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Beekeeper Newsletter – October 28, 2006

2007 Bee Needs
As per our agreement, the number of colonies we will need for 2007 almonds is given herein. Our largest almond client, Premiere Farms, cut us back from 16,000 to 9,000 colonies this year and will not be getting any bees from us in 2007. We have picked up a few new orchards to make up some of the slack and anticipate picking up more in the coming months.

Before committing any surplus bees elsewhere, give us a call to see if we can use them, as things can change on a daily basis between now and February. With 200,000 acres of almonds scheduled to come on line in the next few years, the demand for bees will be greater than ever and I, and others, will be trying to get as many bees as possible from you. Two of our current growers each planted 2,000+ acres this year that will require 1 colony/acre in 2008 and 2 cols. in 2009. Many of our other growers have young acreage that will be coming on soon.

Price Cutting (Economics vs. Emotion)
Price cutting by beekeepers has occurred every year since I’ve been in business. It occurred this year and has already started for 2007 bees. Beekeepers supplying strong colonies have no need to cut prices. Here’s an almond grower on almond prices:

“Steep, unwarranted drops in grower price are no good for growers, handlers, buyers or consumers. Perhaps in the final analysis, the best way to maintain good, stable grower prices is for all growers to be patient, disciplined, and adhere to a plan based on economics rather than emotion before they sell.”
- Dan Hutless, June issues of Pacific Nut Producer and American Fruit Grower

Randy O., the Place to Go for Good Info
The buzz among beekeepers is Randy Oliver’s great articles on almond pollination in the October ABJ. A number of beekeepers have made copies for their growers or referred growers to www.dadant.com to access the article (Part II, November, is now posted).

Here’s a couple of good quotes from Randy:

“The U.S. beekeeping industry will make more money from almond pollination than from honey sales”

“My whole beekeeping year revolves around one date – February 10th.”

There’s a surplus of stories out there on 2007 pollination prices and bee availability. Randy has done a good and important job of separating fact from fiction. One story had me going out of business; actually, I plan to be around for another 20 years (deal with it). To get the facts, contact Randy at randyoliver@infs.net and try to get on his e-list for information.

Food For Thought
Virtually every beekeeper that commands a high price for almond bees is on a supplemental feeding program. Many have already started. Consider the following:

“Life expectancy for bees on a low-protein diet is 14 days; on a high-protein diet, 3 months.”
A. Saffari, N. Dakota meeting, October 2006.

“the hypopharyngeal glands of the worker bee cannot produce larval food if bees are fed sugar syrup alone.”
C. Peng et al., J. Econ. Entom. 77:632-636 (1984).

“the colony will exhibit a protein deficiency by reducing the area of brood being reared.”
FAT BEES SKINNY BEE (Aussie book).

Feed Sources*
PROTEIN POLLEN MIXES
Norm Cary (559)562-0300
Feed Bee (800)387-5292
Pat Heitkam (530) 865-9562
Global Patties (866)948-6084
Mann Lake (800)880-7694

POLLEN SOURCES
Walt Dahmer (780)963-4281
Ernie Fuhr (250)785-4808
Stakich, Inc. (248)642-7023
Cathy Zou (909)820-6669

*make sure pollen is irradiated. Most, but not all mixes come in patty form. Pat Heitkam has an open rain-proof feed for dry mix.

Raise the Roof
Many beekeepers are placing 3/8” to ¾” slats under their on their lids so that patties can be easily placed on the top bars of frames. Some feel the extra space makes for a cooler hive in the hot summer months.

Don’t Forget the Sugar
“Bees may consume the [pollen-protein] mixtures not for the nutrients but rather for the honey/sugar stimulus. If there is no fresh nectar available or if sugar syrup is not being provided, then it is a dubious exercise to feed pollen supplements.”
p. 33, FAT BEES SKINNY BEES (Aussie book)

Nosema-Syrup Connection
Some beekeepers have been blind-sided by Nosema in recent years. Most, possibly all of these Nosema cases are correlated with the feeding of sugar syrup (dry feed does not appear to have the same effect). If you feed syrup, add some Fumadil (which has to be added in liquid form anyway).

