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Bob you can have all the rain we can send you.I am sick of it .A lot of my hives are still sitting in almond orchards too muddy to get into.We are stocking 104 singles today with bees we shook and a caged queen.Should just get done before the next storm.We had snow here(3300 foot elevation) Monday and more is expected .
Removing substandard hives never made sense to me.Every extra bee will do some pollinating, so why not just leave them so they can get some pollen.As long as the grower knows he isnt being charged for a dink. and a good hive is brought in to replace it.
Nick,I pulled into a holding yard in early Feb. that had just delivered a load from cold storage in Idaho.I went around and straightened some lids and peeked in a few.There were a few obvious deadouts, but mostly I saw nice strong clusters.Then I got the hell outa there as the sun came up , before the yellow rain storm started!
 

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Wintering indoors is not perfect you still have to go through your bees. It works well for us but we are only 700 miles from the almonds.
Yes I think the article Rob wrote is worthwhile. I think it will help growers,brokers and beekeepers in the long run. I hope this deal will take care of itself by next year.
P.S. If there are any almond growers on here we are about 1,000 hives long for next year. ;)
 

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It seems you don't pick beekeeping but the bees pick the beekeepers
Great quote, Bob.

I also appreciated your article. While not a large enough beekeeper to consider almonds yet, I would almost certainly have considered it in the future. Your information on the SHB and broker fiascos this year will certainly help me in my planning should I ever decide to try it.
 

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Rob,
Have you ever met Ted Kretschman? Alabama Bee Company? Past pres. Alabama State Beekeepers assn.
Lifelong commercial beekeeper.

Ted sent two semi loads. One was held up at the I40 border for FIVE DAYS before releasing over a single small hive beetle. He was headed to Madera co.. The same place as the turned around load of Kennedy Honey Farms from Homer, Georgia I wrote in March ABJ about.

I am going to be blunt here:
What in the hell is wrong with the California apiary inspection and in particular Carla Markham (head)that a semi load of honeybees would have to sit FIVE days to decide what to do with the load?

What would Peta do if a load of cattle sat for five days in the heat ! bees are livestock also!

I know what I would have done. I would have pulled the nets!

Ted also reports after release by the State of Florida and the semi load (with a single SHB find) was allowed to enter the load was placed in almonds after the ground was treated with gaurd Star. Both Ted's semi loads were treated with Checkmite before leaving Alabama but still sat at the border in the heat. Both were placed in almonds. I don't know what the strength was but I suspect damage was done to the load which sit for five days.

Horace Bell Honey (DeLand , Florida) had a load sit for a few days for two beetles which turned out not to be SHB a few years ago. he said half the load died with not even a "were sorry" from the State of California.


Tom Kennedy (beekeeper from Homer, Georgia and subject of my March article) called me after publication to tell me that his load should not have been turned as Madera county welcomes loads infested with SHB. THEN a week later Ted has problems trying to get into Madera county.

Any beekeeper which does not believe the above is exactly as happened email me direct and I will give you contact information for the above beekeepers.

Next part of the story Ted says his broker tells Ted his bees are ready to return from almonds BUT because they were weak all he is getting is his bees back. The broker is keeping the almond fees as the fees were only enough to cover the trucking (paid for by the broker) and the broker fees. Last time I spoke with Ted he had not even got his bees back yet!

Ted was also scammed with his signed contract. The contract was mailed to Ted saying the terms of the contract. I am not sure of the amount promised. Ted signed and sent back but the broker did not sign and return a copy so its Ted's word against the brokers word. Ted's lawyer sees the lack of Ted's part of the contract a big problem.

If my fellow beekeepers I have been talking to wish to verify the above send me a private message and I will provide contact information.

Are you guys starting to see why I am upset? Several beekeepers from my article report they are still owed money by almond brokers. Whats the deal?
 

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Whie we are on the border subject. Most of the list has heard of Hubert Tubbs. Past pres. of the American Honey producers assn.

