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Beekeeper Newsletter – October 25, 2002

2003 Almond Pollination
The number of colonies we will need from you as of this date is given above. If, at this time, you don’t feel comfortable with this number for any reason and would like to reduce it, let us know right away. For those wanting to bring more bees, we hope to increase your numbers in the coming weeks.

As a result of our price increase, we lost 2 large growers (4200 colonies) and some older acreage was pulled out (1000 colonies). Offsetting these losses are increased numbers of colonies on young orchards and new growers.

Although its too early to tell, indications are that almond bees will be in short supply for the 2003 season. Bearing acreage is holding steady at around 530,000 acres as new acreage coming on is offset by old acreage coming out. The bee supply will likely be less due to the price of honey – some midwest beekeepers have made plans to strip the honey from their hives and either kill off the colonies or winter them in southern states. Fire ant regulations continue to discourage Texas beekeepers from coming to California.

The 2002 Almond Season
The almond crop will again be a record one, possibly breaking the billion pound mark. In spite of the huge crop, almond prices have remained stable – around $1/lb for Nonpareil, 70¢/lb for late-blooming hard-shell varieties. The Nonpareil variety is preferred by handlers because of its size, color and shape, however Nonpareil acreage has decreased over the past 15 years from 60% of the total acreage to 40%. As a result, the price diference between Nonpareil and other varieties has increased from 10¢/lb to 30¢. Late-blooming hardshell varieties offset much of this price difference by requiring fewer sprays (their hard shell protects them from worms and ants); also, some growers include late-blooming varieties in their plantings as a hedge against poor bloom weather.

Long-term Almond Outlook
Almond plantings have slacked off the last 2 or 3 years after the planting surge in the 90s. We look for almond plantings to increase over the next 5 to 10 years because almonds are one of the few crops in California (or the U.S.) that is making money. Unlike most crops, including honey, almonds have weathered global competition because climate limitations greatly restrict where almonds can be successfully grown.

Some San Joaquin valley wine grape vineyards were not harvested this year because the price offered for the grapes did not cover harvesting costs. Supplies of raisins and prunes greatly exceed demand. As a result, we will see grape and prune acreage converted to almonds. Cotton acreage in the San Joaquin valley continues to decline – from over a million acres 20 years ago to half that.

Growing urban populations and growing concern about wildlife continue to put pressure on ag water supplies. As these pressures increase, cotton, rice and possibly alfalfa acreage may disappear and California agriculture will be mainly orchards and vineyards (table grapes in the San Joaquin valley, wine grapes in Napa & Salinas valleys and vegetable crops, including melons and tomatoes, in selected areas.) Westside cotton acreage may well revert to desert.

Some California farmers have found they can make more money selling their farm water to the Los Angeles water district than they can by farming (water is shipped south via in-place canal systems). The legality of these water transfers is being challenged, but it looks like the wave of the future.

Looking Ahead to the 2003 Season
As you’ve likely heard, long-range forecasts are for a wet winter (including February) in the San Joaquin valley. When weather conditions for bee flight are marginal, growers get antsy and pay close attention to bee activity (with the perfect pollination weather this year, growers concerned themselves with other matters).

We will continue to inspect every load of bees delivered. Please don’t embarass us (and embarass yourself) by delivering substandard colonies. If, in January it looks like your bees aren’t coming up to our 8-frame standard, let us know and we will try to get replacement bees. Colonies not meeting standards will be docked.

Because our rental prices are higher than most, our growers check bee flight closer than most growers do. Our inspectors continue to go out with growers to look at colonies and we allow the grower to select the colonies they want to look at; “open that one” is a frequently heard request. Be sure you’re proud of each and every “that one”.

When grading colonies prior to taking them to almonds and you come to a “tweener”, ask yourself, “If I was an almond grower, would I pay $50+ to rent this colony?”

Supplemental Feeding
Dry conditions in many bee areas this year means bees may be more nutritionally stressed than usual. Supplemental feeding during November, December and January has been shown to increase the frame count for almonds and has become a standard practice for many beekeepers. Norm Cary (559)562-1110 will again have pollen patties available. You can purchase patties from Norm and we will deduct the cost from your first almond check.

Pat & Russell Heitkam (530)865-9562 sell 2 dry feed mixes suitable for open feeding (they also sell rain-proof feeders). David Bradshaw (559)280-7925 of Visalia is an agent for “Heitkam feed” in the San Joaquin valley. We should be able to deduct the cost of feed purchased from Heitkam or Bradshaw from your first almond check.

Norm, Pat, Russell and Dave will be at the California bee convention in Modesto, Nov. 12-14 (call 209-667-4590 for a program) and you should be able to pick up feed materials there (place your order well in advance as they need time to prepare it).

Mann Lake’s Bee Pro has proven to be a good supplemental feed and Mann Lake is now selling a patty feed. Mann Lake will have a booth at the California convention.

