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A few nights ago we saw on TV the Australian made documentary entitled, "Honeybee Blues."

In it we saw images from the California Almond operations, including a massive holding area where many thousands of beehives were assembled.

Had I have been a bee, which I probably am, in essence, I would have puked.

Treating a living organism as though it were entirely an object will not pay big dividends.

Now let me tell you where my thoughts go when I see such a scene depicted.

In Arizona once, moving onto melon pollination, being called off so they could spray, we parked all the bees along a road that we perceived to be running parallel to an irrigation canal. The temperature reached 120 Deg. and the work was terrifying. Upon investigation days later, we discovered that the road actually took off at an angle to the canal, and that by the time we got to the last site (we had spread the bees with some unremembered distance between each load) we found only dead out hives, mostly no bees, and some melted comb.

OK, some brood went ahead and emerged. OK, the bees went looking for water only to never return. OK, that was 40 or more years ago, etc., etc.

In subsequent experiences here in Australia, I have experienced this business of bees flying out never to return, but is less predictable ways, and without the involvement of sundry other operators experiencing the same circumstances, so no science emerged.

I have formed opinions or at least questions about bee behaviour during times of duress, and here it can surely be from lack of pollen, both in the presence of nectar and in the absence of nectar and or sugar syrup. Pollen is a big factor here at times.

With prolonged starvation of pollen, I have watched a good strong beehive dwindle down to a three frame struggler more times than I care to remember. It has occurred to me that when a hive is starving, it sends out scouts to look for food, more or less handing them their do or die rations of what tiny bit of honey remains in the hive. Hives do not seem keen to support masses of bees if brooding is not taking place. Winter time, yes, with heaps of honey stored, yes, but not always.

So try this scenario: A bee comes out of it's hive to go find pollen. It finds itself in an area where tens of thousands of COLONIES, not bees, are present and there is no pollen. How far will that bee have to fly to find some pollen, assuming she was last out to look? She might have to fly ten miles? It is my opinion that in times of dearth, a bee will not be allowed to re-enter the hive with a totally empty stomach or pollen basket. And you know from your own experience that they firmly prefer real pollen to that crap you are feeding them.

It just all came together in my mind when I saw that footage of tens of thousands of hives in an area no bigger than my farm. I could see those bees flying out to look, flying further and further to get away from the picked over flowers, those with the scent of other hives all over them, further and further away, following their nose to what might be the hint of a smell of honey and simply running out of fuel. Either that, or perhaps diving into a feral hive or any hive somewhere along the way in hopes of getting refuelled.

Those of you who are relying on pollination rather than fighting to get the honey production more profitable need to ponder on these things. The price of pollination will have a ceiling somewhere too, and they don't want to pay for pretty but empty boxes.

Thanks for all the positive postings. We can push the honey price up, we are pushing it up and we are about the only ones who want to see it go up.

One of the biggest problems the packers have is getting bankers to double their overdrafts so they can buy the same amount of honey as last year but at double the price. Bankers are the last people (as a group) who want to admit that there is any inflation. They thrive on deflation. It is their harvest time.

So unless the World Bank and their offspring the International Monetary Fund decide in their wisdom and absolute discretion that it is time for a major rethink of the funding they will make available for honey buying, the general public are the only ones who can afford to pay bigger prices.

Don't think for a moment that your honey buyer is all cashed up just because his yard is empty. No, it is just his overdraft that has been paid down, and he may well have to approach his banker to get it increased before he can buy in the same amount of honey as what he bought last year. No one has money any more. The bigger the business the better chance there is that they have no cash asset whatsoever, they only have debt financing.

And even if a honey buyer was entirely self funded. If the price doubles, where is he going to find an equal amount of capital to match what he invested last year for the crop he laid in? Have you really studied the case of Zimbabwe, or any historical event known as hyper-inflation?

The general public are the only ones who can afford honey at double the prices. They can do it, only because they are the ones who are in charge of their priority list. And when times are tough, it isn't necessarily food they scrimp on, it is more the big ticket items.

Inflation is destroying the productivity of our civilization, and unfortunately, once we get this hooked on debt financing, there is no easy way out. Historically there is no way out been found yet, except to keep inflating, and at an ever increasing crescendo.

If worse came to worst, we would be exchanging honey for eggs and milk. Can you do that with pollination?

Things can only get better. We are down to the wire now.