After my article came out I was talking queens with Hubertby phone. Hubert said he liked my article and told me his story of almond pollination.

Almond brokers and growers were begging for bees. Send bees!

So Hubert and his son sent a trial load awhile back. The phone rings and the broker/grower says his bees do not make the grade. Hubert is shocked! Won't pollinate? No won't make our grade. So the entire load was sent back and Hubert told me he lost around twenty thousand dollars. Hubert was glad he only sent one load.

You can contact Tubbs Apiairies at [email protected] for Russian/Russian queens. His advertisement is on page 40 of the Brushy Mountain 2006 catalog.

Hubert has retired from the large operation he ran with his son to a queen rearing operation. I ordered some queens from Hubert Tubbs and would recommend his queens as Russian/Russian.
 

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Bob:

Keep up the good work. After reading your articles I can kinda feel like my blood could boil. I was once told that in commercial beekeeping the first 25 years are the toughest. Those are kinda horror stories you are telling and make me doubt the 25 year rule. So who are the brkers who have unrealistic expectations of bees?

Jean-Marc
 

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Jean-Marc,
I am not at liberty to publish a list.


Only to say to get a contract for almonds. Have the contract say exactly what is expected of both parties. Each get a copy signed by both.


Realize border problems are real as are grower/broker problems.

The broker should inform all clients of exactly what he expects before sending.

The almond grower should ride herd on his broker and make sure the beekeepers doing his grove are treated fairly. Many do not have a clue as to what their brokers are doing.

The beekeeper should always try to send the best bees and not take chances. Also be worry of calls wanting bees without stating their requirments for those bees. Pulling bees out of a snow bank in January and sending is a gamble. As long as you realize the risk and can afford to gamble then why not. If you can not afford the risk better not take the gamble. Never gamble what you can't afford to lose


Happy Easter to All!
 

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good post Rob, the way I see it, (this is just what I would ask for) you would almost have to get the broker or the almond producer to come to your apiary to inspect your hives before sending them and spending all that money in gas and having to sit at the boarder or getting called and saying "your hive dont meet our standards", also take full payment before the bee's are even loaded and sent with options in-case something was to happen to the load..... sounds like a tough time with a few crooks to watch for also.....
 

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<<Mr. Traynor was NOT the radical broker point of view. He had a tough stand for strict grading this year. Far stricter this year than in his pollination book guidelines. Mr. Traynor upset me by not in my opinion seeing the serious problems this year caused on beekeepers. The "they will know better next year than to send those kind of hives" attitude in private email touched a NERVE!>>

http://www.beesource.com/pov/traynor/agnewsapr1406.htm

Who is Bob Harrison and Why Doesn't He Like Me?
After reading Bob Harrison's April ABJ article on 2006 almond pollination and exchanging e-mails with him I am wondering what I did to offend him, either in this life or a past one. Mr. Harrison approached me in February for material for his article -- apparently he didn't like my information, or maybe I'm too sensitive on this. Here are some quotes from his e-mails - - you decide: "I consider him [Joe Traynor] a crook". "Joe T. is feeding you [Jerry Brown] a line of BS". "I stand by my article and will provide more dirt on Joe T." "I play hardball!" and finally "beekeepers are upset and wanting blood. I am willing to toss Joe T. to them."

Apparently Mr. Harrison is suffering from dangerously high levels of testosterone (or maybe he's been hanging out with Mike Tyson).

At any rate, if you disagree with Mr. Harrison's article, and if you have time, both the ABJ and Mr. Harrison would like to hear from you (Harrison's contact information heads his article). If you concur with Mr. Harrison's remarks, I know he (and the ABJ; but esp. Harrison) would love to hear from you, however I realize this is a very busy time for all beekeepers, so don't feel like you have to take the time to do this.

Telling It Like It Is
I always have mixed feeling when someone writes better than I do, but it happens frequently - - see Randy Oliver's Letter to the Editor in the April ABJ for a current example. Randy sums up the 2006 almond pollination season far better than Harrison (or I) and in far fewer words. (Note: I don't know and have never met Randy O. He never contacted me for any information for his letter nor did I provide any).