Tracheal and Nosema Testing
Alan Butterfield (661)792-2051 or 978-8290 will provide a testing service for tracheal mites and nosema locally. His address is 12423 Lytle Ave., McFarland, CA 93250 (about 20 miles NW of Bakersfield). Alan specializes in analysis for nematodes (a microscopic worm that feeds on plant roots) and already has the microscopes and personnel to do the tests (Eric Mussen is training Alan on this). If desired, you can leave samples at our Bakersfield office for Alan to pick up.

Jan Dormaier in Washington continues to do a superior job of tracheal and nosema testing (509) 639-2577.

Around 100 bees covered with rubbing alcohol in a screw-top plastic bottle are needed for the tests. (Norm Cary can supply plastic bottles at a nominal cost; we have a few here).

Treating for Nosema
Based on problems this past winter, many beekeepers will be treating for Nosema this fall and winter, some for the first time. We encourage you to treat at least a portion of your colonies to see if a positive response occurs. Fumidil or Fumagillin has proven effective in treating Nosema (at a cost of around $1/colony). Norm Cary has a supply of fumagillin. (Tom Glenn recommends adding fumagillin to the water given queens upon arrival in the mail).

Leave Ample Honey for Winter
With high honey prices, its tempting to strip hives of honey and feed back sugar syrup. Beekeeper observations over the years have concluded that continued syrup feeding is “hard on bees”. Honey left on the hive also acts as winter insulation, helping bees preserve their dormant or “low metabolism” state. Honey from the brood chamber is more likely to be contaminated with chemicals. Come spring, a colony left with ample honey can rapidly make up honey that could have been stripped off in the fall while a stripped hive will lag in honey production.

Put on Your Worry Hat
At a summer meeting in Ohio, Dr. Medhat Nasr said that in addition to inadequate drone numbers (from less feral bees), early supersedure is the result of stress caused by beekeeper management and chemical treatments, esp. the increased use of coumaphos . . . . coumaphos molecules build up in wax and the ventral nervous system of the queen is continually in contact with more and more of this material as she crawls over the comb. The result, according to Dr. Nasr, is that many queens appear to be “walking on fire.”

BEE CULTURE, October 2002, p. 19

The Answer Man
Have a question on bees or beekeeping? Eric Mussen, CA extension apiculturist, is the answer man for CA beekeepers (and has been rumored to answer questions from out-of-state beekeepers). You’ll usually get an answer if you drop Eric an e-mail at: ecmussen@ucdavis.edu. His phone is (530)752-0472. Your answer may already be posted in one of Eric’s newsletters at http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/faculty/mussen.

USDA has an “answer service” at http://gears.tucson.ars.ag.gov/expertforum/index.html.

Ag research and extension programs are coming under increased funding pressure. When Eric (and others) take retirement, they may not be replaced. If the ag industry wants such programs to continue, individual commodities will likely have to provide the funding.

The Honey Board
The Honey Board has done a commendable job of “getting the word out” on a limited budget, yet support for the Board is weak, as shown by the recent referendum. Many are of the “mend it, don’t end it” philosophy. A major objection to the Board is that it promotes foreign honey (it has to). CA beekeeper Kevin Roberts offered a good alternative in a Letter to the Editor:

I’ve often heard it said that a National Honey Board funded only by assessments on domestic honey sales couldn’t generate enough funds to be worth the benefits it would bring American beekeepers. Maybe so, but assessing overall beekeeping income certainly could fund a similar Board, and would bring other advantages as well.

Here in California, we produce about 31 million pounds of honey each year. Let’s assume that this results in $310,000 for our NHB each year. According to the California State Beekeeper’s Association, gross pollination income runs about $22.7 million each year, and queen breeding and miscellaneous income adds another estimated $6.0 million on top of that. Assuming that a pound of honey sells for fifty cents, the total gross beekeeping income in California is $44.2 million. If we changed our assessment structure so that we assessed ourselves only one percent of our gross beekeeping income for the Board, we in California would generate $442,000, an improvement of 43 percent over what we collect now for the NHB, without taking money from import assessments.

Extend this across the whole country, and we’re within striking distance of replacing the NHB income lost by choosing not to access imported honey. Even in states where paid pollination is uncommon, commercial income from pollination can still be substantial. After all, half the honey bees in the U.S. are in California almond orchards every February. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t outline how to collect the assessment, but this sort of thing is already done for some American commodity groups. We’re not reinventing the wheel here.

The advantages to American beekeepers of an industry promotion and research board that focuses on domestic honey, pollination, queen breeding research, and the general well-being of the entire U.S. beekeeping industry are obvious. As long as imported honey funds half the NHB, it is neither legal nor ethical to do so. Assessing gross beekeeping income and canceling the import assessments are the clearest way to free our Board to make the necessary changes.

