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Welcome to the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association!

For over 130 years the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association has been serving the Los Angeles Beekeeping Community. Our group membership is composed of commercial and small scale beekeepers, bee hobbyists, and bee enthusiasts. So whether you came upon our site by design or just 'happened' to find us - welcome! Our primary purpose is the care and welfare of the honeybee. We achieve this through education of ourselves and the general public, supporting honeybee research, and practicing responsible beekeeping in an urban environment. 

"The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others."        Saint John Chrysostom

There will not be an LACBA Meeting or Beekeeping Class 101 in September. From September 2-25, members of the LACBA will be volunteering at the LA County Fair Bee Booth. Come join us!

Next LACBA Meeting:  No meeting in September. Next LACBA meeting is Monday, October 3, 2016. Open: 6:45P.M./Start: 7:00P.M.  

Beekeeping Class 101:
  No class in September. Next class, Sunday, October 16, at Bill's Bees Bee Yard 9AM-Noon. All are Welcome! 

Check out our Facebook page for lots of info and updates on bees; and please remember to LIKE US: 



Battling Killer Mites, Bees Find an Unlikely Ally: Monsanto

 WIRED   By Hannah Nordhaus, Photographs: Dan Winters   September Issue 2016



“Make a fist,” says Jerry Hayes, waving his own in the air.

“Now put it someplace on you.” About 150 people, the audience at a honeybee panel at the 2014 South by Southwest Eco conference, place their fists on their shoulders or collarbones. “Proportionally, this is how large a varroa mite is compared to a honeybee’s body,” Hayes says. The reddish-brown parasite, just a dot to the naked eye, drains the life out of bees and delivers a deadly cargo of viruses. “It would be like having a parasitic rat on you, sucking your blood.”

Under a microscope, a varroa mite is a monster: armored and hairy, with eight legs and one piercing, sucking mouthpart, primordial in its horror. Since the parasite arrived in the United States from Asia in 1987, the practice of tending bees has grown immeasurably harder. Beekeepers must use harsh chemicals in their hives to kill the mites or risk losing most of their bees within two to three years. About a third of the nation’s honeybees have died each winter over the past decade, and Hayes, an apiary scientist, believes the varroa mite is a major factor in this catastrophe.

“It’s money! You’re gonna make money! And until then you’re gonna kill as many bees as you can!”

Hayes’ audience, however, believes something else. SXSW Eco is a conference for environmentalists, and these attendees are not inclined to blame the honeybee’s problems on an obscure arthropod. They’d rather blame Hayes. That’s because Hayes works for Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agricultural behemoth that environmentalists love to hate (and, I should add, the sponsor of this panel, which I am moderating).

When the Q&A session begins, a petite woman who looks to be in her twenties approaches the microphone. “The room feels kind of tense,” she says. She explains that she’d like to hear more about pesticides, specifically a class called neonicotinoids, which many people blame for honeybee deaths. “Because,” she says, “we definitely covered mites.”

On it goes, one pesticide question after the next. Last in line is a burly fellow with blondish dreadlocks. His name is Walter, and he wears a yellow “Central Texas Bee Rescue” T-shirt. “OK now,” Walter says to Hayes, “you said there were things that we could do to help the honeybee. But in none of those things did you ever suggest that we stop spraying poison.”

Walter interrupts: “That’s shit you all made up.”

As the other panelists try to intercede, Walter shouts over them, “It’s money! You’re gonna make money!” You can see the spit flying. “And until then you’re gonna kill as many bees as you possibly can!”

Hayes is 62, lined and sinewy, his hair still dark. A gray-dappled beard frames his chin in such a way that his head seems to form a perfect rectangle. He doesn’t seek attention. He doesn’t talk about his feelings. As Walter continues, Hayes sits on the dais with his hands folded in front of him, silent, uncannily still.

Before he was a villain, Jerry Hayes was a hero. He considered himself one of the good guys. Many people did. They sought his advice. They smiled at him. “I like,” Hayes says, “to have people smile at me.”

Since the early 1980s Hayes has written “The Classroom,” an advice column for the American Bee Journal, America’s oldest bee magazine. He is Dear Abby for beekeepers, counseling readers on everything from capturing swarms to making shoe polish from beeswax. (To Tommy, a North Carolina beekeeper asking why his bees swarmed too late to survive the winter: “Sometimes the stupid gene expresses itself, Tommy. Genes are always testing themselves to see if they bring reproductive value.”)

