Beekeeping - What You Need to Start Keeping Bees!

Bill's Bees     By Bill Lewis     February 4, 2018

In March and April you’ll be picking up your bees (hope you’ve got your bee order in, they’re going fast!). Below are some things to consider and plan for before you pick up your bees.

Location, Location, Location:

A location in the open, preferably with a southern or easterly exposure, for maximum sunshine throughout the day.

Away from animals and children, not along a foot path, or where there is direct traffic. 

Protected by a barrier (approx. 2 feet from - and facing a hill or wall) from wind, streets, etc. This will also force the bees to fly up and over cars, people, etc., thus causing them to be less of a nuisance and helping them to stay alive.

Ease of access (you don’t want to be lifting heavy supers of honey up and down stairs or across rocky fields).

What the bees will need:

A safe, natural habitat with a source for nectar and pollen. A typical honey bee colony forages more than 80,000 square yards to find plants and flowers with sufficient nectar (honey) the bees' source for energy and pollen (essential in brood rearing) the bees' source of carbohydrates. 

A nearby source of fresh water (within ¼ mile) so they don’t use the neighbor’s swimming pool. This can be a tank or barrel of water with rocks or floating boards or cork for the bees to land on. 

A safe, comfortable, home to live in. 

We suggest you buy a couple of good beekeeping books and read them all the way through, twice.

Book Suggestions:

Beekeeper’s Handbook 

Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities

How to Keep Bees & Sell Honey

Beekeeping for Dummies

Basic Essentials List for Beginning Beekeepers:

The Hive - Langstroth (from the bottom up):

Hive Stand - This is a platform to keep the hive off the ground. It improves circulation, reduces dampness in the hive, and helps keep ants, bugs, leaves, and debris from getting into the hive. It can be made of anything solid enough to support the weight of a full beehive. Wooden hive stands are available for sale but bricks, concrete blocks, pallets, and found lumber are just as good. It’s helpful to place the legs of the stand in cans filled with used motor oil to deter ants from climbing up the legs and into the hive. The stand should be strong enough to support one hive or a number of colonies. What is important to remember is that the hive needs to be at least 6 inches off the ground.

Bottom Board - Is placed on top of the hive stand and is the floor of the hive. Bees use it as a landing board and a place to take off from. 

Entrance Reducer - Is basically a stick of wood used to reduce the size of the entrance to the hive. It helps deter robbing.

Hive Boxes/Supers - Come in three sizes: deep, medium and shallow. Traditionally, 2 deep boxes have been used as brood chambers with 3 or 4 or more boxes (medium or shallow) on top as needed for honey storage. Many beekeepers use all medium boxes throughout the hive. This helps reduce the weight of each box for lifting. If you have back problems or are concerned about heavy lifting, you could even use shallow boxes all throughout the hive. So, 6 boxes as a minimum for deep and medium. More if you wanted to use only shallow boxes. You will only need two boxes to start out, adding boxes as needed for extra room and honey storage.

Frames and Foundation - For each box you have for your hive, you will need 10 frames that fit that box. Frames can be wooden with beeswax foundation or all plastic with a light coating of beeswax. The bees don't care and will use both equally well. Foundation is intended to give the bees a head start on their comb building and helps minimize cross comb building that makes it difficult to remove and inspect. You can buy all beeswax foundation or plastic foundation with a thin coat of beeswax applied to it. Alternatively, you can provide empty frames and let the bees build their comb from scratch but that can be a bit tricky and it takes the bees longer to get established. 

Top Cover: The top cover can be as simple as a flat sheet of plywood. We prefer the top covers made with laminated pieces to make a flat board and extra cross bracing to help hold the board flat for years. Plywood tends to warp over time. You can also use a telescoping cover, but they require an additional inner cover. 

Paint - All parts of your hive that are exposed to the weather should be painted with (2 coats) of a non-toxic paint. Do not paint the inside of the hive or the entrance reducer. Most hives are painted white to reflect the sun, but you can use any light colors. Painting your hives different colors may help reduce drift between the colonies. If your hive will not be in your own bee yard, you may want to paint your name and phone number on the side of the hive.