This year, some beekeepers (including, apparently, Bob Harrison) were surprised and shocked that almond growers would have the temerity, the unmitigated gall, the outrageous arrogance, the sheer nerve, the unalloyed audacity to actually hire someone to look inside the hives they rented and to assess bee populations therein, esp. when few growers did so in 2005.

Say you order a 4 lb package of bees and when it arrives there are only 4 ounces. You contact the supplier to complain and he tells you that this is one of the roughest years ever for package bees, that he was forced to cut down on the package size for everyone, that In-transit losses were unusually high this year and that you are very lucky to get what you did get. Would you pay the 4 lb price for the 4 oz package?
 

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You bring up some good points. However if you have recieved a number of 4lb. packages from the same supplier year in and year out and they are always good. If he raises his price in the fall of 2005 and you agree to it and get your packages in spring of 2006 and they are only 3lbs. 15oz. do you still pay him?

I still believe this will work itself out. There is no doubt that there are some growers who have been getting took by a beekeeper. They need an inspection. The only thing I would like to see is a set standard for inspections. So all the bees are being inspected fairly.

There is always room for improvements and that goes for beekeepers,growers and brokers.
 

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Beekeepers are to laxidazicle about how they send there bees to the almonds. There bees being there most prized possestions the things that provide there livelyhoods. Here they are sending these bees with no contracts or without suffecient contracts that are not even signed or agreed upon by both parties and expecting to come out smelling like roses and expecting everyone to be honest and true to them. Im sorry but no business works this way if it did this world would be no were.

Is it the grower who needs the bees or the beekeepers who need the growers? who holds the cards here?

For many years beekeepers have not gone to the almonds they have stayed home dealt with there losses and sold there honey and stayed to themselves. This staying to themselves might have worked then but it cant work now. We need to somehow make a standard by beekeepers for beekeepers to give to these growers. We need to let them know how its going to happen and not let them dictate to us what its going to be. If the pollination handbook sets a standard of what is going to be expected for inspection then lets stick to that standard for everybody and not make exceptions. Dont you think that one ceo of a gas station contacts another and says we are raising our prices and then they all do. They stick together and make a standard. They know they are needed and people will not go without gas. This is what the growers and brokers did to the beekeepers they banded together and made a standard of what there were going to accept. Now beekeepers need to get together and decide what they logically can provide to the grower on a consistant basis and this is what we provide them. The growers need us and will not go without bees lets stick together and make a standard.

I am a wife of a beekeeper and was shown this forum and these are my comments from which I see the situation looking in. Let me know if I am of base thinking this.
wife of eaglesbee
 

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Barry,
Mr. T & I had some heated emails. He in my opinion does not understand the issue. He is simply a box mover. He is not a beekeeper.

His whole grading system is based on very poor science.

Mr. T. bases his concept on an article in the American Bee Journal ( February 1977 vol. 117 No.2 pg. 78). Mr. T. will send to all which request the article.

Like I explained to Mr. T in one of our many emails the research was flawed. The hives
were only checked on four different days in almonds. The hives were set up wrong. I tried years ago three different times to recreate the John Edson test using his prune segment and got different results each time.

The project was started in Feb. of 1976 with nine hives by two hobby beekeepers.

qquote from the article:
" None of the hives had started raising brood when the hives were selected" pg. 78

The fact that none of the hives had any brood at the start of almonds should have given the two hobby researchers a clue something was wrong with the hives they chose to use in the test.

The number 5 weak hive never even collected a grain of pollen. ZERO throughout the test!

Hello! Something wrong!

The so called "weak hives" were given twice the honey as the strong hives in the test. Hello! Whats that about?

The article also shows a chart on "prune" pollination AFTER almonds. Four days in March. The number 5 hive has been dropped by now.