For eight years before he joined Monsanto, Hayes ran Florida’s Apiary Inspection Section, which regulates the state’s bees and their keepers. More than 300 of Florida’s 4,000 registered beekeepers move their hives into the state for the winter—“like people from New Jersey,” Hayes says—and then, as spring approaches, pack them on trucks, 480 hives per semi, and head west and north to pollinate almonds, cherries, apples, blueberries, cranberries, vine fruits, pit fruits, onions, legumes—over $15 billion of US crops a year.

“We didn’t know what this was,” Hayes says, “but we had to give it a name.” They called it colony collapse disorder.

At summer’s end, those trucks return to Florida, carrying not only bees and honey but also viruses, bacteria, mites, beetles, ants, and fungi the bees picked up along the way. Hayes’ inspectors were tasked with intercepting those pests and pathogens before they spread to the rest of Florida’s—and the nation’s—bees. Add this to the list of weird stuff that happens in Florida: It’s where major honeybee plagues tend to begin.

Hayes was good at the job. Florida beekeepers came to see him and his 14 inspectors as allies rather than adversaries. “I didn’t want us to be the bee police,” he says. In 2006, Hayes was elected president of the Apiary Inspectors of America.

That same year, a commercial beekeeper in Florida named David Hackenberg discovered that his apparently healthy bees had disappeared and reported it to Hayes. Other beekeepers had similar accounts. Late one night, as the losses mounted—the nation would lose a third of its bees that winter—Hayes got on the phone with a group of alarmed entomologists. “We didn’t know what this was,” Hayes says, “but we felt we had to give it a name.” They called it colony collapse disorder.

By early the next year, the Internet was abuzz with theories about CCD. It offered a litany of dystopian ecological conspiracies: cell phones interfering with bee navigation, or genetically modified corn syrup, or neonicotinoid pesticides. But no one really knew.

Around that time, Hayes went to a seminar about a gene modification technique called RNA interference. DNA is, of course, the spiraling, double-stranded molecule that encodes genetic information and determines everything about us: whether our eyes are blue or if we’re more likely to suffer a particular cancer. But the genome also relies on RNA—the single-stranded version of genetic code used in the protein factories of the cell.

RNA can also “silence” specific genes, preventing an organism from using them to make proteins. In 1998 scientists discovered that they could engineer stretches of double-stranded RNA to do the same thing. As a lab technique, RNA interference—or RNAi—turned out to be useful for learning about genes by turning them off. It also showed promise in fighting viruses, cancers, and even harmful pests and parasites. The researchers at the seminar were talking about using RNAi to prevent mosquitoes from spreading malaria, but that gave Hayes another idea. “I thought, could this be adapted to honeybee predator control?” In other words: to kill mites.

An Israeli company called Beeologics was thinking along similar lines. Beeologics’ president, Eyal Ben-Chanoch, didn’t actually know much about bees. But he knew people were worried about CCD, and he thought that a product aimed at fighting it would garner attention for his company. So he directed his researchers to look at using RNAi to control a bee disease that seemed related to CCD called Israeli acute paralysis virus. Ben-Chanoch heard that Hayes had been asking about the technology at bee conferences, got in touch, and set up a collaboration on field trials in Florida.

RNAi works like tweezers, plucking its victims with exquisite specificity by clicking into sequences of their unique genetic code.

Beeologics soon got the attention Ben-Chanoch had hoped for. News stories about the company’s forthcoming “affordable cure” for CCD attracted the eyes of executives at Monsanto. The company was already working on an RNAi-enhanced corn plant, engineered to disable the maize-eating Western corn rootworm, and researchers there saw even more potential. Traditional pesticides act like chemical backhoes, killing their targets (beetles, weeds, viruses) but harming good things along the way (beneficial insects, birds, fish, humans). RNAi, in theory, works instead like a set of tweezers, plucking its victims with exquisite specificity by clicking into sequences of genetic code unique to that organism. “If you could design an ideal pesticide, this is the stuff you’re looking for,” says Pamela Bachman, a toxicologist at Monsanto.

The problem was that synthesizing RNA was too expensive. But Beeologics found a way to do it at a relatively low cost and was testing it in Hayes’ Florida beehives. In 2011, Monsanto bought Beeologics and its RNAi tech and offered Hayes a job explaining it to beekeepers.

Hayes had serious reservations. He was happy in Florida. So was his family—his wife, Kathy, and their four children, two of whom were still in school. And he liked being an apiary inspector. The beekeeping industry was small, and he knew all the players. Monsanto had 22,000 employees, few of whom knew anything about honeybees. “Beekeepers look at Monsanto and other Big Ag companies as the enemy, spraying chemicals and killing bees’ forage,” Hayes says. He would be a lonely voice there: a man who loved insects in a place where insects are the enemy.

