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Beekeeper Newsletter – March 18, 2003

Bees released
All bees have been released (except cherries). On March 21, we will tell the county(s) to remove our locations from their records (for pesticide notification) unless you tell us differently.

2003 pollination season
One of our growers keeps track of bee hours during almond bloom; bee hours are defined as conditions during daylight that are greater than 55ºF, winds less than 15 mph and no rain:

BEE HOURS – 4 YEAR SUNMARY

2000

2001

2002

2003
North of Sacramento

30

25

59

44
Madera to Sacramento

34

38

66

54
Bakersfield to Madera

36

47

75

58

Crop (millions of lbs)

695

825

1073

850 (est.)

2002 pollination weather was the best I’ve ever seen, with most days above 60º, some above 70º. This year we were lucky to get to 60º on many days and most “bee hours” were between 55 and 60. Almond prices remain good, and barring a late frost, the 2003 almond crop will be a good one.

Its just a matter of time
With 1 or 2 exceptions, overall bee strength was excellent this year. The growers we took out to look at colonies were impressed when we opened hives and could show them 2 boxes of bees. Price is a minor concern with bees like this. Beekeepers that used fumadil for the first time reported good results (stronger colonies, less dwindle). There was one common denominator among beekeepers with the best bees – they all spent considerable time working and caring for their bees.

A Giant has left us
Homer Park passed away in early March. Although up in years, Homer’s passing was a shock to many as the man seemed indestructible. Homer established a solid reputation as one of the top beekeeper-queen breeders in the U.S. Homer believed in research and, with no fanfare over the years, gave generously of his time, money, bees and equipment. Homer was a real presence at any beekeeper meeting he attended and when he expressed his opinion on a subject, the room became silent. Homer had a quiet air of authority that commanded instant respect. “What does Homer think?” was often the final word on a number of issues. Homer’s list of accomplishments over the years is one few beekeepers can match.

Chemicals found in honey
Sulfathiazole, or sulfa, was found in U.S. honey in England and the honey was taken off the market. There is word out that our FDA will be focusing on honey and testing samples for a number of chemicals. Keep your brood chamber frames separate from honey supers at all times (consider putting permanent ID marks on brood frames). FDA interest in honey is another reason not to kill the current Honey Board; see enclosed sheet for other reasons. The U.S. bee industry needs a single spokesperson to immediately address chemical and other issues as they arise.

Conventional wisdom (CW) switch
Not too many years ago, the CW was that beekeepers that took their bees to the Imperial Valley in the summer were entering The Valley of Death. Widespread cotton spraying took a big enough toll to make it difficult to build strong bees for almonds. Today cotton spraying (and acreage) is minimal and the Imperial Valley is considered The Valley of Life because extreme summer temperatures wipe out tracheal mites.

Bee thief caught
Nearly 300 stolen bee colonies were recovered from a Merced county almond orchard early this month. A county bee inspector noticed too many different type hives in an orchard where he was conducting a colony strength inspection. Most, but not all of the bees have been returned to their owners. The thief will be arrested soon. Call detective Frank Swiggart for more information (209)385-7552.

Citrus thrips (short course)
Almost all citrus growers in the San Joaquin valley spray for thrips control during bloom. Regulations prevent growers from using highly toxic insecticides from 10% bloom to 90% petal fall (a spray moratorium period) but significant bee losses can occur on either side of this moratorium.

Peel away the petals on a citrus flower and you will usually see a number of thrips scurrying around. Most of these thrips are flower thrips that feed on pollen and nectar and do no damage to citrus. Sometimes citrus thrips are found in flowers, and these thrips can cause considerable economic damage – citrus thrips feed on the rinds of tiny developing oranges leaving large scars on the rind when the oranges mature. The damage is cosmetic only (the oranges taste fine) but the result is a lower grade of fruit. Flower thrips and citrus thrips are indistinguishable to the naked eye but can be identified with a hand lens (citrus thrips are oval shaped, flower thrips are cigar shaped).

Growers that hire independent entomologists to do the time consuming job of monitoring citrus thrips spray much less than other growers.

On Thursday, May 1, Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell (U.C., Riverside) will give a presentation, How to Tell Citrus Thrips from Flower Thrips from 10 to 11 AM, at U.C.’s Lindcove Station, (559) 592-2408. Go east of Visalia on Hwy 198 for about 15 miles, turn left on Merton Rd.; look for signs directing you to the station.

She sells queen cells far from the shore
Steve Grigg and his wife Josie sell queen cells every year at this time until April 10 ($2 each). Past buyers have been satisfied. Contact
Josie at (559) 781-8384 (Porterville).

File for future reference
” . . .the hypopharyngeal glands of the worker bees cannot produce larval food if bees are fed sugar syrup alone for prolonged periods of time.”
Christine Peng, et al., J. Econ. Entom. 77:632-636 (1984)

Things look great, but . . .
I’m a pessimist by nature and can always find a cloud behind every silver lining (pessimists are never disappointed when something bad happens – they saw it coming; when something good happens, they’re ecstatic). Prices for honey should stay high for a good part of the year, and the honey crop outlook is good. So what’s the downside? Complacency!

Notre Dame football coach Tyrone Willingham reflected on the team’s recent success:
You always have to move forward, especially if what happened is good. The good and the bad can be just as problematic. When good things happen, your head swells and you stop moving forward. When bad things happen, you put your head down and don’t look forward. The key is to look forward.

Thanks!
The beekeepers that bring us bees – you – are the biggest selling point for our service and are the reason for any success our business has enjoyed. I’m well aware of the time and effort it takes to come up with strong bee colonies for almonds and we impress on our growers that its not an easy task. Thanks much – and keep looking forward.

- Joe Traynor

SCIENTIFIC AG CO.
OFFICE: 1734 D STREET, SUITE #2
MAILING: P.0. BOX 2144
BAKERSFIELD, CA 93303
(661) 327-2631
Toll Free: (877) 356-5846 & 896-5846