An almond grower which does not understand bees & beekeeping might bite on such primative science. Apparently Mr. T. believes the results of the research.

However trying to convince the out of state beekeeper running thousands of hives of the value of a study ( if you can call 8 hives checked for four days in almonds a study) done 29 years ago as the basis for grading hives going into almond pollination can be a serious problem.

Mr. T. does not care for me because of my support of the Australian package import. He approached me last year with a plan to import throw away packages to by pass the beekeeper.

Mr. T is not happy with the way those 4 pound packages pollinate almonds. Growers love those. They pay $125 a Package/hive.

Acordiing to the 1977 article above they are unfit for pollination. Sorry Mr. T. but the 80,000 Australian packages which entered almond pollination this spring proves the Feb. 1977 article very incorrect in my opinion.

Today many things enter into why one hive out performs another in almond pollination. The number of bees in the box is only a part of the answer.

Better stick to unloading bee boxes and placing in almonds and being a middleman Mr. T. in almonds and leave the beekeeping to those which know beekeeping.

Mr. T. has chosen to take some of our emails out of context and use in his "newsletter" and on beesource. I would never do anything so stupid.

Mr. T. was not the most radical broker I spoke with. I spoke with a radical out of state beekeeper ( actually a couple). I spoke with a radical grower.

I actually used part of their veiws in my article leaving out all the cuss words!

Mr. T. and I should have just "agreed to disagree" instead of letting our private emails reach the anger level. I will keep the nasty things Mr. T. said to me to provoke my anger
to myself and not get on his level.

I write under my real name. Not under a name like "The wise Guy" ," O. B. Wiser" or "B. Luver".

I stand up for what is right.

You can not stand up for what is right without making some people mad. I spoke with the people involved and wrote an article based on the information given to me. Many looked at the article before publication and said their information was correct.

I have got an email from Mr. T. saying I had an acurate assesment of what happened in California.
Was one of the first between us.

I also sent Mr. T. an email asking many questions about his business parctices which he never responded to. Had he responded I would not have had to speak with as many people .

What happened in almonds this year is not pretty.

When will many of the beekeepers get paid? I keep getting calls from beekeepers which have already been to other pollinations and have yet to get the almond pollination check.

A commercial beekeeper in Texas which has a large family in California which are almond growers said that some brokers want almond pollination fees paid in full by end of September (year before) or they will not promise hives. If so why are his beekeepers not paid in full six months later?

Interest on the money?

Yes I left plenty out of the article! I tried to give a general idea of what happened in almonds this year and warn beekeepers thinking of going to almonds to use caution.

I left plenty out of my first almond pollination article:
"Pro's & Con's of almond pollination from the Midwest beekeepers point of veiw" ABJ. ( May 2004 I believe).

I heard good reports on many brokers. The big problem reported to me about Mr. T. was
his grading system and his inspectors.

Mr. T in my opinion started the "2006 California Gold Rush".

Many beekeepers were blindsided with new grading standards this year because of a glut of hives and almond growers not renting hives to create a glut.

Next year might be your turn to recoup some of your losses. What goes around comes around!

Two sides to every story. You decide which side is correct. Go blindly into almonds and learn the hardway ($$$$$) or read my words of caution and use caution!
 

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http://www.beesource.com/pov/traynor/agnewsmar1006.htm

-----
2006 Season
The supply-demand situation for almond bees this year was 180 degrees different from 2005. There was a surplus of bees this year vs. a shortage last year. In 2005 we received numerous calls from growers in January, desperate for bees, zero calls from beekeepers. This year we received numerous calls from beekeepers (3 to 5+ per day) desperate to place bees and only one call from a grower (who wound up getting cheap bees elsewhere).