He had other concerns. There was the company’s nickname among eco-activists: Monsatan. And its lofty ranking on any list of the world’s most despised corporations. There were the muckraking documentaries (Seeds of DeathGMO OMG), the Twitter hashtag (#monsantoevil), the protest groups (Occupy MonsantoBee Against Monsanto). There were the rumors of farmers in India driven to suicide by GMO-incurred debt, the tales of sullied gene pools and browbeaten scientists and university stooges and journalist shills and Brobdingnagian government influence.

The rhetoric offended Hayes’ sense of fairness. He knew that environmentalists linked colony collapse to neonicotinoid insecticides and that they thought Monsanto was somehow to blame. But he also knew that Monsanto doesn’t make insecticides. The company’s most famous product, glyphosate—that’s Roundup—kills plants. Its second-most famous product—Roundup-ready seeds—allows plants to resist its most famous product.

There was a symbiosis there: Like flowers and bees, Monsanto and Hayes could exploit each other to their own ends.

Nor was Hayes convinced that neonicotinoids explained honeybee losses in the first place. When neonics came to market in the 1990s, farmers and environmentalists welcomed them as far less toxic to birds and mammals than earlier insecticides. Some studies raised concerns about sublethal effects on honeybees like impaired navigation, reproduction, and immune systems, but larger field studies didn’t.

Hayes came to realize that the same elements that cause people to loathe and fear Monsanto—its size, its resources, its influence on agricultural practices, its headlong embrace of futuristic technologies—presented an opportunity. “It has more money than any group that I’ve ever worked with,” he says.

As for Monsanto, “we wanted the process”—the RNAi technology—says Billy Brennan, the company’s international communications manager, “but we saw a tremendous opportunity to support honeybee health.” People were worried about dying bees; the company could show it was trying to help. There was a symbiosis there: Like flowers and bees, Monsanto and Hayes could exploit each other to their own ends.

Hayes and his wife had converted to Mormonism after their first child was born. And though he joined the church too late to travel the world preaching gospel, he nonetheless sees himself as a missionary. He wants to make a difference. “So,” he says, “I decided to stick my neck way outside of my shell.” He took the job. 

When Hayes told his beekeeping colleagues about his move, “there was a real feeling that he was selling out,” says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the University of Maryland entomologist who was the first scientist to autopsy David Hackenberg’s CCD-ridden bees. “My internal question,” says Marla Spivak, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota and longtime colleague, “was ‘Huh, I wonder if he needs money.’” At an apiary inspectors’ meeting just before Hayes left his job in Florida, the group halted the proceedings to bestow upon Hayes a toy lightsaber with a red blade—the kind Darth Vader uses. “For joining the Dark Side,” vanEngelsdorp says.

Hayes crossed over in January 2012, leaving Kathy and his two teenage children behind while he got settled. He found a property an hour southwest of Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters—“I’m a country boy,” Hayes says—where he could keep a garden full of spinach and 30 beehives.

At Monsanto, “I would think several times a day of running screaming into the parking lot,” Hayes says.

It was a disorienting change. Monsanto wasn’t the Death Star—you couldn’t meet a Missouri-nicer group of people. But it was, Hayes says, “like coming to Mars.” In Hayes’ previous jobs, getting dressed up meant wearing a baseball cap that wasn’t covered in propolis and bee droppings. His new office was full of khaki-clad MBAs who talked about things like “matrix management.” The headquarters had a stark, midcentury style; in one auditorium the seats had ashtrays in the armrests. Getting approval for a simple idea—like placing beehives on the company campus—involved negotiating byzantine lines of authority. “I would think several times a day of running screaming into the parking lot,” Hayes says.

It got worse. Hayes had believed that the RNAi product that killed Israeli acute paralysis virus was almost ready for market. But a few days after he started, Hayes learned that the product had recently failed its fifth FDA field trial.

His position was still open in Florida, and his family was still there, waiting out the school year. Maybe he’d made a mistake. Perhaps, like Tommy’s autumn swarm in North Carolina, Hayes had listened to the stupid gene and pulled up stakes at the wrong time. “I almost went back,” he says.

Yet Hayes still saw an opportunity. The Israeli virus was one of a number of bee viruses, and most of them entered hives via the same carrier: Hayes’ mites. “If you took care of the varroa mite, you took care of these eight or nine different viruses in one fell swoop,” he says. The mite, he believed, should be Monsanto’s ultimate target.