Tools & Supplies:

bee brushBee Brush - A beekeeper needs a brush to gently move the bees from an area of observation when looking for a queen and when harvesting frames of honey. Use a brush that has long, soft, flexible, yellow bristles. Don’t use a dark, stiff brush with animal hair, or a paint brush.

duct tapeDuct Tape - You’ll have lots of uses for duct tape, might want to keep it handy.                                                                                                                                                   


Hive Tool - A hive tool is the most useful piece of beekeeping equipment. It can be used to pry up the inner cover, pry apart frames, scrape and clean hive parts, scrape wax and propolis out of the hive, nail the lid shut, pull nails, and scrape bee stingers off skin. The hive tool has two parts: the wedge or blade and the handle. Hive tools are often fitted with brightly-colored, plastic-coated handles which helps the beekeeper locate the hive tool while working.

FeederFeeder - You may want to have a feeder with sugar syrup to give your new bees a boost in their new home. Its the helping hand they need to get started building comb.

SmokerSmoker - Examining a hive is much easier when you use a smoker. Use it to puff smoke into the entrance before opening the hive and to blow smoke over the frames once the hive is opened. This helps the beekeeper to manage the bees. Cool smoke helps to settle the bees. Smoking the bees initiates a feeding response causing preparation to possibly leave the hive due to a fire. The smoke also masks the alarm pheromone released by the colony’s guard bees when the hive is opened and manipulated. Smoke must be used carefully. Too much can drive bees from the hive. A smoker is basically a metal can with a bellows and a spout attached to it. We prefer to use a smoker with a wire cage around it. A large smoker is best as it keeps the smoke going longer. It can be difficult to keep a smoker lit (especially for new beekeepers). Practice lighting and maintaining the smoker. Burlap, rotted wood shavings, pine needles, eucalyptus, cardboard, and cotton rags are good smoker fuels.

Protective Clothing:

Bee suitBee Suit - For the best protection, full bee suits are recommended. But whether or not a suit is used, a beekeeper's clothing should be white or light in color (bees generally do not like dark colors and will attack dark objects). Avoid woolen and knit material. You will want to wear clothing both that will protect you and you don’t mind getting stained (bees produce waste that shows up as yellowish marks on your clothing). You’ll want to close off all potential to getting stung by wearing high top boots or tucking your pants into your socks and securing your cuffs with rubber bands or duct tape.

Bee Gloves - Long, leather, ventilated gloves with elastic on the sleeves help protect the hands and arms from stings.

Hat and Veil - Even the most experienced beekeepers wear a hat and veil to protect their head, face, and eyes from bee stings. Wire veils keep bees farther away from the face than those made of cloth. Black veiling is generally easier to see through. Make sure the veil extends down below and away from your neck.

That’s it!

Once you have all you need, expenses can be kept to a minimum. With the right care, equipment, tools, and clothing will last a long time. If your hive becomes overcrowded, just add another box or two. Or, you may find you’ll want to split your hive – then you’ll have two! If honey is overflowing, just add another box or two. And, great! – You’ll have lots of yummy honey!!

A note on protective clothing: There was a time when we could safely visit our bees wearing little protective clothing. With the arrival of Africanized honey bees into the Southern states, we've come to realize the potential danger of an aggressive hive and have learned to exercise caution when approaching our bees. A once gentle hive could be invaded and taken over by a small aggressive swarm in a few days. These bees are unpredictable and vigorously defend their hives. Protective clothing such as a bee suit, veil and gloves will help keep stings to a minimum in the bee yard if worn correctly. As beekeepers, it is our responsibility to help curtail the danger to our bees, ourselves, and others. At Bill's Bees, we practice responsible beekeeping for an urban environment.

