also, many growers secured their bees with ditches or cables. Some had a person patrol the orchards at night. We did lose a bee tarp. Came to load up a TX semi and the tarp was gone from where it was left in the orchard.

Joe Traynor