Hayes asked one of his supervisors to help him work the bureaucracy, setting up meetings and preparing a PowerPoint presentation for their bosses. Hayes spoke about the varroa mite again and again, up and up Monsanto’s corporate ladder. It took dozens of meetings—“I did the whole ‘make a fist’ thing about 5 million times,” Hayes says. His proposition: A single virus was too narrow a focus. If Monsanto wanted to help bees, it should direct its considerable resources at Hayes’ small red great white whale. Hayes would consult on the technical work and join the company’s PR team, spreading the word about varroa mites and RNAi.

The bosses signed on, and Hayes decided to stay. Stupid gene or no, “I didn’t ever want to be accused of not trying,” he says. Kathy and his two younger children joined him six months later.

Six months after that, Kathy began feeling sick. She had been treated for breast cancer eight years before. But there in Missouri the cancer had come back, and it was everywhere in her body. She died in April 2014.

The Summer after Hayes’ SXSW talk, we meet at Monsanto’s Chesterfield research complex, 11 miles from the company’s main headquarters, in a suburb of strip malls and Starbucks. The Chesterfield campus is a 1.5 million-square-foot complex with 425 labs, 26 rooftop greenhouses, and 124 growth chambers. Hayes waits at the door as I duck in from a biblical downpour. “Welcome,” he says, “to the belly of the beast.”

We wind past a vast room of gene-sequencing equipment, through a greenhouse planted wall to wall with experimental corn varieties, down soundless underground hallways to a long thin lab with soapstone counters, where a team is focused on making RNAi work. On the counter are plants covered in nets and infested with Colorado potato beetles—a round, circus-striped superpest that resists 60 chemicals but could be vulnerable to RNAi. Next to the plants is a half-gallon jar of gleaming white powder. This is pure double-stranded RNA, enough to cover a few hundred acres. Making just this much cost around $100,000—still far too expensive for widespread commercial use.

Around the corner, a lab assistant named Nick rattles a mesh-covered jar half-full of dead bees and varroa mites. It sounds like a dog shaking a collar. He turns the jar upside down and sifts a dusting of mites and bees onto the counter. Out at Monsanto’s hives, the bees ate sugar syrup laced with mite-killing RNA. Nick will test the mites to see if they picked up the RNAi product from the bees’ hemolymph, the blood equivalent on which the mites feed.

Even if the Monsanto team can make a reliable varroa mite killer, environmentalists still won’t want it.

Once Hayes’ team switched to varroa mites, they quickly identified genes they could turn off with RNAi. In the lab it was easy. “You can kill mites all day long in a petri dish,” Hayes says. But in the field the RNA doesn’t stay intact long enough to work through the bees and into the mites. Hayes estimates they kill only around 20 percent. That’s not enough.

Price and stability aren’t the only obstacles to the technology. Lots of very different living things share genes and genetic sequences, which means it is theoretically possible, if unlikely, that RNAi could harm organisms beyond its targets. The USDA approved Monsanto’s RNAi-modified corn plant in 2015, but the EPA is still looking into potential hazards, like contamination through windblown pollen or falling leaves. “I think there’s high potential for an oops event,” says biologist Martha Crouch of the Center for Food Safety. “The risks aren’t well-enough known to forge ahead with large-scale commercial deployment.”

Beekeepers—Hayes’ constituents, his people—are also skeptical. In comments submitted to the USDA, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board argued that using the technology “would be more naive than our use of DDT in the 1950s.” DDT was the pesticide at the heart of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, which launched the modern environmental movement. Even if the team can make a reliable varroa killer, environmentalists still won’t want it.

In May 2013, hundreds of thousands of people in more than 300 cities participated in a March Against Monsanto. “We recognized that our reputation can’t get any worse,” Monsanto’s Brennan says. That summer, the company revamped its communications efforts. Where once executives carefully vetted everything their rank and file said in public, they now encourage staff to be less closed off and to share personal stories. I heard a few (remarkably similar) about farmers in India and Africa who were able to send their kids to school because of Monsanto-engineered crops. Employees engage on social media, talk to local skeptics’ groups, do AMAs on Reddit and panels at conferences like SXSW. The company also created a “corporate engagement team” with nearly 200 people, bearing titles like “moms and food-minded manager” and “millennial outreach coordinator.”

Hayes joined the team as “honeybee health lead.” Several times a month, he travels around the country speaking to bee clubs and conferences about Monsanto’s work on varroa mites.