ABJ May 2001, p. 313

Honey Book
Sales of my book Honey – The Gourmet Medicine have been disappointing. Although over 1000 books have been sold, the cost of advertising has greatly exceeded the sales figures (there are still 17,000 books stored at BookMasters in Ohio). The book is one blurb away from “taking off” (as are many other books; if anyone has an “in” with Oprah or Don lmus, let me know). I recently made a deal with a health book distributor to handle the book. If every beekeeper could spread the word (and the books) as some have, it would help in promoting honey.

Keep in touch with family and friends this winter by sending them a postcard. A free postcard is enclosed (additional ones sent on request).

Advertising Ups Sales, Sales Up Advertising Budgets

Commodity $ Sales $ Advertising [annual]
Celebrex 3.1 billion 130 million
Vioxx 2.6 billion 135 million
Gatorade 2.2 billion 130 million (est.)
U.S. Honey 0.2 billion 2 million (est.)

No one ever heard of Celebrex or Vioxx a few years ago or Gatorade 20 years ago, while everyone has heard about honey. Read the pages of “CAUTION” statements following a magazine ad for celebrex and it makes you wonder why anyone would take it.

If the honey industry had a Celebrex ad budget, think of the possibilities.

Funding Honey Research
10 years ago, glucosamine was touted to relieve arthritis. A book was written on glucosamine. Anecdotal tales and testimonials appeared, followed by carefully worded ads for glucosamine supplements. The U.S. medical community said there was absolutely no evidence showing any benefits from glucosamine and discouraged patients from trying it (some doctors ridiculed its use).

Then studies in other countries (in Europe) showed that glucosamine does indeed relieve arthritis. Based on these studies, some doctors cautiously recommended glucosamine to their patients on a “can’t hurt, might help” basis. Recently, the National Institute of Health set aside $14 million to study glucosamine. Results of this study won’t be out for a year (or 3) but with the imprimatur (or cover) of the NIH, most U.S. doctors now advise their patients to try glucosamine. Glucosamine sales in the U.S. now exceed $1 billion annually.

Why not get the NIH to spend 2 or 3 million $ (chump change nowadays) to study the medicinal benefits of honey? Write your congressman. Send her a postcard.

Barry Birkey
Barry Birkey of West Chicago, IL is a computer whiz who also keeps a few bee colonies. After the demise of Andy Nachbaur (and his website), Barry preserved some of Andy’s postings and added new ones that give voice to a number of bee people, including Erik Osterland, Pedro Rodriguez, Ed & Dee Lusby, Adrian Wenner and myself. Barry’s website is www.beesource.com/pov/index.htm with good links to other sites.

Last Newsletter for Some
Barry Birkey (see above) has been posting my newsletters on his website; you can access them directly at www.beesource.com/pov/traynor/index.htm. Printed copies of this newsletter are mailed to all beekeepers that bring bees to us. It also goes to “some others” that are interested in bees and pollination. If you are in the “some others” category, this will be your last newsletter unless you request that we send you one by mail.

Alert Codes Defined
A recent poll showed that Americans are still not aware of the alert codes put out by our government. As a public service we’re reprinting a recent summary:
Red (“Severe Condition”): Stay home. Eat only canned foods. Peek at your neighbors through closed curtains and report their movements. Prepare candles. If you are a religious person, now is the time to do something religious.

Orange (“High Condition”): Move slowly about your neighborhood taking notes. Report your employer to the local authorities. Avoid cable television installers and other people with wires. Frequently check your own shoes.

Yellow (“Elevated Condition”): Move about as you normally would, except look behind you frequently. Accost all people with shopping bag. In restaurants, never order “the special.” If your natural laugh sounds alarming in any way, do not laugh.

Blue (“Guarded Condition”): Act normally but avoid crowded places. Refrain from playing the oud in public. Memorize your escape routes from all public buildings. For practice, escape. Spend the day in an open area observing pigeons. Take notes.

Green (“Low Condition”): Time to make plans to open that Iraqi restaurant you’ve been dreaming of. Take a plane almost anywhere. Play mumblety-peg in public. Embrace strangers in the street and tell them, “It’s good to be alive.”

Jon Carroll, S.F. Chronicle, 3/18/02

Stay in Touch
We are aware that bee colony condition can change during the winter months. Keep us posted on the condition of your bees. Call either of our toll-free (877) numbers anytime. As we get into January, use the 896- phone # for calls; if its busy, use the 356-#; we have 2 phone lines in our office; the 356-# is the same as our main number (661)327-263l and we like to leave this line open for grower calls.

If you need to reduce your numbers, give us ample notice.

Enjoy the upcoming Holiday Season.


Joe Traynor

SCIENTIFIC AG CO.
P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303

Toll-free number:
(877) 896-5846
(877) 356-5846

Office Located at:
1734 D Street, Suite #2
Bakersfield, California
24 Hr. Phone (661) 327-2631
Email: jotraynor@aol .com