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Beekeeper Newsletter – October 29, 2005

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

2006 Bee Needs
We have notified you of the number of colonies we will require for 2006 almond pollination. In most cases this number is 10 to 20% less than the number you indicated you could bring us. We are leaving this cushion to avoid the problems we had this year when the count for many beekeepers dropped by 20 to 40% between October 30 and February 1st. I (now) realize that no beekeeper can tell me what his bees will look like in February. For those of you that want to bring as many colonies as possible, we should be able to use them and should be able to let you know in January when we have a better picture of our overall bee supply.

2005 Almond Crop
Statewide, the 2005 crop is down about 15% but almond prices are up about 25% so growers will do better this year than they ever have before. Almond prices are close to $4/lb but growers anticipate they will drop significantly when the new acreage comes on line.

2006 Almond Pollination Prices
We set our almond pollination prices by May every year (for the next year) and for 2006 I was determined to pay our beekeepers above the going rate (this has always been our philosophy). When I set our 2006 price at $125 (for 8-frame colonies) I felt I was on-target but as you’ve likely heard, a significant number of colonies have been contracted for $150/colony (some of these are for 10-frame colonies). Rental prices range from $100 to $150 and our price will probably be close to the average, possibly a bit higher.

There’s a good chanced that pollination prices (other than ours) will decline as we get close to bloom as there is a significant number of colonies out there wanting to come to almonds but without any agreements. A few years down the road it will be a different story as 200,000 more acres of almonds come into bearing (and as more beekeepers hang up their hive tools).

Hold the Fort
We had a meeting of our almond growers in May to explain to them that doubling almond pollination prices was indeed justified. We had an excellent response, except from our largest grower who told us our price ($134) was way out of line and who cut us back by 7,000 colonies. This grower is now offering beekeepers $125 and has contacted some of you. If they do contact you, please inform them of the clause in your agreement preventing you from doing business with our almond clients for a period ofd 3 years after working with us. In spite of this loss, we will be renting about the same number of colonies in 2006 as this year, probably a bit more.

Brokers Obsolete?
Although we sell ourselves as a pollination service, most growers and beekeepers look at us as a “broker” and I have come (reluctantly) to accept this designation. Several beekeepers have expressed to me that with the current demand for almond bees, brokers are no longer needed – anyone can sign up almond growers. As a confirmed contrarian, let me offer a counter-argument: that a reliable bee broker is more essential than ever. Current high almond pollination prices are causing all growers to look more closely at bee colony strength. This year, some growers withheld or drastically reduced payment for colonies they felt were substandard.

We get occasional complaints from growers that the bees aren’t flying like they should, that maybe the colonies are weak. We jump on these complaints right away and are usually able to meet with growers within an hour of the time they called, to look at the colonies with them first-hand. Note: the word “we” above, is not me but refers to Bill Mathewson and Neil Trent (sometimes assisted by Geurt Lanphen, Anne Woodard and Steve Wernett). I man the phones 24/7 during almond pollination time and don’t get out to the orchards until all the bees have been delivered. Bill and Neil have developed an excellent rapport with our almond clients over the years (better than mine in many cases) and have always been able to resolve any complaints that growers might have. Bill and Neil do the bulk of our colony inspection. Look at them as your best friends in the field. No individual beekeeper can be on the spot to put out fires (grower complaints) in almond orchards. Without an on-site representative like us (like Bill and Neil) beekeepers can easily get burned by these fires.

Scary Stuff

Date of Mite Treatment

Frames of bees in December*

August 15
September 15
October 15

17+
9
2.5

*assume 2000 bees/frame; from August 2005 ABJ, page 631

If you have a 2006 calendar, put a red circle around August 15.

Research $
We have a $2/colony charge that will go to bee research unless the government supplies $1 million or more by January 1. With current chemicals failing and nothing new in 2006, mite control research is desperately needed. Ask your beekeeping friends that are getting big almond fees to include $2 for bee research. I’ve done so and everyone has said “that’s a great idea, Joe”, but I don”t know of anyone that’s followed through.l

Note: The Almond Board will be devoting 17% of its research budget or around $134,000 to bee research this coming year.

Bee Booster
Alabama beekeeper Alan Buckley will be selling 3000 lbs of bees in January/February for $15/lb. (256)996-5174.

Pollen Patties
3 sources:
Norm Cary: (559)562-0300
Pat Heitkam (530)865-9562
Global Patties (Canada) (866)948-6084 (toll-free).

Dadants and Mann Lake also sell protein and/or pollen feed. Ask at their booths at the bee meetings. Global Patties plans to have a booth at the CA bee convention.

California Beekeepers Convention
November 8-10, Harveys, Lake Tahoe. See www.californiastatebeekeepers.com for more information.

Stay in Touch
Please keep me informed of your bee status in the coming weeks. We have ample bees at this time to make up any shortages but it will be more difficult to get replacement bees as we get past the first of the year.

If I don’t see you at the Tahoe meeting, best wishes for the coming Holiday Season.

Joe Traynor, Mgr.