Hayes has made Monsanto a little bit more bee-friendly too. The company now has a beekeeping club. Hayes also helped set up a Honeybee Health Coalition of beekeepers, scientists, farmers, and farm-chemical companies, like Bayer and Syngenta. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Hayes’ entomologist pal, was one of the first to sign on. Even the American Beekeeping Federation joined.

“To have some value,” Hayes says, “you have to do some things that are uncomfortable.”

The coalition does not include some of the most vocal anti-pesticide organizations, but Hayes did invite the insect-advocacy group Xerces Society. It dropped out, however, on the grounds that the coalition wasn’t serious about addressing the role of pesticides in honeybee losses. And that’s Hayes’ conundrum. He wants to talk about mites and disappearing forage and the vast and confounding spectrum of other threats to honeybees. Environmentalists mostly want to talk about neonicotinoid pesticides.

It’s true, of course, that neonics can harm not only honeybees but also other living things. They are widely used in farms and gardens, flea collars, and extermination products, and they can persist in the environment for months or years. But neonics aren’t the only chemical honeybees contend with—not even close. One study found traces of 118 different pesticides in pollen, beeswax, and bees.

Yet bees endure. When a colony dies—collapses quickly or succumbs slowly—beekeepers divide their remaining colonies, buy new queens, and grow populations back to full strength. Despite unremitting losses, the number of bee colonies globally has held steady.

There’s also this stubborn fact: While neonic use continues in the US, the particular symptoms of colony collapse disorder have not. “I haven’t seen CCD in five years,” says vanEngelsdorp, who surveys the nation’s bee losses twice a year. He now believes what he saw back in 2006 was some sort of emerging viral infection. Indeed, vanEngelsdorp and Hayes have come to regret coining the terrifying name colony collapse disorder. What kills bees? Pesticides, yes, but also pathogens, poor nutrition, and varroa mites. Especially varroa mites. That’s why Hayes stays at Monsanto. “To have some value,” he says, “you have to do some things that are uncomfortable.”

It has, indeed, been uncomfortable. Beekeepers have accused Hayes of poisoning the earth, contaminating the honeybee gene pool, and hawking genetically engineered “robobees.” Environmentalists have walked out of his talks; beekeeping clubs have feuded over his presence. “I have more scar tissue than I thought,” Hayes says.

Hayes used to consider himself an environmentalist. He belonged to the Sierra Club. But he quit. “I saw how they were using terms like Monsanto and Bayer as fund-raising mechanisms,” he says. “But if you believe in science, if you take a hard look at the science and data of some of these groups, they’re cooking the books in order to make themselves look better and others look evil. So they can raise money. To be successful.”

These are culture wars. Honeybees have become as political as GMOs or vaccines. Anti-corporate environmentalists battle from one redoubt, Big Ag technologists from the other. Hayes stands in the middle, taking fire from both sides. “We’re a competitive species,” Hayes says.

“MAKE A FIST,” Hayes says. Two dozen people sitting in a Southern Baptist church outside Durango, Colorado—members of the Four Corners Beekeepers Association—follow his instructions.

This group is about as different from the crowd at SXSW Eco as one could imagine—older men in ball caps, women in boot-cut jeans. They aren’t trying to transform agriculture or save the world. They just like keeping bees.

Hayes tells them how he got into beekeeping. “Have you ever been in the situation,” he asks, “where you just loved every day?” A summer shower blows through outside, fat raindrops bouncing off the grass. A young elk, antlers furred, looks in through the windows. “I’m a beekeeper,” he says. “I came to Monsanto because I care about bees.”

Recently a friend who hadn’t seen Hayes in a while told him he looked “kind of sick.” And it’s true. He’s thinner. The lines in his face are deeper. His youngest son left for Mormon mission in England last summer. Hayes is alone now.

Earlier that day, as we drove alongside the winding Animas River to visit a honey factory, Hayes told me that his patience was wearing thin. The RNAi mite treatment was still at least seven years from market. “We haven’t invented anything yet,” he said. But he still wants to. When Hayes returned from Durango, he set up a massive trial—1,000-plus colonies in 10 states, third-party monitors, dozens of beekeepers applying the RNAi product. He expects results by the end of the year. “This is probably the largest field trial in the beekeeping industry ever,” Hayes says. Smaller trials have provided “glimpses and glimmers” of the product’s efficacy; this one, he hopes, will magnify the data. Monsanto lives by data. “That’s what people understand here.”

Even if the mites die in droves, though, Hayes knows the fighting won’t end. And he doesn’t know if he has it in him to endure more years of battering while he waits for the technology to mature. “If I could have looked into a crystal ball,” he says, “I don’t know that I would have done it.”