Beekeeper Randy Oliver (Grass Valley, CA) summed up the situation in a letter sent to the ABJ (may appear in April issue):

This year all the press about shortages of bees for almonds created another "Gold Rush" of fortune seekers. Unfortunately, just as during the Gold Rush, many persons headed west without full knowledge of the situation. The $150 per colony price that was floated blinded normally conservative beekeepers with visions of dollar signs. This year, raw greed scrounged every movable bee box out from the backwoods of the country and there were suddenly too many beekeepers trying to milk the same cash cow. Out-of-state beekeepers flooded the market and the ruthless law of supply and demand kicked in. Once it was clear that there was a glut of bees, the beekeepers started dumping bees at bargain basement rates. The wild free market competition turned ugly. Local guys had long-term "handshake" contracts dropped. Out-of-staters couldn't rent their bees for enough to pay for the cost of hauling.

The bottom line is that if you're going to play the almond game, you're going to have to manage your bees specifically for almond pollination. My whole beekeeping year revolves around one date - February 10th. That's when bees go into almonds and are graded for strength a few days later. When they come out of almonds in March, all I'm thinking about is how to get them ready for next February! Honey, other pollination, sales of bees, etc., are all secondary. Not to say that you can't go home and make splits or honey, just always keep your eye on whether or not you're on track for February.

In California as I write this, there are huge yards of empty boxes that were from loads hauled out from the Midwest and combined into strong colonies to make the grade. The empty boxes speak for themselves -- no grower wants to rent an empty box!

This year's surplus bee supply caused growers to scrutinize colony strength more intensely than ever. Our 2 main fieldmen, Bill Mathewson and Neil Trent spent more time than ever visiting growers and opening hives to show growers what they were getting. If a weak colony (less than 5 frames) was found, the grower often wanted to look at more colonies. For one grower that rented "only" 144 colonies, we had to open every hive in his orchard after the first set showed 2 weak colonies (in a set of 12). At current pollination prices you can't fault growers for being picky.

A 27 degree frost caused scattered damage to almonds (5 to 10% in Kern county, more damage as you go north). Some areas in the Sacramento Valley got down to 22 degrees and suffered significant crop loss. Growers with significant frost damage that don't carry crop insurance could have trouble paying for 2007 bees. You can follow the current crop, and prices at the website www.bluediamondgrowers.com
Buyers all over the world access this site and news of frost damage caused a recent spike in almond prices (they had fallen below $2/lb from a high of close to $4/lb last fall).
 

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Thanks again Bob for the insightful information. As a small beekeeper who is looking very seriously at pollination of almonds, I am grateful for first hand information.

I will reinterate a previous point because I think it is the solution for long term harmony and fairness. The three most important things to insure this harmony are 1. Organize 2. Organize 3. Organize.

With assets like ABJ, Mr Harrison, and others, how hard would it be to get a "Pollinators Association" started??

I again offer any of my limited resources toward that goal. And my pocket book is open for the first year dues.
 

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Thanks Bruce!

My hope is beekeepers can overcome this years problems. It is interesting that all the Mr. T. information seen above leaves out the real meat of the issue. Like Mr. T's comments that some beekeepers are so bankrupt they will have to borrow bus fare to get home. Those beekeepers will not be able to return in 2007 due to the losses from 2006.

As I said in my article I almost got drawn into the "bait & switch" pulled by a few brokers.

I handed my article to a person which knows zero about the issue to read. Then asked her her thoughts. Her comments were:

"Looks like you came close to losing money in almond pollination this year".


Talking among ourselves we decided Midwest hives in February will not meet the 8 frame average. So we are either going to Texas and then California or winter in California.

I personally will never use certain brokers. I apologize to those which have sent private emails asking me to name names. I am sorry but no can do.

Mr. T. keeps pushing the issue and giving the issue a life of its own. As a tough old migratory beekeeper I have nothing to lose so lets keep the dialog going! Mr. T. is in my opinion only digging a deeper whole for himself.

I have had many emails saying thanks for doing the article. Many from people in high beekeeping places. The ONLY upset email has come from Mr. T.!


I have been told a web site is to be created called something like "bad brokers.com" at which beekeepers can give details of their problems with certain brokers. Will post on beesource when the site gets up and runing as those involved said they would email the location.