Here’s a list of suppliers:

Los Angeles Honey Company 
Dadant & Sons 
Mann Lake Ltd. 
Walter T. Kelley Co.
The Valley Hive

We primarily work with the Langstroth hive but you can also use the Top Bar Hive or the Warre Hive. We'll be happy to share our experience with these two styles of hives, as well. 

For many years, Bill's Bees held the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Class 101 at our apiary in Little Tujunga Canyon. The class grew from under 20 newbees in 2010 to nearly 200 in 2016. Since we no longer have our location in Little Tujunga Canyon, the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Class 101 is being held at The Valley Hive. You can fine information about the classes on the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Class 101 website and LACBA Facebook page.

Reminder - Get your bees now. You don't want to be bee-less come bee season. Bill's Bees Sells Bees in Complete Hives - Medium Box SpecialDeep BoxPackagesNucs, and Italian Queens. Our bees have known gentle genetics and are great for commercial and backyard beekeeping. 

Happy bee-ing!

Thank you, 
Bill Lewis
Bill's Bees

http://billsbees.com/
https://billsbees.com/blogs/news-2018/beekeeping-what-you-need-to-start-keeping-bees
https://billsbees.com/collections/bees
https://www.facebook.com/BillsBeesHoney/
/ 
/beekeeping-classes-losangeles/ 
https://www.facebook.com/losangelesbeekeeping

(Bill Lewis, owner of Bill's Bees, is a current member and former president of the California State Beekeepers Association and the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association. Bill has been keeping bees for nearly 40 years.)

Open Studio Sale - Jane Thorpe Art

Jane Thorpe is the award-winning SoCal plein-air painter who has graciously supported honey bee research over the years.

Bill Lews, the 2014 California State Beekeepers Association president, commissioned Jane to create a painting in Celebration of Beekeeping for the 125th CSBA Annual Convention.

The painting, "Working the Bees," was so beautiful, it was used for the logo design on the programs, posters, tee-shirts, bags and banners throughout the convention.

 


When the original painting "Working the Bees" was auctioned off at the Research Banquet, it brought in thousands of dollars for honey bee research.

The following year, Jane donated the ‘study’ for the original painting. At auction, the study brought in over a thousand dollars.

Jane has donated her greeting cards and other items for the benefit of honey bees.


We hope you’ll join Jane this weekend for her Open Studio Sale. There’s lots of local canyon and Los Angeles River art, landscapes from her travels, canyon nocturnes, whimsical still life’s, and, yes, some honey bee art. Buy a raffle ticket to WIN one of her beautiful plein-air paintings.

http://janethorpeart.com/

CSBA Annual Convention - Recap!

 

The 126th California State Beekeepers Association Annual Convention was held November 16-19, 2015, at the Hilton Arden West in Sacramento, CA. Every year the CSBA chooses a different city within the state to serve as the convention host city. This year, Sacramento, California's State Capitol, welcomed the beekeeping community for three full days dedicated to the issues currently facing honey bees, urban and commercial beekeepers, and the beekeeping industry. 

The California State Beekeepers Association was organized in 1889 to serve the beekeeping industry of California. 

"The purpose of the California State Beekeepers Association is to educate the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees, advance research beneficial to beekeeping practices, provide a forum for cooperation among beekeepers, and to support the economic and political viability of the beekeeping industry."  

Carlen Jupe, CSBA Sec/Treas reports, "We had over 380 attendees, including speakers but not those exhibitors who were always at their tables, another 50 or so." 

There were over 30 speakers from across the country: Agricultural Organizations, the Almond Board, California Farm Bureau Federation, US Geological Surveys, biologists, entomologists, scientists, and researchers from leading University Entomology Departments, the USDA-ARS programs, Scientific Beekeeping, Project Apis m., Pollinator Partnership, Bee Informed Partners, and experienced beekeepers.

 

California Farm Bureau Federation President, Paul Wenger, speaks on California Ag "We're All in this Together," while CSBA President, Brad Pankratz, listens. 

