2009 Season
Pollination was very good; better on the South San Joaquin Valley than the Sacramento Valley (due to better weather). Then a frost hit So. Valley areas on March 10th to even the playing field. Some of our growers got severely hit, others had no damage. Statewide, frost may have taken 5% of the crop. Almond prices have stabilized and growers hope they will rise (they are currently at the break-even point for many).

2010 Season - Take off them shoes
With more Westside acreage being pulled out (due to water constraints) and with growers likely to cut back on bee colonies/acre (as some did this year) there may well be a "glut" of bees in 2010 (I hate that word glut; there has never been a glut of strong colonies for almonds and there probably never will be).

Some almond growers are already telling their bee suppliers that they better make a significant price reduction next year. We are currently thinking of a $10/colony reduction and telling growers that if they want to cut pollination costs, they are better off cutting back on colonies per acre.

Last fall, Eric Mussen made the statement that CCD would probably not be as great a problem this year. My first reaction was "how can Eric know this?" but since Eric is (almost) always right, I gave it some weight. Eric was basing his prediction on the fact that bee forage in many areas was better in 2008 than in 2007 and that better nutrition would give healthier bees. Through the years, the honey crop the previous year is the best predictor of the strength of almond bees in February. CCD wasn't a big problem this past winter (a few beekeepers that got hit might disagree). More supplemental feeding an increased attention to mite and nosema control undoubtedly contributed to better bees.

Here's another take on CCD:

When there are no factors such as climate, inadequate nutrition, inadequate control of V. destructor or unsuitable management, causing immunosuppression in the bees, colonies do not collapse.
Journal of Apicultural Research 47(1:86 (2008)

Keep Mites Down in the Summer
Your bees look great in the summer - lots of bees, but, if you're not careful, also lots of mites. You may think, "no problem, we'll zap ‘em in the fall." By fall, however, the mites may have done their "dirty work" - spreading one or more viruses and that virus could well take down a mite-free colony. Norman Carreck (UK) put it this way:
"Although large numbers of mites are required to produce an initial virus infection, once established it can apparently persist in the absence of the mite." (Bee Culture, January 2008, p.50).

The history of beekeeping records numerous recommendations to rotate comb. Chemical contamination of comb in recent years makes comb rotation more important than ever. As Aldous Huxley said:

"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach."

Research Contribution Summary
We collected $1/colony from growers (for 2008 almond pollination) and matched that with another dollar to provide $69,900 for research, distributed as follows:

Project Apis M $61,000 (for various projects)
Frank Eischen $ 3,400 (labor)
Randy Oliver $ 5,500 (to support his work)

Consider a donation to Project ApisM, 1750 Dayton Rd., Chico, CA 95928. And there's some good work going on at Washington State Bee Research, Entomology Dept., Pullman, WA 99164.

Just Wondering
Does Randy Oliver have ADD?

At least, give them a smooth ride
From EricMussen's Jan/Feb newsletter (re a USDA
Bees in hives being moved on trucks have problems controlling brood nest temperatures. In this case, the brood chilled and 30% of the eggs, 12% of the young larvae and 10% of the older larvae were lost.

Acetic Acid
One of the signatures of CCD is that when CCD equipment is put on healthy colonies, the good colonies come down with CCD. Nosema spores can live in bee-free equipment. Acetic acid can kill (or neutralize) nosema spores and has been used to semi-sterilize equipment. Some beekeepers feel adding acetic acid to sugar syrup improves colony health.

Preliminary USDA tests indicate that ozone can degrade 2 pesticides found in comb (and implicated in bee problems): coumaphos and fluvalinate. Ozone also killed wax moth adults and larvae in just a few hours (but killing moth eggs took a few days of exposure to ozone).

The Nosema Microscope
More beekeepers are getting microscopes after attending Randy Oliver's nosema ID workshop in Reno. You can purchase the microscope (aka the Randy Oliver Scope) at (877)409-3556 ($496.95).

Based on scattered input from beekeepers, I have to think that fumagillin sales set records last year. That scold, Marla Spivak, cautions beekeepers not to overuse fumagillin so as not to develop fumagillin-resistant strains of nosema. Spanish workers agree with Marla:

"The addition of fumagillin as a preventative measure in hives where the asymptomatic [no
symptoms] presence of N. ceranae has been diagnosed does not solve any problem, but
merely increases costs, and risks unnecessarily contaminating hive products with this anti-
biotic or its subsequent metabolites." Journal of Apicultural Research, 2008, 47:84-86.

Two of our beekeepers confronted me with disparate fumagillin stories: one (Steve) is (almost) an organic beekeeper and has never used fumagillin; his bees are consistently among the best we get. The other (Richard) was faced with collapsing colonies in December. The bees wouldn't take fumagillin-treated syrup so Richard "saved" the bees by splashing fumagillin on them and delivered excellent almond bees.

Fumagillin apparently tastes bad to bees and they won't take it from feeders, esp. if they are sick. Adding Honey-B-Healthy to syrup increases uptake of f-treated syrup but HBH is expensive; maybe lemongrass (an ingredient of HBH) would accomplish the same thing at a much lower cost.

Richard's bees (above) had nosema symptoms (lethargic, won't take syrup) while Steve's bees didn't. Both likely had high Nosema spore counts. Maybe symptoms are a better indicator of the necessity of treatment than spore counts.

Works great as a mite-killer, but also kills bees. Significant bee losses have occurred when Hivestan is used at the label rate. Some beekeepers are cutting back to half-label rate. Before using Hivestan yourself, talk to a beekeeper that has used it.

