2011 Almond Crop
The most recent crop estimate is for a record 1.95 billion pounds. In spite of less than ideal bloom weather, the bees did their job. A strung-out bloom and good variety overlap helped. The biggest influence on an almond crop is the crop it had the previous year: if light, the following crop will be heavy, and vice-versa. The 2010 crop was below par between Fresno and Stockton but this year trees in this area are loaded.

Almond Prices
In spite of the record crop, almond prices are very good: pushing $2/lb. The main reason, and the reason all ag is thriving can be summed up in one word: CHINA. A growing middle class in China can now afford to purchase almond; almond prices are very attractive compared to other nuts (cashews, pecans, walnuts).

The Almond Board is going all out to increase almond consumption in China and India (like China, India also has a rising middle class). The Almond Board is spending millions of dollars on advertising and promotion in these two countries.

U.S. almond consumption is 1.6#/person annually for a population of 312 million. In China, its 2 oz, India 1.3 oz (pop. 1.3 and 1.2 billion respectively). If every person in China ate a single almond every day (about 1#/year) the almond market would go crazy.

Almond Acreage
As the China and India almond markets expand, almond acreage will increase in tandem. I thought west-side almond acreage would contract due to water shortages, but a recent visit showed a large new planting. The orchard was planted this spring after our record winter rainfall but the trees were ordered in 2010 after 2 years of limited water.

You can track the health of the almond industry, and subsequent almond acreage, by tracking the Chinese economy. If it crashes, you’ll hear it on the evening news. There is a housing bubble in China but whether it will have a significant effect, as it did here, is unknown at this time. The Chinese economy has a significant advantage over ours because they aren’t spending several trillion dollars on foreign wars. Excessive spending weakens a country’s immune system, making it more susceptible to economic diseases.

Upgrade at U.C., Davis
Good News! Brian Johnson joins Eric Mussen in the apiculture division of the U.C., Davis Entomology Department. Johnson earned his doctorate at Cornell with a thesis titled Organization of Work in the Honey Bee. Johnson says “My hope is that Davis can be at the forefront of this endeavor to both control CCD and to understand what factors underlie a healthy or unhealthy population of honey bees.”

Lemon Aid
There’s something about citrus that varroa mites don’t like. Frank Eischen showed that using grapefruit leaves as smoker fuel knocked down varroa populations. Citronella oil repels varroa; lemongrass (an ingredient in Honey-B-Healthy) suppresses varroa. Recent work indicates that lemon juice also gives some control of varroa mites. (The Australasian Beekeeper, April, 2011).

Protein Power
It is felt that pollen should have a protein content of 20% or more for optimum bee nutrition. Following is the protein content of 14 pollens (from Fat Bees, Skinny Bees, the New Zealand publication by Doug Somerville).

Alfalfa 20%, Almond 25%, Avocado 24%, Blueberry 14 %, Canola 24%, Citrus 19%, Clover 24% Corn 15%, Cotton 19%, Lavender 19%, Macademia 19, Pear 24%, Pumpkin 26%, Sunflower 14%.

New Standard
The Gold Standard for re-queening used to be once a year. Now, it’s twice a year

The Retinue
Jim Bach has an interesting article in the February 2009 WAS Journal (Google WAS Journal to access the article). Jim, and others, feel the retinue reflects pheromone levels emitted from queens and indicates queen quality. Jim feels there should be 12 to 15 workers in the retinue but found many with only 4 or 5. Low pheromone levels could be due to inadequate mating.

Send in Samples for Virus Testing
David Wick, BVS, Montana, tests bees for viruses for $50/sample. We will cover the testing costs for our beekeepers for 2 samples ($100). We encourage other beekeepers that get this Newsletter to spend the $50/sample to learn what viruses might be in their bees. Sending samples is easy – no need for ice or dry ice:

Put around 100 bees (old bees, from front porch or under lid) in a quart zip-loc bag, seal the bag but leave some air in it. Label the bag with the precise location. Ship in Priority Mail box from U.S. Postal Service to BVS, Inc., 5501 Hwy 93 N., Florence, MT 59833.

Priority mail takes 2 to 4 days. Try to mail Monday or Tuesday to avoid weekend delays. Keep samples cool (or cold) until ready to mail. For more info, contact BVS at (406)369-4214.

Vanishing of the Bees – Now on DVD!
This 87 minute video covers CCD and features the two Daves – Hackenberg and Mendes. It’s well done but maybe puts too much emphasis on neonicotinoids as the main culprit in CCD. Purchase price is $11.99 at www.vanishingbees.com

Miller Time
If you haven’t done so already, get and read the new book The Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus The book could be subtitled The Life and Times of John Miller. Those of you that have met Miller, know him as a bright, engaging fellow who is an excellent representative of the bee industry, as are the two Daves, mentioned above. Consider giving the book, and the above DVD, to your almond clients and your location owners.

Losing a Good One – Farewell to Steve Taylor
Montana beekeeper, Steve Taylor, passed away in June after battling bone cancer for 2 years. Steve, and brother Paul, learned beekeeping from their father, Master beekeeper Wade Taylor. Wade started beekeeping in California before moving to Montana. Steve always did a super job of managing the almond bees – always great bees, always timely delivery; never complained about the little problems that arise when moving bees in February. Steve worked hard right up until the end. Steve was a good one – the best.

Timing is Everything
With high honey prices, there will be a temptation to pack in every last drop of honey in August. Remember that delaying mite (and nosema) treatments past August will likely result in excessive winter losses from the viruses that are spread by varroa (and nosema). Don’t get suckered in to going for $30/colony more in honey at the risk of not being able to rent that colony for almonds.

Don’t stoop over a dollar to pick up a nickel. Some beekeepers start their mite treatments in July – by September, the horse has already left the barn (or is halfway out the door).

Stay in Touch
Keep us posted on how your bees are doing. Call us anytime for how things are going out here. And send those samples in for virus testing.

Joe Traynor