When honeybees encounter too large a gap within a hive, they use beeswax to bridge it. Hayes once believed—perhaps this was the stupid gene again—that he could build a similar bridge. “I was naive,” he says. He knows he wasn’t wrong about the mites. It was humans that he didn’t understand. 

Hannah Nordhaus (@hannahnordhaus) is the author of The Beekeeper’s Lament.

This article appears in the September 2016 issue.


EpiPen Prices Rise 400%

CATCH THE BUZZ    August 27, 2016

Meg LaTorre-Snyder , Pharmpro.comAs school season is about to begin, members of Congress express concern over the soaring prices of Mylan’s EpiPen, (EpiPen® (epinephrine injection, USP) 0.3 mg or EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) 0.15 mg) voicing the complaints of anxious parents.

According to an article in the New York Times:

Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who leads the Judiciary Committee, was the latest to weigh in on Monday, sending a letter to the head of the pharmaceutical company Mylan, which produces EpiPens. Mr. Grassley demanded an explanation for the 400 percent price increase — to as much as $600 — since the company acquired the product in 2007.

Earlier, Senator Amy Klobuchar called for a Judiciary Committee to inquire into “the pricing and an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.”

U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng submitted a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requesting a hearing on the price increase of Mylan’s EpiPens.

“As a mother, and as a Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Kids’ Safety Caucus, I urge my colleagues on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to look into the recent price increase of EpiPens. Thousands of Americans rely on EpiPens in a given year, and perhaps no time is more important in the purchasing of these devices than the beginning of a new school year,” said Meng. “The free market can be a wonderful engine for good in our society, and it has certainly led to the production of countless medical innovations. We must be vigilant, however, to not cross the line of price-gouging, especially when a product has been around for a generation and is incredibly cheap to produce. It is my hope that every parent with a child who suffers from serious allergies can find an EpiPen, or its equivalent, that their household afford.”

Mylan said that “product improvements” have driven up the cost of EpiPens. They further add that the company offers discounts and that most of the devices are covered by the insurance. Other sources say that Mylan issued a statement, “pointing the finger at high-deductible health plans that require consumers to pay much more out of pocket for many drugs.”

According to WILX News:

Doctors say [the] technology hasn’t changed much and there is no real reason for the price hike. However, a competitor of the EpiPen recently stopped producing its product, giving Mylan—the maker of EpiPens—somewhat of a monopoly.

Mylan acquired the EpiPen in 2007, at which time pharmacies paid less than $100 for a two-pen set. In May of 2016, however, the price rose to $608.61, according to reports.

On social media, a petition to Congress has emerged with 48,000 signatures, called “Stop the EpiPen Price Gouging.”


The pharmaceutical company at the center of the EpiPen price-gouging controversy has decided to lower the cost of its medication for some patients.

Mylan, which had hiked the price of the medication by more than 400 percent, announced plans to cover up to $300 — or roughly 50 percent — of the cost of a pack of two EpiPens for patients who were paying the full amount.

The company also plans to double the eligibility for its patient assistance program, which will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for uninsured and under-insured patients and families.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said in a statement, “We … are taking immediate action to help ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen … gets one.”

Mylan pointed part of the blame on the price hike on the insurance industry, which is becoming a common defense for the pharmaceutical industry.

More patients and families have enrolled in high-deductible health plans due in part to the Affordable Care Act and this has led to “higher costs for their medicine,” the company said.

Bresch is the daughter of West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. According to Bloomberg, Manchin has been silent on the issue.

Lawmakers called for hearings following the price hike of the allergy medication.

Hillary Clinton on Wednesday slammed the price hike and said it’s wrong when “drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them.”

EpiPens are used in the beekeeping industry when an individual has an allergic reaction to a honey bee sting. Anaphylaxis can result in death and immediate action is required. Many beekeepers have these on hand if they frequently give public demonstrations with bees, or are working with beginners who do not yet know if an allergic reaction may occur as they have not been stung by a honey bee, perhaps ever. Below are instructions from the manufacturer on use.

Use EpiPen® (epinephrine injection, USP) 0.3 mg or EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) 0.15 mg Auto-Injectors right away when you have an allergic emergency (anaphylaxis). Get emergency medical help right away. You may need further medical attention. Only a healthcare professional should give additional doses of epinephrine if you need more than two injections for a single anaphylactic episode. EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® should only be injected into the middle of your outer thigh (upper leg), through clothing if necessary. Do not inject into your veins, buttocks, fingers, toes, hands or feet. Hold the leg of young children firmly in place before and during injection to prevent injuries. In case of accidental injection, please seek immediate medical treatment.