Get a Test Then Get Some Rest
Two parties that do an excellent job of Nosema and tracheal analysis:

Jan Dormaier, Hartline, WA (509)639-2577
Alan Butterfield, McFarland, CA (661)978-8290 or 792-263

California Convention
November 14-16, Lake Tahoe. CSBA president, Max Eggman, has line up a great program, including an All-Star panel on almond pollination. See www.californiastatebeekeepers.com for more info.

The Good Book
The Australian Bible on Bee Nutrition – FAT BEES SKINNY BEES was mentioned previously. We made copies for some of you last year. When I visited Australia in May of this year, I was able to bring back a small suitcase of these books. If you don’t already have one and if you bring bees for us, this book is available at no charge (we’ll be bringing some to the Tahoe meeting, or drop by our office, or we can mail a copy to you). If you don’t bring bees to us (but get a copy of this newsletter) we can send you a Xerox copy of the book at our cost ($20 + $5 for shipping). Or, if you attend Apimondia in Australia next year, you can pick one up there.

The Other Book
There are now less than 4,000 copies of my book Honey – The Gourmet Medicine left out of the 20,000 originally printed in 2002. The books are packed 88 to a box and stored in BookMaster’s Ohio warehouse. When you give out honey for yard rent, consider giving a copy of the book also. For beekeepers that bring bees to us, the bargain price (below cost) is $2 per book but you must take a box of books (88 books; consider teaming up with other beekeepers). For those that get this newsletter but don’t bring bees to us, the price (for 88 books, shipped from Ohio) is $3 each (the book retails for $9.95 and wholesales for $4.00). Note: call us, not BookMasters for these special rates.

Anti-Oxidants
The honey industry should lay off playing up the anti-oxidant benefits of honey. Why? Because to consume the same amount of anti-oxidants you’d get in certain vegetables, you’d be consuming way too many calories. Also, honey produces a potent oxidant: hydrogen peroxide (there’s a counter-argument for this but I have temporarily forgotten it).

Our bodies produce free radicals (oxidants) as we consume oxygen. The best anti-oxidant approach is not to produce oxidants in the first place — that is, not to consume oxygen. This approach, however, has an unfortunate side effect: death, via asphyxiation.

North Dakota Stats
State Apiarist Judy Carlson presented the following data at the North Dakota meeting in October:

1979

2006
Number of beekeepers
468

179
Number of colonies
210,000

383,000

This is the same trend as in farming: larger operations, fewer operators.

Canola Stats
There are currently almost a million acres of canola in N. Dakota. Some predict 2 million acres in a couple of years. Canola oil, one of the “healthy” oils, is gaining in popularity as the current crusade against trans-fat oils picks up steam. Canola would make a good honey plant in California (if pesticide programs cooperate and if beekeepers can adjust to the rapid granulating characteristics of canola honey).

Ethanol for One and All
In my college days, lab alcohol (ethanol) was known as a cheap and available high (I’m not saying if I was an observer or a participant). The current ethanol craze may be creating a nation of alcoholics.

Names Matter
Abdolreza Saffari (FeedBee, Canada) was scheduled to attend the October N. Dakota bee meeting but was detained at the border and didn’t make it. He was able to make his presentation by phone hookup. Medhat Nasr (Provincial Apiarist, Alberta, Canada) had a similar problem a few years ago. It’s a shame that these good people have to suffer such indignities, to say nothing of the valuable time they lose.

Medhat and his family were harassed out of Rutgers when the FBI ”discovered” that he was working with formic acid. (the FBI put 2 and 2 together and got 119). Our loss is Canada’s gain, as Alberta beekeepers love Medhat for his outstanding knowledge and work ethic. Medhat is also one of the most likeable and personable individuals that you’d ever want to meet. Medhat will be on the Tahoe program Thursday afternoon (11/16). Don’t miss it. (and lets hope that Medhat doesn’t miss it.

Mr. Saffari is also scheduled on Thursday’s Tahoe program.

Give and Take
“If I share knowledge, someone will share something with me and I will know twice as much.” Alex Onischuk, U.S. Chess Champion.

When I read this earlier this year, I immediately thought of Ron Spears (sorry, Ron). Ron, like Randy O., is a go-to guy for good information. Ron has an extensive network of beekeeping associates and is always up to date on the latest information. Ron has been generous in sharing his knowledge with others. Look for Ron at the Tahoe meeting; he’ll be that tall guy networking with beekeepers in the hallway, doing the give and take. Exchange information with Ron, but he’ll still know twice as much as you when you’re done.