Last year, Bill Lewis (LACBA past president) had the honor and privilege to serve as the 2014 President of the California State Beekeepers Association. A major responsibility of the office of president is to chair the CSBA Convention. Bill praises the efforts of Brad Pankratz, 2015 CSBA President, for an excellent job. At this year's convention, Bill had the good fortune to introduce some of our the excellent presenters at the Concurrent Sessions.  

Dr. Marla Spivak reported on "News and Research from the University of Minnesota Bee Lab." "A special highlight was the presentation of a $10,000 check from CSBA Research funds to Marla Spivak for the U. of Minnesota’s new bee lab," Carlen Jupe. 

Dr. James Tew, a beekeeper for over 40 years, emeritus associate professor at the Ohio State University where he worked for over 30 years, spoke on "Bargain Hunting Forager Bees."

"Randy's Take on Current Bee Topics," Randy Oliver (Scientific Beekeeping), Commercial Beekeeper, Biologist. 


Research Luncheon Speaker, James Frazier, PhD, previously a scientist at DuPont Agricultural Products, has served for ten years as department head/professor of Entomology, Penn State University. Professor Frazier shared his recent research on the impacts of pesticides on honeybees. 

Honey and Pollination Center table at the CSBA Convention. Amina Harris, Director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute developed the Honey Color Wheel. Here with Bernardo Nino, Research Associate at the E. L. Nino Bee Research Lab (UC Davis Dept. of Entomology)

The Exhibit Hall is always a great gathering place to catch the latest buzz, hear what's going on with fellow beekeeper, mingle with presenters, and talk with the many vendors selling bee-related equipment, supplies, and services. This year there were over 380 attendees. A lot of buzzing going on.

The "Next Generation Beekeepers Breakout" held off-site at "The Brick House" was packed with 20-30 year old beekeepers. Co-facilitators for the evening were next gen beekeepers, Sarah Red-Laird (Bee-Girl), Katie Lee, Elizabeth Frost, and Steve Marquette. They had a great time.

Members of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association: Jon Reese, Bonnie Reese,
Clyde Steese, Bill Rathfelder, Marguerite Keating, Ron Strong, and Bill Lewis enjoy
the CSBA Annual Convention Banquet.
 
We would like to say thank you to all the members of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association who volunteered their time and energy at the 2015 Los Angeles County Fair - Bee Booth. Through your efforts, each year we use funds raised at the Bee Booth to donate support for ongoing research and other activities for the benefit of honey bees. At our November meeting, the members voted to provide funding to the following organizations. During the CSBA Convention, the LACBA was privileged to present checks to:

American Beekeeping Federation - American Honey Queen Program
Bee-Girl Organization
Bee Informed Partnership
California State Beekeepers Association Research Fund
California State Beekeepers Association - Right to Farm Act
E.L. Nino Bee Lab - UC Davis
Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
Pollinator Partnership 
Project Apis m. 

Who Is Clyde Steese?

Bill's Bees Buzz   By Bill Lewis   September 22, 2015

Where’s Clyde? It’s hot, dry, the sun’s beating down out here in the apiary; I’ve got hours to go before I call it a day. Every few minutes I look up expecting to see Clyde. Clyde Steese is my business partner and co-owner of Bill’s Bees. But, Clyde's not here!

Clyde’s at the fair! At the fair! And I’m here, in the hot, dry sun with the bees!!! Come September, Clyde goes to the fair. Clyde’s been volunteering at the LA County Fair Bee Booth for 19 years, but since he took over the chairmanship of the Bee Booth, seven years ago, Clyde disappears from the apiary and heads off for five weeks of intense honey bee overload. It’s a monumental task to design, set up, and organize the Bee Booth. Once the fair opens, Clyde devotes all his time, energy, and resources to educating thousands of school children, teachers, parents, and fair goers about honey bees, the important role bees play in our lives, the problems facing bees today, and what can be done to help the bees.