The president of the American Beekeeping Federation had the following to say about almond pollination 2006 in the ABF newsletter (March/April issue pg.3):

" The economic driver is no longer honey-but pollination services for fruit,nut and vegtable growers who operate in an uneasy alliance with beekeepers. And this uneasy symbiotic relationship with farmers dependent upon bee pollination is as fraught with risk as it has been filled with reward in recent years"

When you hit beekeepers in their pocket books they remember. Even with all the BS put out about bad bees in 2005 record crops were had by almond growers. Looks to me like the 8 frame average is simply a way to extract a higher fee from growers for a few beekeepers.

We have got video of five frame Australian package hives out performing 8 frame average hives. Flying earlier and later in the day and even in the rain.

Will 8 frames of sick bees outperform 5 frames of bees free of varroa/tracheal mites and contaminated comb? Now that would be interesting
research.

Its not all about the number of bees in the hive in todays beekeeping world. The hive entrance and the bees on the bloom tells the story in my opinion.
 

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Bob,I remember when that lttle study came out.I remember thinking that they were basing conclusions on hives with obvious problems.I assumed that some one had done more studies since then,but maybe not.It will be interesting to see what the bee lab people came up with this season comparing pollen collection between various strength hives(including the Oz packages ).
As far back as I can remember,we have operated under grading standards.This is a good thing to keep everyone honest.Last year when bees were in short supply and prices were rising, a beekeep who does grading as a sideline told me he hated his job that year.He was finding many weak and dead hives that had been placed in the orchards.So there are beekeeps who will take advantage .I can't blame the growers for wanting to know what they are getting for these high prices.In the Sacramento Valley where we pollinate, I have always found the grading to be fair.If I thought it was crooked,I would be getting an attorney and documenting everything. I have no knowledge of further south , but its obvious from your article that there were problems that need to be fixed on all sides.
----Mike
 

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Out of state beekeepers have not got a problem with grading as long as we know what the requirments are in advance. Many including myself did not know this year.

Almond growers went to florida trying to get Florida beekeepers to send bees to almonds. Paid airfare to come to California to look things over. Those beekeepers are upset over not being told about the grading process. Once in California you are at the mercy of brokers.

Bees come out of winter in many areas with around five frames of bees in January. The old fall bees are gone. In order to meet the grade bees need fed both pollen patties & syrup.

My friends in Florida said they would have done one of two things had they knew of the grading.
1. not sent hives
2. fed pollen patties & syrup

The big switch this year was for the broker to say his contract had been cancelled BUT he could place your bees with another grower if you want to combine 3 into 1.

The above is what I was told! Also others I spoke with.

How does a written contract get cancelled? Especially a couple weeks before almonds.

We had two semi loads sitting ready to go. Don't get me wrong I am happy they did not go!

Without a broker we got half the money when placed and the second half when removed. My broker said nothing about I would still be waiting for the pollination fee. Many still are.

Are others on the list still waiting for almond pollination money or is it only midwest beekeepers?
 

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Sounds like Sundance is barking up the right tree and you need to organize, organize, organize. There is too much money at stake not to.
 

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Having grown up on a cherry orchard as a grower and raising bees as a hobby, I suspect that if the growers and beekeepers always dealt directly with each other, things would go much smoother. They know that they need each other.

Do almond growers have co-op's? The town that our orchard is in has a co-op that markets and packs the fruit. The growers commit to a number of hives they want. The co-op negotiates with beekeepers and the hives are dropped off on pallets at the cherry packing facility. Growers place their own hives to keep the cost down.

The growers just want a fair deal. I know that we would just walk the hives and look at activity. If a 6 frame hive could outperform a 10 frame one, the grower really doesn't care. If a hive looked weak, we would look in.

The co-op is the growers and they have to deal with brokers to sell their fruit. They deal with the same thing. They sell fresh fruit that they don't know how it is graded or what they are getting for it until it is long gone.
 
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