Women researchers appear to be better at sharing information with co-workers than men. A case in point is Rosiland Franklin who supplied James Watson and Francis Crick with the necessary information for them to solve the double helix puzzle and win the subsequent Nobel prize for their efforts. Watson and Crick gave Franklin little or no information in return.

Bees May Help (New) Mandarin Varieties
You’ve heard about the mandarin-seed-bee flap in California. The solution to the problem is Mandarin varieties that are seedless in the presence of bees (even when crossing pollen is nearby). The Tango variety (developed by UC, Riverside and released this year) fills the bill but it will be a few years before sufficient budwood is available for large-scale plantings. The Tango variety will replace the seedy (in the presence of bees and crossing pollen) Murcott variety since both harvest around February. A variety to replace Clementine Nules (which harvests in November) is in the works.

Preliminary information indicates that these new seedless varieties will benefit from bee visitation; bees may increase both size and set on these varieties. More work needs to be done on this, but wouldn’t that be a nice switch: mandarin growers hollering for beekeepers to place bees near their orchards, maybe even paying them to do so!

Blue Orchard Bees
The USDA says 400 female Blue Orchard Bees (BOBs) per acre are sufficient to pollinate almonds. To date, it has been impossible to test this because it has been impossible to get a test orchard isolated from honey bees. For the 2007 season, Paramount Farming is supplying the BOB people with an approx. 80 acre almond orchard that is 3 miles away from any other almond orchard. This could be the test. Sure, bees can fly 4+ miles, but only if they have to, and they may not have to in this case.

The orchard in question is located in the Kettlemen City area and will be watched closely by growers and beekeepers alike.

The BOB people are from England and are good and conscientious people. The have set up an office in Bakersfield. For more information, check out their website:
www.almondpollinationcompany.com

Bukley Bees Aim to Please
Alan Bukley (yes, I spelled that right), Alabama, will again be selling package bees and queens in December and January (and maybe February). Production will start the 1st week in December. Prices are $20/pound of bees and $20/queen. (significantly cheaper than Aussie bees).

Alan plans to raise 300 queens and produce 1500-2000# of bees every 2 to 3 weeks starting in December. If you talk with Alan long enough, he’ll convince you that his bees are resistant to mites.

Watch the weather in Alabama during queen mating season (as you do wherever you purchase queens). If weather is poor, Alan will cut back on queen production.

Alan can be reached at (256)996-5174; his brother, Charles at (256)996-7391.

Shipping bees, rather than bee boxes from the southeast states may be a coming trend. We need more bees, not more boxes

Times Change
BEEKEEPER CALENDAR

1980

2006
September Extract honey Finish extracting; start mite treatment; order feed
October Finish extracting; 10 Days, elk hunting. Elk hunting, 1 day. Test for mites. Feed and treat bees for mites; order Fumadil
November Visit family. Tour U.S. Feed and treat; try to figure why bees are dwindling.
December 2 to 4 weeks in Hawaii Visit doctor for stress symptoms, chest pains.
January Get bees ready for buildup in almonds Try to shake pill dependency. Prepare to feed bees during and after almonds.

Some beekeepers are beginning to realize they were better off getting $20/colony for almonds in 1980 than $125-$160 in 2006.

The New Silver Bullets?
As beekeepers have found out (and as was predicted by researchers) most miticides only effective for a few years at best. 2 new miticides will be discussed on Thursday at the Tahoe convention: Hivestan (by Wellmark rep. Doug Vangundy) and 2-Heptanone (by Gloria deGrandi-Hoffman).

Change Times?
Time changes back to Standard Time on October 29th. Here’s a hint: don’t change your clocks. You now will be enjoying 25 hour days!

Keep in Touch
Call either of our toll-free numbers any time to let us know how you and your bees are doing. I realize that no one knows exactly what his bees will look like in February but we need as much notice as possible to line up other bees if your colonies are not coming along as you think they should. I expect greater than normal winter dwindle this year and I anticipate that bees will be in short supply come February.

Joe Traynor, Mgr.
jotraynor@aol.com