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  July 2015 
Christi's Corner

 

There are 4 words that matter this time of year.  Of course they matter all year long, but the recent BIP survey brought to light data showing summer colony losses surpassing winter colony losses, especially among commercial beekeepers.  The 4 words? "How are your bees?"  Our food supply, as well as the prices we pay for the wide variety of colorful nutritious foods that make up our meals, are highly dependent on the success of our commercial beekeepers. So, how are YOUR bees?  We care, because PAm is doing everything it can to help improve honey bee health.  We provide tools and information for our beekeepers and funding for equipment, personnel and research at our bee labs.  As you wrestle with the 4 words that count, "How are your bees?" we'll try to keep you amused with some interesting newsletter items below - see Billy's Blog, Miller's Mania and The Word from Wardell.  Enjoy your day and get out and see how those bees are doing!

 

Christi Heintz

Executive Director  

 

Billy's Blog

I'm proud to now be a part of PAm.  Prior to my start, I had the opportunity to take a road trip.  A trip highlight was working bees side-by-side with Sue Cobey on a PAm stock improvement project.  My first week at PAm found me in North Dakota meeting with board members Zac Browning and John Miller and USGS' Dr. Matt Smart and Dr. Clint Otto.  Next, I attended the Minnesota Honey Producers Meeting and took part in a field trip to the Morris, MN ARS Lab where they are looking at oilseed crops as pollinator plants to help both landowners derive income from bee-friendly plants, and provide bees with more forage resources.  For more about my trip, click here

 

Miller's Musings - by John Miller

Have you noticed?  In beekeeping, about the time you figure you've figured it out; you haven't.  We keep bees in North Dakota after pollination season in California.  North Dakota is a relatively safe place for bees.  Decades ago, honey production was our primary source of income.  Decades ago, we had not seen Varroa A  southern operation was the necessary evil of a northern operation.  Young men, from the farm, could be hired to keep bees, and in some cases, make careers, and own their own outfits.  From 2009-2014, honey production in our region collapsed.  Same locations we had kept bees on for many a government crop program were now planted roadside to roadside in corn and beans. Keeping our equipment in use, rather than in storage, became an issue for six years.  During this time, we repeatedly built more hives, trying to keep up with repeated winter losses.  In 2015, the strange alchemy that is Mother Nature surprised us with a robust sweet clover bloom.  The bees filled.  The equipment filled.  We now work the days of summer, to prepare the bees for winter, and 2016 pollination work.

 

I've really got it figured out this time.

 

The Word From Wardell
Dr. Gordon Wardell

Recently I spent a week in New Zealand at their national meetings.  The similarity between what is going on in New Zealand and here in the US is surprising.  Like in the US, there are two beekeeping organizations that don't always see eye to eye, but at their meeting last month the New Zealanders voted to unify and be represented by one organization.  They are looking forward to a unified voice for their industry.

 

Varroa mites have been present in New Zealand since the year 2000, and while Varroa is a problem, it doesn't have the same impact as seen in this country. Tight government standards have limited the use of non-registered products in the hives.  Strong educational and extension programs have promoted the judicious use and regular rotation of mite control products and as a consequence the Varroa in New Zealand has not developed resistance to Apistan, giving them an edge in treatment rotations.  Mixing up applications with Apivar, Apistan and soft treatments is giving the New Zealanders very effective control of the Varroa in their colonies.  Surprisingly, they are able to keep the mites under control with two treatments per year while three to four treatments a year seem to be par for American commercial beekeepers. 

 

Another issue we are struggling with here in the US that they are managing to avoid is queen viability.  While we migrate our bees to almonds and blueberries, the New Zealanders chase Manuka honey and routinely move their colonies to follow the honey flow.  Despite this moving and other similarities to US beekeeping, they don't have the heavy queen losses we are seeing in the US.  Typically a queen is replaced every other year while here in the US it's not uncommon to replace a queen twice a year.   

 

Without question, almond pollination is a driving force for the commercial bee community in the US, and in New Zealand it is Manuka honey that is driving their industry. Manuka is a thixotropic honey that sets up like jelly in the combs and must be stirred in the cells prior to extracting or the combs are pressed to remove the honey.  Manuka honey is said to have many medicinal qualities and is consequently fetching high prices in Asian and European markets.  A super of top grade Manuka honey can cost up to six thousand USD.  These prices are causing Kiwi beekeepers to push their operations to the limit. Some fly hives into remote parts of the west coast of New Zealand by helicopter and drop them in areas that cannot be accessed by trucks just to secure a pure flow. 

 

Even New Zealand clover and blended honey wholesales for as much as $5 per pound.  But before you get any ideas, know that New Zealand has a ban on the importation of any honey or honey products, so you won't be able to sell this year's big clover crop to Kiwi honey packers.  A high-end honey market comes with drawbacks too.  It's the Wild West down there with new beekeepers jumping prime locations and turf wars breaking out in what was once a quiet industry. Although the word "unity" was being thrown around constantly at the meetings, you couldn't help but feel that the New Zealand beekeeping community is far from unified. Sure, they might merge the major organizations in order to form one national voice, but there exists a palpable tension in the air. At dinner, beekeepers would reminisce about the days when they would come together and share ideas, strategies, and tips for one another. Now, however, it seems as though Manuka is a new "space race" of sorts and beekeepers are doing anything it takes to secure sites. Unification might be within reach, but Manuka and exorbitant honey prices are stressing the relationships of a tight-knit beekeeping community. 