The Bee Booth is a major highlight of the fair and the only fundraiser of the year for the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association. Profits from honey sales are used to support all our club’s educational activities throughout the year and enables the LACBA to send member representatives to the California State Beekeepers Convention. Clyde is forever grateful to his wife, Jan, for the time she puts in at the fair, and truly appreciates the enormous contribution by LACBA member, Cyndi Caldera, who organizes and manages the hundreds of volunteer hours needed to staff the booth. He gives heartfelt thanks to all the fellow beekeepers who volunteer. It's truly an effort of many worker bees working together.

Before the Bees! Clyde grew up on a 150 acre farm in New Bedford, PA, the oldest of 6 siblings.  Clyde was blessed with the gift of hard farm work where he learned to care for the livestock, developed teamwork, and understood that safety should always be at the forefront. Instilled with a strong work ethic, Clyde was always busy. He was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and Future Farmers of America. By the time he was 17, Clyde was smitten, and in 1966, married his high school sweetheart, Janice Cook. Jan's the love of his life and this October they'll celebrate 46 years of marriage.

Clyde’s service to country: Clyde served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War from 1965-1969. He was assigned to the 3rd US Marine Corps K-9 Scout Dog Program. A high percentage of the best handlers come from farms where they handled hunting dogs and farm stock. Clyde’s high intelligence, character and physical ability as well as his experience growing up on a farm made him an excellent Scout Dog Handler. 

Clyde served 3 tours in Vietnam, fighting in the battles of Hanoi, Da Nang, and Dung Ha. He received the Bronze Star for bravery and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries during the Da Nang Tet Offensive. Clyde was honorably discharged in 1969, and is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Moving On! After the war, Jan and Clyde headed for California. Clyde attended San Francisco State and graduated with a BA in Science. They moved to Southern California and settled in Sunland. Clyde and Jan still reside in the same house where they raised their two boys, Gary & Carl. They have two grandsons, Bret and Sean. Gary and Sean, along with nephew, LeRoy, are emerging beekeepers with Bill’s Bees. 

Clyde mastered the craft of leather smithing. Take a look the next time you get a chance to see the 1985 western, 'Pale Rider.' Clyde crafted all Clint Eastwood's leather work for the film. He's also carved many leather pieces for the John Wayne family. He later went to work for the City of Burbank, and retired in 2008, after nearly twenty-five years of service.

How the bees found Clyde! About 20 years ago, a swarm of bees took up residence in an orange tree in Clyde’s backyard. He didn’t have any luck getting someone to come take the bees away or to help him remove them for a reasonable price. So, Clyde caught the bees in a cardboard box. Jan says the next night Clyde came home with a hive. (Surprise!) When she asked, “Why?” Clyde very quietly replied, “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.” And that was that! Jan says that all the years they’ve been married he never once mentioned he wanted to keep bees. Clyde soon had six more hives. 

Being retired really fired Clyde's passion for beekeeping. Before he knew it, Clyde amassed over 25 hives and his bee yard outgrew his back yard. Jan rolls her eyes and might seem a little annoyed by all this beesness, but I think she secretly feeds the frenzy. When Jan worked for the Burbank Library, she brought home all the new books on bees before they hit the shelves. Clyde consumed them. 

Clyde is another one of those who has really been sucked in by the bees and is addicted to beekeeping. He showed up at the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association one night eager for information. I was President of the club at the time and we became fast friends. Clyde continued to grow in his knowledge of beekeeping and a few yeares later, he was voted in as President. Clyde served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Beekeepers Association.

For nearly ten years, side by side, Clyde and I have worked the bees together. Sometimes we begin our days early in the morning when it’s cool, checking our hives, making sure the bees are healthy and not starving, that they’re producing honey and pollen, and that the queen is going about her business of making more bees. Some days are long, hot, and dry, like today. Sometimes our days begin at dusk when we load our bees onto trucks and drive through the night so they’re ready to off load early in the morning for almond pollination 'the grandest pollination event in the universe'. 