Cheers,

JohnS
 

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John, many commercial operators use large holding yards in California and elsewhere. This is their livelihood. They are well aware this is not the best scenario for honeybees but they manage. You are preaching to the choir here or one might better call it lecturing to the much more informed. These issues have been dealt with for decades.
Most beeks do not drop their bees off without giving them pollen sub and syrup. They are not starving. You may not approve of such actions or like to think about them but this is a commercial board, and that is a normal commercial situation.
Sheri
 

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You may not approve of such actions or like to think about them but this is a commercial board said:
I think thats a bit harsh Sheri, yes it's a commercial board and yes it's a normal commercial situation where you are, but it's anything but normal where I am and maybe not normal for John either.
OK they are fed pollen substitute and suger syrup but thats not good for the bees if it's a regular thing. and how do you know what pests and diseases are lurking in the hives around you.
With an enviroment like that for your bees I dont know how they even survive, especially if you add other stress's to the bees by having them pollinate crops that have been exposed to systemic insecticedes and GM crops.
No it's definetly not a normal commercial situation for some.
Cheers
Kiwi
 

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Almond pollination is very good for bees. That's how the package bee industry developped. So what if there are plenty of bees. There is plenty of pollen. Most years bees are in a swarming mode when they come out.

It's not a GM crop and I'm not really sure if systemic insecticides are used on it.

Beekeepers in the US and Canada don't enjoy a highly protectionistic environment in which to operate unlike New Zealand beekeepers. They have to compete for price against other world producers for market share. Definitely not a normal commercial situation for most.

Jean-Marc
 

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I think thats a bit harsh Sheri, yes it's a commercial board and yes it's a normal commercial situation where you are, but it's anything but normal where I am and maybe not normal for John either.
OK they are fed pollen substitute and suger syrup but thats not good for the bees if it's a regular thing. and how do you know what pests and diseases are lurking in the hives around you.
With an enviroment like that for your bees I dont know how they even survive, especially if you add other stress's to the bees by having them pollinate crops that have been exposed to systemic insecticedes and GM crops.
No it's definetly not a normal commercial situation for some.
Cheers
Kiwi
It amazes me how people will talk about things they know little of. The bees we send to Calf. have more honey stores then the ones I keep here in Colorado at 8200 ft. So they don't starve, they have plenty of honey. The pollen patties fed to them before placement into the Almonds is to stimulate brood rearing and when they come to me in March, they are so strong that I have to split them. And not one or two frames...usually its 5 to 6 frame splits.

The reason you "don't" know how they even survive is because you are making conclusions without facts. A simple mistake but one we who are in the trade see constantly from those that don't take the time to learn from those with experience.

Sherri, Keith, and just about all the commercial beeks that post here are always willing to share information about how things are done, best practices, new ideas, how to get into the business, etc, etc.

"how do you know what pests and diseases are lurking in the hives around you." Easy, I check my bees when they come back from Calf. Knowing my trade I can easily diagnose the problems and deal with them. In my case I don't use chemicals so don't run down that track before reading my threads about how to treat with EO's.

People could learn lots about how to care for their bees in this thread...jumping to conclusions without reading past threads...well I guess that's just to be expected. :rolleyes:
 

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The thread says" Thoughts on pollination"

Starving bees Mr. Smith says...... The only one who is starving is the keeper. :)

I wonder if much thought was thought about when starting this thread.
 

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Hi Jean-Marc,
Im not sure why you would think we dont compete for price on the world market like you do.
Where do you think we sell our honey and packages? with a population of just over 4 million not much of it gets sold here most of it is exported and we have to compete with all nations that produce bee products under the same conditions as you.
The only thing thats protectionist is that thankfully so far the NZ government hasn't allowed imported honey onto our shores so we don't have the issue of Chinese sugar syrup being sold here driving down the prices of real honey.
In reply to Alpha6 you say the Almonds have plenty of pollen but you feed pollen patties to the bees going to the Almonds to stimulate brood rearing? what time of year are you sending them is it early spring when the natural pollens are not around?
In regards to the lurkers in other beekeepers hives you say no problem you just check them when they come back, that might work for you in the States where if worst comes to worst you can treat with chemicals in our "commercial situation" the reality is if we get AFB we have to burn no other alternative and with that many hives in one yard all it takes is for one hive to be infected with it to spread it too many others.
We pollinate kiwifruit in NZ they are in the orchard for 7-10 days they are fed sugar syrup from the time they go in because the flowers are not attractive to the bees and the experts say that by feeding syrup they will go for the pollen on the kiwis rather than looking at things like clover for nectar. Our hives that have been on kiwis never do as well as the others and it's a real downside to pollinating them.
To say I dont read other threads on here is unfair and I still stand by what I said in my original post it was very condesending for Sheri to say that " this is a commercial board and that is a commercial situation for most" it imply's that John dosn't have a clue what he's saying but who's to say he's wrong?
Josh James I'm feeling the love just not from this forum right now :) but thats OK I really enjoy reading the posts and it's a natural reaction for people to bite if they feel they are being got at.
Cheers
Kiwi
 

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it was very condesending for Sheri to say that " this is a commercial board and that is a commercial situation for most" it imply's that John dosn't have a clue what he's saying but who's to say he's wrong?
Kiwi
Well I agree 100% with Sheri's veiws, John talks about Calif Almonds right from the start, and BTW, he ought to come out here and see what folks do with there bees.
 