 

Supplemental forage is becoming an issue in New Zealand just as it is in this country.  A growing number of colonies and less available off-season forage is nutritionally stressing many colonies.   They have put together a "Trees for Bees" program similar to PAm's "Seeds for Bees" program.  They are looking specifically at trees, shrubs and perennials to be planted along hedge rows, and marginal and unused lands.  They have asked for PAm's assistance with wildflower and annual plantings, and in turn they will provide information and support to PAm in developing tree and shrub recommendations.  

 

What is interesting to see are the common threads that run through our industry whether it is here in the US or halfway around the globe.  It's a smaller industry and a smaller world than we perceive.  

 

Dr. Gordon Wardell

Chairman, Project Apis m.

 

The Cost of Bee Feed and Why It's Important

 

Money talks.  If we are to ask agencies like the Dept. of Interior and the Dept. of Tranportation to consider access to public lands for commercial honey bee colonies or to plant bee-friendly plants, we need good data on what commercial beekeepers spend on supplemental bee feed and why increasing habitat is vital.  Needed are better economic models that serve to keep beekeeping businesses sustainable. PAm has been bugging BIP about obtaining feed data as part of their annual survey.  We don't like to make surveys longer, but BIP has the resources and the statisticians to give us better on-the-ground information than any other organization.

 

BIP's Nathalie Steinhauer has teased the 2014-2015 data apart to give us the first-ever real good look at supplemental feed costs for commercial beekeepers.  What did she find?  Most commercial beekeepers spend about $24 per colony per year on supplemental feed.  There are no economies of scale - seems whether you have 1,000 or 10,000 colonies, the cost of feed per colony remains the same.  Conservatively figuring just over 2 million commercial colonies in the U.S., feed approaches $50 million per year.  Now there's justification to spend a few million dollars planting seeds for bees!  BIP's feed costs data represent 50 commercial beekeepers answering that specific question, with 180,000 colonies.  The take away message?  Participate in the BIP Survey each spring so we can accurately represent the beekeeping industry!  You'll see the Survey notice in this enewsletter!

 

In This Issue:
Thank you to our recent donors!
California Almond Pollination Services
Bloom Honey
Hauke Honey Corp.
Lockhart Fine Foods
Veronica Swarens

Buy Wella Bars!

 

Lockhart Fine Foods keeps it's goal simple - to create the best tasting fresh foods with the finest pure ingredients. What is the sweetest, finest ingredient you can think of?  Honey, of course!  And to help insure a sustainable supply of delicious honey, Lockhart has a stake in honey bee health by generously donating 1% of all Wella Bar sales to Project Apis m.  Buy Wella Bars, visit their website at www.wellabar.com, and Like them on Facebook!  We thank Lockhart Fine Foods for their contributions to honey bee health through Project Apis m.

 

No-Varroa Anniversary Update

As we mentioned in the last enewsletter, we have embarked on a serious commitment to funding more Varroa research.  We want to hinder in every way possible, Varroa's ability to enjoy its 30th anniversary in the U.S. in September, 2017.  Helping us with that effort has been funding from CoBank, American AgCredit, along with bee brokers Lyle Johnston and Brian Johnston.  California Almond Pollination Services, Inc. and Stephen House has now joined the bee brokers to help fund research to control Varroa.  Thank you California Almond Pollination Services, Inc! 


Wonderful Bees

As of June 1st, Paramount Farms is now known as Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds. Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds is the biggest tree nut company in the world, the biggest bee rental customer, and aspires to be the biggest beekeeper in the world.  Their beekeeping operation will be known as Wonderful Bees.  It will be hard for many of us to get used to the new Wonderful name, as Paramount has been a key word in our lexicon for many, many years.  Practically speaking, those of you who email Paramount employees must change your address book references from @paramountfarming.com to firstname.lastname@wonderful.com.  We hope to see some Wonderful Giving in the future!  For the press release on the name change, click here.

 

July Bee Husbandry

 

* Inspect and Monitor for Varroa

-  Be aware that strong colonies in mid-Summer can be highly infested with Varroa mites and can crash late-Summer and Fall.
-  Check often.  Conduct a random sampling of hives.
-  Use biological controls to suppress mite populations, especially when surplus honey is being produced.
-  Exercise judicious treatment and use soft chemicals.  Follow recommended label instructions.
-  Rotate treatments to prevent resistance.
-  Recheck for efficacy.  Don't assume your treatments are working.

 
 Inspect and monitor for Nosema

-  Check often using a random sampling with microscopic examination.

-  Be aware that Nosema in the presence of high Varroa mite levels can compromise colony health.

-  Practice judicious chemical control treatment. Follow proper prep, storage and application.

-  See Project Apis m.'s YouTube video on Nosema control. Click here.

 

 

Sweet clover and alfalfa - a favorite honey bee combo
Wild sweet clover on highway barrier, Wolf Creek Pass, CO.

 

Industry leaders and researchers at Bayer in Raleigh, NC, June 2015
 
Read Billy's Blog about his trip to ND.
Project Apis m. | christi@projectapism.org | www.ProjectApism.org
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Paso Robles, CA 93446

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