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Beekeeper Newsletter – October 25, 2003

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

Office Located at 1734 D Street, Suite #2
Bakersfield, California
24 Hr. Phone (661) 327-2631
Toll-free: (877) 356-5846, 896-5846

1099 Forms
Your 1099 form for 2003 is enclosed. Please advise us of any change or error, esp. for your Tax ID# and address.

2004 Almond Pollination
The number of colonies we will need from you as of October 25 is given above. For those that can bring more colonies, we hope to increase this number as we sign up additional growers in the coming weeks.

The 2003 almond crop will fall short of 2002′s record crop by about 15%. Almond prices have risen by about 15% in recent months so most almond growers are happy.

Almond acreage remains stable at 530,000 bearing acres. There are 136,000 acre that are 23 years or older (the age at which many orchards are removed). 208,660 acres were planted from 1994 through 1999 (avg. 35,000 acres/year) but only 44,500 from 2000 through 2002 (avg. 15,000 acres/yr.).

Because we are charging top-dollar for your bees and because you are receiving top-dollar (check the ABJ for comparative prices) almond growers expect full-measure for their dollar. Please don’t throw in sub-standard colonies on the loads you take to almond orchards.

If, in the coming months you feel you need to cut back on your almond numbers, let us know so that we will have ample time to get replacement colonies.

Our Almond Team
During bee movement into almond orchards and throughout almond bloom we have a crew of 3 people, Bill Mathewson, Geurt Lanphen and Neil Trent that do nothing but inspect the colonies that you deliver (and occasionally straighten hives that have been knocked over by tractors, etc.). Two other beekeepers, Steve Wernett and Anne Woodard, help out part-time with inspections.

We try to inspect all loads within 1 or 2 days of delivery; should there be any sub-par colonies you will hear from us right away so that you can meet with one of us at your bees to resolve any differences you might have (to date, we have never had a beekeeper disagree with our assessment).

Our crew also offers to look at your bees with growers. We have found that this is our best sales tool. Please don’t embarrass us (and yourself) by delivering sub-standard colonies.

Micro-chips to Track Bees
Enclosed in a small zip-loc bag, you will find a small chip(s), about 1 chip for every 400 hives you bring to us. We will be placarding your colonies at almond locations with the enclosed sign:
NOTICE – Bee Hives on This Property are Permanently Identified with AVID Microchips. (Feel free to run copies of this sign to placard your stockpile sites. We have a supply of signs on heavy-duty stock (or you can put a protective cover over paper signs).

The chips cost $2.70 each which I thought would be cheap insurance against theft. Each chip has its own ID# that shows up when a scanner is run across it (stop by our office for a free demonstration).

Insert your chip(s) in the middle of the top bar of a frame that goes right under the lid (keep it away from any metal). Either drill a small hole in the middle of the top bar or gouge out a small piece to accommodate the chip; fill in the empty space with wood filler. Chips are identified best when they are flat or at a low angle to the top bar (avoid perpendicular placement).

These chips are used to tag pets (in case of loss or theft) and to tag fish (for migration studies). For bee theft purposes they’ll be obsolete next year if a planned paper-thin chip comes on the market for pennies a chip. This new “super chip” will be manufactured by the billions (or trillions) and used mainly by stores and manufacturers to track movement of goods. Look for those that sell frames and hive bodies to include embedded chips. (Montana’s Jerry Bromenshenk is on the front lines of this new chip).

If you want more of the enclosed chip call AVID at (800) 336-2843. Chips come in lots of 25. Avid’s offices are in Norco (near Riverside, CA).

CA $ Woes Curtail RIFA Budget
To save money, California plans to slash funds used by the Dept. of Agriculture to monitor Red Imported Fire Ants. Getting into California (and esp. Arizona) with a load of bees probably won’t be any easier, but on-site inspections in almond orchards will be cut back significantly.

California Beekeeper Convention
Nov. 11-13, Caesars at So. Lake Tahoe. Call (209) 667-4590 or check the CSBA website: www.californiastatebeekeepers.com.