Planting Forage Pays Off With Stronger Hives, Enhanced Pollination

Almond Board of California    Newsletter   August 11, 2016

Bee forage planted in the fall bloom until long after almond pollination is complete, providing ample, nutritious forage for honey bees through April.Planting bee forage in and around his almond orchard has paid off for East Oakdale grower Jeff McPhee, who farms 400 acres of almonds with partner Matt Friedrich at Lakeview Ranch. Every year, he plants a mixture of mustards in a field next to the orchard, and every other year, he seeds clover and vetch with a no-till drill in orchard middles. Seed is provided by Project Apis m., which has developed seed mixtures that are particularly nutritious and attractive to honey bees.

Bee forage planted in the fall bloom until long after almond pollination is complete, providing ample, nutritious forage for honey bees through April.

In return, McPhee’s beekeeper, Trevor Tauzer of Tauzer Apiaries, brings McPhee his strongest hives, and makes sure bees are available both early in the season, to catch the early bloom, and late, to ensure maximum pollination.

“The bees are brought in mid-January,” McPhee said. “There is not much pollen available at that time, but there are some wild grasses and mustards available for the bees to forage on, and they are given supplemental food.” Tauzer leaves his hives in the bee pastures, which bloom from February through April, so the bees can forage for up to two months post pollination.

Diet Diversity
McPhee pointed out that bees need diversity in their diet, and supplemental diets alone are not enough. Without that diversity, “They can’t build up the strength to fight off diseases and mites,” he said. “Furthermore, bee pastures also help native bees, which are aggressive foragers.

“Once pollen is gone from the almonds, honey bees travel three to four miles to find another source of food, and you don’t know what’s out there. Perhaps other crops are being sprayed, or the bees could pick up diseases. But with the bee habitat at our ranch, they will have an excellent source of food after almonds have finished blooming.”

For Tauzer, Lakeview Ranch is a sort of nursing ground for building up hives. McPhee added that “hives are usually at their weakest in December and January, and Trevor will bring some of the weaker hives, including those that have been re-queened, to my ranch to strengthen them before pollination. After pollination, he may pull some of his stronger hives out and bring some of the weaker hives in from other orchards — perhaps hives he has split.”

Almond grower Jeff McPhee plants PAm Mustard Mix every year in a field next to his almond orchard. The mustards require the least amount of water of seed mixes offered by Project Apis m., and are the best at reseeding themselves.

Almond grower Jeff McPhee plants PAm Mustard Mix every year in a field next to his almond orchard. The mustards require the least amount of water of seed mixes offered by Project Apis m., and are the best at reseeding themselves.Protection from Pesticides
To avoid harmful sprays while bees are present, Tauzer never brings bees to the orchard until after preemergence herbicides have been applied in November and December. “These hold up until May or June; and for bloom sprays, we follow the Almond Board’s ‘Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,’ such as spraying at night when the bees are in the hives and applying only fungicides,” he noted.

The bee pastures are planted with mustards in the fall, after a couple of rains soften the ground. When they dry down later in the spring, McPhee flail-mows the forage, then disks it in, adding nitrogen and organic matter back into the soil to improve drainage and soil tilth. Then, to the delight of his children and their friends, he plants either pumpkins or sunflowers for a second crop.

McPhee notes that his neighbors have also been planting forage, and he has arranged with Stanislaus County to plant 300 acres of bee habitat around Woodward Reservoir next year, splitting it into two fields, with clover in one field, mustard in the other. “Immediately around the Woodward Reservoir area, there are probably in excess of 10,000 acres of almonds; it would definitely benefit more than one grower to have forage on that property, as well as multiple beekeepers,” he said.

Aerial Seeding Experiment
As if that weren’t enough, McPhee plans to seed clover by air on nearly 600 acres of rock fields at the family’s Willms Ranch in Knights Ferry, 10 miles east of Oakdale. “If we time it just right, with a heavy rain, the clover seed should go into the ground as it is a very small seed,” he explained. “The bees like this open ground because it has tarweed, which blooms in June and July when everything else has died down. If we can get bee habitat to grow there, it will be huge.”

Project Apis m. provides free seed blends — a mustard mix, a clover mix and Lana vetch — for the purpose of creating honey bee habitat. For more information, go to the organization's website.


Bee Booth - Set Up Day Today!!!

Come on out, learn about honey bees, and have some fun at the fair!!!