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Kiwi, please, if you are going to quote me, or anyone else for that matter, please be accurate.
I said "John, many commercial operators use large holding yards....snip... and "this is a commercial board, and that is a normal commercial situation.
I am not trying to be condescending. Obviously, there are differences between commercial outfits in our country and yours. I do not want to encourage a "we are better than you" argument, which is why I answered John in the manner I did. His judgemental attitude towards normal commercial operation in our country was offensive to me and I am sure to others here as well.
If, as you say, you had read over these threads you might have noticed the many discussions on California almond pollination practices. There are several about the feeding of pollen sub and syrup when they first hit the ground in California and/or prior to leaving their home state. Almonds bloom when it is winter in more than half the country and they need stimulated to produce brood at that time of year. By the time the almonds bloom they are big colonies and the almonds stimulate them more still. They come back to, in my case, Wisconsin, in April, in much better shape than when they left for California in November. We absolutely must split them back hard because they are so big ie healthy.
Please, this board is about sharing of commercial practices and it is interesting to hear how things are done "down under" too, but understand that when a poster says "Had I have been a bee I would have puked." when he saw how many here do it he might get a little reaction.:D
We can all learn from each other hopefully.
Sheri
 

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The reason I feel you don't compete is because your governement keeps out the competition. It's not just chinese honey that is kept out. In this country for the longest time, some of the cheapest honey in this part of the country was from Capilano. (Australia's co-op) Interestingly enough I'm pretty sure there members did not know that the cheapest honey on our shelves was from Australia. I purchased some once to try it out (also beekeepers have to support beekeepers) and it was good. Since then Capilano is now publically traded and they have been losing money on our shores for too long ,so they are a thing of the past.

Jean-Marc
 

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Commercial, migratory beekeepers get a pretty bad rap in general, largely due to the mass media prefers to push the sensationalist sad and anger inducing stories over the stories that have become the common and the mundane.

I don't anticipate ever being much more than a 'sideliner' myself, if I did ever go further than that, it would have to be in a way that doesn't involve migratory business. I haven't the tenacity for that.

Most of the commercial folks whose posts I read here and elsewhere and have had the opportunity to exchange posts with mostly come off as people who do what they can to walk that fine line between what they see as doing right by the bees and making a living as a beekeeper.

However, if not for these adventurous souls, we would be facing a different situation in regards to foods available to us on a regular, consistent basis. Not to mention the resultant products from those hives that enter the market such as the honey produced, etc...

Holding yards are part of the business that commercial beekeeping is. It is largely unique to those who engage in migratory beekeeping and most sideliners/hobbyists never have to even know they exist, let alone deal with one.

There are risks in every endeavor we take up and there are things about various businesses that we must accept. ( As a truck driver, I have to accept that some idiot can speed up, pull in front of me then suddenly stomp on their brakes as their kids wave in the back window at me, un-restrained. Now I get to choose who might die, me, or them. it's a fact of the business. A very unpleasant one at that.)

Commercial beekeeping seldom falls into the "Big Business" category and usually is better defined as a small or mid sized business, fraught with bottom lines in terms of expenses and methods that protect your investments vs trying to eke out enough to make a living at it and call yourself successful. Eventually, they have to live with the decisions they make and actions they take and hope it all comes out for the best in the end.

I would like to see more movies and videos about commercial beekeeping that take a more objective view on the business rather than using it as a springboard for ulterior motives myself.

Big Bear
 

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Notice the smiley face after Keith's comment?
The truth is just the opposite, pollination in general and and California almonds in particular is probably the single biggest factor in keeping U.S. beeks from starvation. Not that it isn't wrought with perils and risk. Beekeeping is like any other kind of farming, there can be some pretty lean years, followed with enough to pay off the loans incurred over those bad years. Then the cycle starts again. You don't go into it to get rich you do it because you're crazy.....ummm no, I mean, because you love it.
Sheri
PS, Big Bear, that was downright poetic. If someone does make an objective movie, you should do the narration. :thumbsup:
 

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Notice the smiley face after Keith's comment?
The truth is just the opposite, pollination in general and and California almonds in particular is probably the single biggest factor in keeping U.S. beeks from starvation. Not that it isn't wrought with perils and risk. Beekeeping is like any other kind of farming, there can be some pretty lean years, followed with enough to pay off the loans incurred over those bad years. Then the cycle starts again. You don't go into it to get rich you do it because you're crazy.....ummm no, I mean, because you love it.
Sheri
PS, Big Bear, that was downright poetic. If someone does make an objective movie, you should do the narration. :thumbsup:
To be fair Sheri, there are plenty of beekeepers in both the U.S. and Canada that do not go to California to pollinate almonds and are thriving financially. If one wishes to go that route that's their business, but to suggest that without subjecting the bees to that type of stress one cannot survive in this business is misleading.
 
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