Where’s The Protein?
“Bees on low protein diets may not live much past their flying age and therefore will contribute very little to the colony or the quality of the pollination service.”
The Speedy Bee, August 1993, p.16

Supplemental Feeds
Norm Cary’s pollen patties are popular with many beekeepers as a fall and winter feed. Pat Heitkam’s feed mix has also been well received (Pat also sells rain-proof outdoor feeders). Contact Norm at (559)562-1110 and Pat at (530)865-9562; David Bradshaw, Visalia, sells Pat’s products (559)280-7925. Mann Lake’s BeePro is another popular feed. You can purchase patties from Norm and we will deduct the cost from your first almond check (should be able to do the same with Pat).

If you’re going to the Tahoe meeting you should be able to pick up your order there.

Care & Feeding Service
Beekeeper Rick Riggs (661)204-2031 can care for your bees that are overwintered in this area.

Formic Acid Pads
A “new, improved” formic acid pad is widely used in Canada. The pads, called “Miteaway II” give excellent control of tracheal mites and some control of varroa. For more information see www.miteaway.com or call toll-free 86MITE-AWAY (866-483-2929).

Bill Ruzicka sells MiteGone disposable formic acid dispensers (see www.miteaway.com). Bill will give a seminar on formic acid Monday, Dec. 1, 5 PM at the Tulare county ag building. Call Jane Eggman (559)535-5267 for details. To schedule a seminar call Bill at (250)762-8156.

Dr. Medhat Nasr is the expert on formic acid and says “Beekeepers have to test these delivery systems of formic acid under their management system and environment. Formic acid efficacy is affected by time of application, colony size, method of application and the ambient temperature.” You can contact Dr. Nasr at (780)415-2314 or at: medhat.nasr@gov.ab.ca.

Formic acid is not (yet) registered for use here.

Fumadil (& Fumagillin)
Increasing numbers of beekeepers are finding that treating with fumadil gives their colonies a boost (this boost can occur even if nosema spore counts are low).

Mite and Nosema Testing Service
Locally, Alan Butterfield (661)792-2051 or 978-8280 will again test your bees for tracheal mite and nosema at a nominal cost. Alan was trained by Eric Mussen and does a good job. Jan Dormaier (trained by Frank Eischen) in Washington continues to do a good 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.

Q & A Time
“Some queen suppliers have very good [tracheal mite] resistant stock and others have very poor resistant bees. Customers should start asking their suppliers what they do or don’t do about breeding for tracheal resistance.”
Medhat Nasr, Bee Culture, July 2003, p.31

Assessing Assessments
Almond growers are assessed about 2% of the price of almonds for research, promotion, etc. Shouldn’t assessments on honey be on a % of the honey price at a given calendar date (or on the lowest price of 2 calendar dates)? At 50¢/lb, the current 1¢/lb assessment represents 2%; at current honey prices, a 2% assessment would be 3¢/lb and would generate a lot of $ for promotion and research. Under proposed rules for the Packer Importer Board, assessments cannot be raised by more than 1/4¢ per pound annually (8 years to go from 1¢ to 3¢/lb). Putting such a straight jacket on assessments is, in a word, dumb. Rules such as these are what cause those in other industries to look at honey producers as a backward species.

To his credit, Lyle Johnston, president of the American Honey Producers Assn. opposed the 1/4¢ restriction on raising assessments, although Lyle, like most U.S. beekeepers, would like to see money going to promote U.S. honey rather than generic promotions. Under current rules, generic promotions are compulsory. An argument can be made that a rising tide (greatly increased honey sales via generic promotions) raises all ships and that packers should be emphasizing U.S. honey since many U.S. honey consumers would pick U.S. honey over foreign honey if they were aware which was which.

Why the Fuss?
“What is ludicrous about these challenges [to commodity boards] is that the assessments are so small that they are almost insignificant.”
Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, June 7, 2003, p.4

Now is the Time
“Now is the time to pursue a Health Claim with the Food and Drug Administration that can be used to promote our products.”
Editorial in The Calif. Tomato Grower, Dec. 2002, p.3

The Book on Boswell
The J. G. Boswell company on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley is the largest farming operation in the world at over 200,000 acres. Their main crops are cotton, grain, safflower and alfalfa seed. As the largest seed alfalfa farmer in the world, the Boswell name is familiar to California beekeepers since 2 to 3 bee colonies per acre are needed to pollinate the flowers that produce the seed (I cut my pollination teeth at the Boswell ranch in the 1960s). A new book, The King of California, tells the story of Jim Boswell and the Boswell ranch. Its a great book for California beekeepers and for anyone else that’s interested in a good story.