Our lovely honey bee, Jan Steese. 

BEE BOOTH SETUP: Thank you to the following members of the Beekeepers Association of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association for helping set up our bee booth on Saturday, August 27, 2016: Cyndi Caldera, Carolyn Grant, Walter Grant, Kevin Heydman, Nick Heydman, Jim Honodel, Dave Lehmann, Bill Lewis, Charlie Marsden, Jon Reese, and Bruce Roberts. The booth is beautiful! 
Visit our 2016 LA County Fair Bee Booth Photo Album on Facebook  



Honey's Not GMO!

BEE CULTURE    By Michelle Poulk   August 23, 2016

Pure natural honey is, by definition, a non-GMO food.  It’s that simple.

This message is supported by the American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Packer & Dealers Association, Sioux Honey Association and the Western States Packers & Dealers Association.  As a collective group, these organizations represent approximately 95% of the entire United States Honey Industry.

Today’s consumers rely on many sources for information on their diet and food choices. Perhaps the most frequently consulted, but least reliable, source is the internet – where everyone can be an ‘expert’ on their chosen subject.  Gluten-free, raw, local, vegetarian and non-GMO are currently among the food topics most often discussed.

Regarding a non-GMO diet, some of the main questions being asked of the honey industry are:

“Is honey free of GMOs?”

Answer: The FDA discourages the use of the term “GMO Free” because all food items may contain trace amounts of GMOs. The European Union, Australia and other countries have established thresholds for their GMO labeling laws. The regulations require all food items which contain more than 0.9% GMOs to declare GMO contents on the labels. Honey is not required to be identified or labeled as a non-GMO food because GMO’s in honey never exceed this threshold. Honey, as most other foods, may not be completely GMO free, but it is a non-GMO food according to the standards established by the European Union, Australia and other countries.

“I am on a non-GMO diet. Can I eat honey?” 

Answer: Pure honey can be introduced into a non-GMO diet and not only will you maintain your personal nutritional choices, but you will receive all the wonderful benefits honey has to offer.

“If honey is not Certified as non-GMO, does that mean it may contain GMOs?

Answer: Although some interest groups and organizations appear to complicate the issue, the simple truth is this: honey qualifies as a non-GMO food.  It does not require any type of certification in order to be classified as a non-GMO food item.  Some companies choose to have their honey certified as “non-GMO” by independent organizations, but in terms of GMO content, honey certified as non-GMO is not superior to any other non-certified pure honey.

“Can trace GMOs be eliminated from honey by monitoring bee forage areas?”

Answer:  It is not realistically possible to monitor all honey bee forage areas, or to create a GMO-free forage zone. Even if a GMO-free zone were to be established, bees can travel great distances, and neighboring bees could enter the GMO-free zone and distribute pollen containing GMOs onto non-GMO crops.

To better understand the basics of GMOs, here are the FDA definitions on the subject:

“Genetic modification” is defined as the alteration of the genotype of a plant using any technique, new or traditional. “Modification“ refers to the alteration in the composition of food that results from adding, deleting, or changing hereditary traits, irrespective of the method.

This definition is provided by an independent certification organization:

“GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.”

So how are these definitions applicable to Honey?

Honey is a food produced by bees from the nectar of plants.  Honey is not a plant and there are no known species of genetically engineered (GE) honey bees.  The definitions support honey’s established status as a non-GMO food item.

Here are just a few of the facts about honey as a non-GMO food:

No genetically modified honey bees exist

Honey is made by bees from the nectar of plants

Honey is not a food that has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory

The amount of pollen in honey ranges from about 0.1% to 0.4%

On average, pollen in honey contains about 0.2% protein.  GMO markers may be found only in the protein

Any trace of GMO’s in honey, therefore, will fall far below the 0.9% threshold established by countries around the world as requiring GMO labeling

In the US, there are no current national GMO labeling requirements.  Moreover, the state of Vermont enacted legislation in 2016, which clearly excludes foods from any GMO labeling requirement when the food is “consisting of or derived entirely from an animal that is itself not produced with genetic engineering, regardless of whether the animal has been fed or injected with any food, drug, or other substance produced with genetic engineering”.

Honey bees, beekeepers and the honey industry are direct contributors to the success of American and world agriculture.  In today’s world, the honey industry faces many problems such as hive loss, drought, colony collapse and shrinking forage areas.  Fortunately, honey’s position as a pure and natural food is unchallenged.

Produced by bees from the nectar of plants, honey is a non-GMO food, the purest of nature’s sweets.