Protein Content of Pollen

Eric Mussen dug up and sent me a pollen study that had been gathering dust of the shelves of the UC, Davis library: Ecological Monograph10(4),2000, pp 617-643, The study reviews the % protein content of an amazing 377 species of plants. Protein content was reported based on hand-collected pollen since they found that bee-collected pollen gives too low a figure because bees add nectar, etc. to pollen loads (to keep them from falling apart); from the paper: "it appears that half or more of the mass of honey bee-collected pollen can be attributed to the addition of nectar-derived sugars to the pollen." This is a startling statement and means that much of the protein content of bee-collected pollen reported in the literature needs to be adjusted. I have always thought that the bees added 10-20% weight to their pollen loads; I never imagined 50%! And why didn't this paper appear in a bee publication rather than an obscure monograph?

Too much protein?
So you think the higher the protein content of a pollen or feed mix, the better? Well, think again, as I was forced to do when confronted with the following:
At high protein levels (50%) the bees appeared to suffer from protein toxicity resulting
in an inability to defecate... The optimum protein level to feed honey bees is 23%."
(from Nutrition chapter in The Hive and the Honey Bee, 1992 edition). Note: this book
is still the best reference book for all things beekeeping. With all the recent work, maybe
an updated edition will be forthcoming soon.

Bee Bread
You heard it mentioned at recent meetings and you will likely be hearing more about bee bread in the future. Bee bread is made from pollen via the addition of lactic acid and, some think, the work of a fungus. Fungicide application to almond pollen could short-circuit the conversion of pollen to bee bread (maybe fumagillin would do the same).

Good Book
A friend recommended the book Three Cups of Tea, which chronicles the travels and trials of Greg Mortensen, a devout Christian, as he attempts to build non-sectarian schools in Muslim Pakistan. Quite a read.

Beekeeper Ambassadors
Ambassadors like Greg Mortensen (above) can do far more to improve relations with other countries than high-paid State Department officials. A number of beekeeper-ambassadors perform the same function: Miriam Bishop (dec.), Dewey Caron, Bob Cole, Keith Delaplane, James Gibbs, Ann Harman, Jerry Hayes, Ed Levi, Wyatt Mangum, Jim Tew and others. Ann Harman, a dynamic individual disguised as a kindly middle-aged lady, probably holds the record: 50 assignments in 29 countries, 5 continents.

These beekeepers can neuter the term evildoers. How can any foreigner think of Americans as evildoers after breaking bread with them?

Blue Orchard Bees (BOBs)
Paramount Farming (the largest almond grower in the world) is looking for a full-time pollination person with major emphasis in developing their current population of 600,000 female BOBs to "about 100 million" (enough to pollinate 100,000 acres of almonds).

Look for turf wars to ensue if BOBs are co-mingled with honey bees (and look for honey bees to emerge victorious).

Aubryn Butterfield
Some of you know Alan Butterfield who runs tracheal-nosema tests at his McFarland lab.
Alan's daughter, Aubryn, did a bee project for her high-school science class and won 1st place for the project at Kern County's Science Fair (she'll go to the state competition in May). Aubryn presented her project to Frank Eischen and a handful of beekeepers at a recent breakfast: Aubryn purchased a cholesterol testing kit at a local drugstore and measured triglyceride levels in good bees vs. poor bees. The "good" bees had significantly higher levels than the "poor" bees. If proven valid, this could be a very useful test for beekeepers.

Mandarin Issue
Beekeepers won a significant victory when no undue restrictions were place on bees in mandarin areas. All beekeepers are indebted to the 3 beekeepers, Gene Brandi, Roger Everett and Steve Godlin that took considerable time to represent beekeepers at meetings to resolve the issue. The 3 did the bee industry proud by standing up to strong opposition from mandarin growers and doing so in a non-confrontational way.

There's Gold in Them Thar Bees
Jerry Hayes reports that honey bees have been used in Canada to find gold deposits:
: Plants take up minerals from the soil and concentrate them in pollen. The pollen
with the higher gold content had a better chance of coming from an area containing
larger gold deposits."

And the Lion Shall Lay Down with The Lion
The two bee organizations, ABF and AHPA, will again have separate meetings in 2010, but a joint meeting is possible for 2011 (or 2012....2020?).

One Tent Theory
From the March Western Fruit Grower:
"We decided we needed to organize and speak with one voice. We really felt it
was important. My favorite expression is ‘getting everybody under the same
tent' and that's just what we did,"
(Steve Beckley on organizing organic interests)

The chemical chlorpyrifos appears regularly on the lists of chemicals found on comb.
You may know it better as Lorsban, one of the most widely used ag pesticides (and one that is toxic to bees). We've fielded numerous pesticide calls over the past 2 weeks, mainly for alfalfa and grapes. 80% of the time, the material is Lorsban (or another trade name for chlorpyrifos (e.g. Nufos).

The Way Things Used to Be
From The Week, Nov. 21, 2008:
"When Harry Truman left the White House, he had to take out a bank loan to tide him
over in private life. He had no official government income or support except for his
army pension of $112.56 a month. Yet he turned down every lucrative consulting gig
and endorsement that came his way. ‘I could never lend myself to any transaction,
however respectable, he declared, ‘that would commercialize on the prestige and
dignity of the office of the presidency.; "

September 17-20, Montpelier, France.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: beekeepers are the backbone of our organization.
Without your efforts, we would have no business.

Thanks much!