For the past five years, Bill's Bees has hosted theLos Angeles Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Class 101. This year we had over 100 newbees up on the mountain top of Bill's Bees Bee Farm to learn about beekeeping. We teach responsible beekeeping for an urban environment adhering to Best Management Practices for the benefit of all: humans, animals, beekeepers, and bees.  

Helping others! Clyde has lived his life working hard, staying busy, and helping others. He is always thinking of how he can help others without thinking of what he can get back. Clyde’s enthusiasm towards bees is infectious and he has inspired many young hobby beekeepers. He has gone so far as to give away enough equipment and plenty of time to get many people started with beekeeping.

School of Hard Knocks (or Bee Stings)!  Since a boy, Clyde has believed in the rule of Safety First! But, as any experienced beekeeper knows, you never know what to expect with bees. Clyde's certainly been through the beekeeper's school of hard knocks. Have you ever been stung so many times through your bee suit because sweat was sticking your suit to your skin that you had a reaction to the venom?  Clyde has. Last summer, I rushed him to the emergency room because of an adverse reaction to too many stings. He figured that somehow the bees were getting into his bee suit. He also knew we needed to get the job done that day and didn’t say anything about it. Finally, he says, “I’ve had enough." After several hours in the hospital and numerous steroid injections he was released. The doctor determined that he was not allergic, but just reacted to too many stings. Later, we discovered a tiny hole in his veil. Clyde was back out in the bee yard the next day. 

Clyde is a member of the American Beekeeping Federation and the California State Beekeepers Association. He serves on the California State Certified Farmers Market Advisory Committee. Clyde’s love of travel takes him around the world meeting beekeeperstwenty-five years of service.

Clyde boasts of over 70 candles on his last birthday cake (that’s because he looks twenty years younger). He told me whenever he thinks of retiring he can’t imagine what his days would be like without the buzzing of the bees. Clyde celebrates the dignity of work and the humility of service. He's spent his life working in service for others, be it human, animal, or bee. I am proud to call him my business partner and my friend. Bill's Bees' honors Clyde’s dedication at the fair, and enjoys sharing our time, energy, and enthusiasm to further the understanding of bees and appreciation of the art of beekeeping. 

Where’s Clyde in “Bill’s Bees?” We tossed around changing the name of our company but nothing seemed to fit. We figured ‘Bill’s Bees’ has worked so far; we’d let beekeepers and worker bees work, and not fiddle with what works!

As for Bill, I'm heading over to Liane's Laboratory; curious to see what my brilliant wife is brewing up with the oils and spices of nature's garden and our honey bee gifts of the hive.

Enjoy,

Bill 
Bill's Bees 

Read at: http://billsbees.com/blogs/news/53957509-who-is-clyde-steese

Bill's Bees: 10,000 Bees Beard With Rhett & Link on Good Mythical Morning

"A guy named Bill put 10,000 Bees on my face."

Rhett & Link, hosts of Good Mystical Morning, the daily morning comedy talk show, head off to Bill's Bees Bee Yard to see if they'd be good candidates as beekeepers.

"Two crazy guys came to visit one day and wanted me to put bees on their face,” says Bill Lewis of Bill’s Bees. “Okay!!!” Bill's Bees does most anything to help the bees!

Also on board was Rob McFarland of HoneyLove http://www.HoneyLove.org.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU1eoXYN2Rc&feature=youtu.be

PUBLIC HEARING 3/19/15: Backyard Beekeeping Draft Ordinance

TODAY - Public Hearing Notice: Backyard Beekeeping Draft Ordinance 

DATE/TIME: MARCH 19, 2015 AT 2:00PM   
PLACE: Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1010, 10th Floor 
200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
 

All interested persons are invited to attend a public hearing for a proposed City of Los Angeles Zoning Code amendment to allow backyard beekeeping in single-family residential zones. At the hearing, you may listen, speak, or submit written information related to the proposed ordinance. This is the first in a series of public hearings regarding this proposed ordinance as it moves on to the City Planning Commission, Planning and Land Use Management committee of the City Council, and City Council.