The Honey Book – 10,000 and Counting
When I finished the book, Honey – The Gourmet Medicine, the publisher, BookMasters, offered me a significant price break if they printed 20,000 copies. The books are stored at Book-Masters warehouse in Ohio and after a few months storage-rental bills started piling up I decided I better start selling them. An advertising blitz over the past year wound up costing over twice as much as the printing costs, but the warehouse now holds slightly less than 10,000 books.

Some beekeepers have purchased multiple copies of the book to use in Gift-Paks and/or along with yard rent (Steve Park bought 400 books – Thanks Steve!). The quantity discount price is $5.00 each (+ $10 max. shipping) for 10 or more copies to one address. Order from BookMasters (800)247-6553. The books come 88 in a box. If you can use 88 (or multiples of 88) contact me for an even better deal. Who knows, its possible I might eventually come close to breaking even on this venture!

The Crew from Weslaco
In what has become an annual rite of spring, Frank Eischen and various memebers of the USDA bee lab in Weslaco, Texas migrate to California in February to do a variety of studies. Because bee colonies from all over the U.S. are concentrated in the San Joaquin Valley during almond bloom, its an excellent opportunity to compare mite (and AFB) resistantance to chemicals and to study almond-bee relationships. Frank’s posse consists variously of Bob Cox, Patty Elzen, Henry Grahm, Chuy Maldanado and Raul Rivera. Two or more of this group are here from pink-bud to petal fall in almonds and, should you want to catch up with them to pick their brains, they breakfast 6 AM each morning at the local IHOP at the Hwy 178 (east) exit off Hwy 99 (they stay at a motel next door).

The Weslaco group has put out a lot of solid information for beekeepers based on their work here (including helping to register Coumaphos). I’ve been impressed with their work ethic – they work weekends, and often spend evenings in their motel rooms doing microscope work and going over the day’s data (and no, unlike some government workers, they don’t get paid overtime). Beekeepers are surely getting their money’s worth from this group.

Don’t Curse the Dark – Make a Candle
I recently read a blurb that surprised me: there’s a “1.6 billion dollar market for scented candles” (Business Week 10/6/03, p.162). If true, candle sales dwarf honey sales (which speaks well for the vitality of the candle industry and/or the lack of same for the honey industry).

Maybe you should attend one of those candle-making workshops offered at many bee meetings. Excellent candle-making articles are published sporadically in Bee Culture and in the ABJ (there’s a great one in the current, Oct., ABJ; see also p.828 of this issue for books on the subject).

Lip balm moisturizers made from beeswax are also big sellers. Maybe turning that wax into a saleable product is another way to keep your crew busy during the winter. (Caution: make sure any wax you use is chemical-free).

Bee Community Loses Two More
The recent deaths of 2 beekeeping stalwarts represent a significant loss for the bee industry. Beekeeper and queen breeder Don Strachan was a real presence in California beekeeping and his Carnolian queens enjoy a world-wide reputation. Dr. Harry Laidlaw was known as “the father of honey bee genetics and his milestone development of artificial insemination has left a permanent mark on beekeeping throughout the world.

Honey Economics
Those that took Economics in school (or that buy groceries) know that when the price of a commodity goes up, sales go down. Recent honey sales defy this basic logic – significantly higher honey prices have coincided with a significant increase in honey sales. Both packer and beekeepers are doing better than they ever have. Go figure! Drastically reduced imports from China are the main cause of the price increase yet some packer-importers would like to see Chinese honey flow freely again. Don’t they know when they’re well off? Remember the song from Oklahoma! – Farmers and the Cowboys Must be Friends – how about Packers & Producers?

Guilty Conscience Time
If you have benefitted from high honey prices but haven’t contributed to the Anti-Dumping Fund you’re riding on the backs of those that have. Send your check to AHPA, Box 158, Power, MT 59468. Suggested donation: $1/colony annually.

Follow the Bloom
In late January, the Calif. Almond Exchange puts cameras in almond orchards around the state to monitor bloom progression and bee weather. You can follow the bloom at www.bluediamondgrowers.com.

Keep In Touch
Call us anytime at our toll-free numbers to let us know how things are going or to find out how things are going with us.

Replace those Combs
Increasing numbers of beekeepers are finding that replacing old brood chamber combs (likely contaminated with mite chemicals) gives their colonies a significant boost.

Joe Traynor, Mgr.