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  January 2016
Christi's Corner
AHPA PAm exhibit
The national bee meetings are now behind us, and what a motivating week it was!  Danielle Downey and Billy Synk covered the American Beekeeping Federation's meeting for Project Apis m. (PAm) and Tara McCall and myself participated in the American Honey Producer's Conference.   Danielle will cover the ABF meeting below and my comments on the AHPA meeting include that it was well-attended with motivating and informational speakers such as Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, Blue Dasher Farm and Dr. Bruce Rodan, White House Staff.  Keep reading.  The 4 things you'll want to read in this enewsletter are Billy's Blog, Danielle's Discourse, The Word from Wardell, and BIP's Box.  

Christi Heintz
Executive Director  

Billy's Blog
Bee on Almond Bloom
It's almost February, and almond bloom is right around the corner.  Most growers have already signed a contract or shaken someone's hand.  The strength of most colonies will not change significantly between now and the beginning of bloom.  As you are watching the bees fly, walking the orchard, or looking over the shoulder of a hive inspector this spring, think about the role colony strength plays in pollination.  If a grower adheres to the recommendations about stocking rate and frame size, it will positively affect the efficiency of their farm. Click here to read Billy's article on stocking rates in almond orchards.

Billy Synk
Director of Pollination Programs

Danielle's Discourse
Happy New Year! Thanks to all of you for welcoming me to Project Apis m! I am excited to start 2016 in my new position as PAm Director of Operations, and what a great way to start, attending the ABF meetings in Florida. I am always reminded of what a unique community we belong to, full of good people. The meeting was well attended and there was so much excellent work being shared, with nearly half the talks I saw acknowledging support from PAm! This organization is well established throughout our industry, connected with the frontlines and poised to achieve increasingly greater things! ABF highlights included an inspiring talk about forage and habitat from our own Zac Browning and Pete Berthelsen of Pheasants Forever, with some startling facts about land conversion and the take home message that what benefits honey bees is also in the interest of many other species; when bees win, we all win. Their Honey Bee and Monarch Partnership, expanding from the Dakotas, is a project surely to create synergy and momentum to draw more stakeholders and benefit so many of our bees foraging in that area. It was also great to see the PAm-Costco scholar, Laura Brutscher, win the ABRC student competition presenting her research on RNAi use for honey bee pathogen research, what a great investment! 
Click here to read more of Danielle's Discourse!

Danielle Downey
Director of Operations

The Word From Wardell
Dr. Gordon Wardell
One million acres.  It's not a Dr. Evil quote from an Austin Powers movie; it's the number of acres of almonds in California needing pollination this year.  This is a huge production opportunity and at the same time a huge pollination demand.  Never before has the industry needed to deliver an estimated two million pollination-strength colonies to California by the first week in February.  This is certainly a testament to the proficiency and tenacity of our nation's commercial beekeepers.  

Most certainly this is not an easy year to accomplish this feat.  Record losses are being reported across the country - some estimate losses in their operations as high as 40% to 60%.  Earlier this winter we knew that the Upper Midwest was experiencing heavier than normal losses that were most likely due to mite pressure that just never let up, and now we are getting reports of colonies out of the Southeast that aren't building populations as would normally be expected.  A warm fall and winter seemed to throw off the typical floral patterns, and the customary winter forage just wasn't available.  Simply put, the colonies didn't grow like they normally would.  Beekeepers in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana all are reporting the same phenomenon.  Everyone's numbers are down.  

What does this mean for the bee supply for almond pollination?  At present, while individual beekeepers' numbers appear to be down, there doesn't appear to be a shortage of colonies for almond pollination this year.  While the supply might be tight, I don't foresee major shortages.  Rental prices are up this year, averaging $170 to $185 per colony.  This is $10 to $15 over rental prices last year.  These prices are fair increases considering the amount of feeding needed to ready the colonies for February pollination and the increases in transportation costs.  

After the severe colony losses of 2005 and 2006, beekeepers in Florida and the Southeast stepped up to fill the growing need for colonies in California almonds.  Increasing almond rental fees coupled with relentless sprays in Florida citrus to control the Huanglongbing , also known as citrus greening disease, beekeepers began shipping more colonies to California instead of staying in Florida to make orange blossom honey.  The increase in rental fees made it cost effective for beekeepers to ship colonies across the country.  These additional colonies were welcomed in California almond orchards, and their numbers and frame counts have been consistent for the past ten years.  This year, however, colonies out of the Southeast are experiencing many of the health challenges as seen across the country.  Culling heavily this year, beekeepers are recognizing that inconsistency is one of the consistent trends seen this year.  While individual beekeepers are experiencing higher than normal losses many had planned for losses by making more splits.  This coupled with new beekeepers entering the industry has eased the shortfall for this year's almond pollination.  With bloom just around the corner, colonies are starting to show up in orchards, and the greatest commercial pollination event in the world is getting started.  Good luck beekeepers and growers alike. 

Dr. Gordon Wardell
Chairman, Project Apis m.

Gordon Wardell Receives Distinguished Service Award
Wardell Receives Award
At CSBA's annual convention held in Sacramento this past year, PAm's Chairman, Dr. Gordon Wardell received the Distinguished Service Award.  Gordy's many contributions to the beekeeping world were acknowledged.  He has been a professional apiculturist for over 30 years and has worked with bees on three continents. Gordy is Director of Pollination Operations for Wonderful Orchards. He owned and directed S.A.F.E. Research and Development in Tucson, were he developed Mega-Bee, the honey bee nutritional supplement.  Previously, he was the extension apiculturist for the State of Maryland and has authored numerous scientific publications on honey bees. 

Droga Chocolates Will Help the Honey Bee
A portion of sales for Droga Chocolate's honey-containing confection, Money on Honey, is being dedicated to sustainable honey production. Project Apis m. will invest Droga Chocolate's contributions toward solving the honey bee management challenges caused by our primary pest, the Varroa mite. Buy Droga Money on Honey Chocolates!  See

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The BIP Box
Welcome to a new feature of the PAm enewsletter, The BIP Box! Here we will give you short updates on our BIP Tech Teams and BIP projects.  We look forward to partnering with PAm to help get the word out on BIP activities.  Please join us here each month to learn what we are seeing.  

January found us meeting with our tech teams and holding our first BIP stakeholder meetings at both national conferences.  Thank you to all that attended and participated!  

We are concerned about high mite loads in some areas as well as accompanying high losses with associated risks of not meeting pollination needs.  Based on 2015 data, we highly recommend that varroa monitoring be done pre and post pollination events and striving for as low as possible mite loads (zero) by May to reduce the damage done by mite growth in late summer and early fall.

Colony management is difficult, but for commercial operations, having the capability (staff) to inspect each colony at least every 10-14 days is critical if you hope to be proactive in varroa and disease control.  This seems like a small thing, but success is more likely if colonies are inspected, not just opened, every 2 weeks. 

 Bee Husbandry
Beekeeper's Goal:  Strong 8+ frame colonies by February 1st for pollination services.

-  Time hive placement prior to bloom and pick-up after almond bloom

-  Order packages, nucs and queens for coming year

-  Secure a pollination contract to protect both grower and beekeeper

-  Determine pollination fees that are realistic relative to your operation costs

-  Develop contingency plans for the unexpected

-  Check your mite levels; establish a baseline you can refer to the rest of the year

-  Think about stimulating brood with pollen patties and/or a light syrup (1:1)

Project Apis m. | |
6775 Chardonnay Rd
Paso Robles, CA 93446

Project Apis m. is a 501 (c) (5) non-profit organization.