Please see the link below to the public hearing notice, Q&A and draft ordinance for more information.
Public Hearing Notice

For more information, please contact staff:
Katie Peterson
KATHERINE.PETERSON@LACITY.ORG
213-978-1445

Commercial Bees, the Unsung Heros of the Nut Business

  Marketplace   By Tracey Samuelson   March 2, 2015

 Featured in: Marketplace for Monday March 2, 2015 (Click for Link to Radio Interview)

Bill Lewis is waiting for the sun to set, the time of day when his bees crawl back inside the short white boxes that house their colonies. As the sky turns pink behind the San Gabriel mountains, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Lewis climbs into the seat of a forklift and starts moving the hives onto the back of a flatbed truck. These bees are on the move.

 

“As soon as you get on the freeway and there’s air flowing past the entrances, all the bees run back inside,” says Lewis, of any stragglers.

Lewis, who runs Bill’s Bees, is taking about 700 of his hives on a road trip to the California’s Central Valley, where he’ll unload them across acres of almond orchards, working until 1 or 2 a.m. under the light of full moon.

All across the country, more than a million-and-a-half colonies are making a similar journey – traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to pollinate California’s almonds. Farmers rent hives for few weeks because in order for almond trees to produce nuts, bees need to move pollen from one tree to another.

No bees, no almonds.

“This pollination season there will be [some] 800,000 acres of almonds that need to be pollinated,” says Eric Mussen, a honey bee specialist at the University of California Davis. He says more than 100 different kinds of crops need these rent-a-bees, but almonds are significant for the number of acres that require pollination all at the same time. About 85 percent of the commercial bees in United States – which Mussen calls “bees on wheels” – travel to California for almonds.

The state supplies roughly 80 percent of the world’s almonds, worth $6.4 billion during the 2013-2014 season, according to the Almond Board of California.

“It’s a matter of numbers,” he says. “You’re trying to provide enough bees to be moving the pollen around between the varieties and whatnot. It’s just a huge, huge number of bees. The only way we can get a huge number of bees in one place at one time is to bring them in on trucks.”

In fact, bees are such an important part of the almond business that Paramount Farms, one of the biggest almond growers in the world, has decided they need to be in the bee business, too. The company just bought one of the largest beekeepers in the United States, based in Florida.

“Bees are so essential for the process of growing almonds,” says Joe Joe MacIlvane, Paramount’s president. “If we don’t have a reliable supply of good strong colonies, we simply won’t be a viable almond grower, so that’s our primary motivation for getting into the business.”

Renting bees is about 10 to 15 percent of Paramount’s production costs, but the motivation to keep their own bees isn’t simply economic.

“Many bee keepers are individual or family business and many people are getting on in years and we don’t see a lot of young people coming into the business,” says MacIlvane.

Additionally, bee populations are struggling. A significant number having been dying each year for the past decade or so, thanks to a mix of factors, from pesticides to lost habitat for feeding. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what’s killing them.

“We had a large problem last year with bees dying in the orchard because of something that was going on during bloom,” says Bill Lewis. He thinks a pesticide or fungicide may have been to blame.

This year, Lewis and his bee broker are being pickier about the farms they’re working with, vetting them more carefully because those lost bees had big economic consequences – about $300,000 in lost income for Lewis.

Sarah Red-Laird (Bee Girl) Poses Questions to Beekeepers

Yesterday (Nov. 19) at the California State Beekeepers Association conference, as part of our Next Generation Beekeepers Initiative, I facilitated a panel regarding bridging the gap between "commercial" and "backyard" beekeepers. Now, I'd like to open the floor to you for comment. 

This is a three part question. Answer just one part, two, or all three.

1) What are the differences between the two groups, as well as the similarities? 

2) What DO we do presently to help each other in a POSITIVE way? 

3) What CAN we do in the future to help each other in a POSITIVE way? I'd love to hear specific action items. 

Thank you SO much for participating!!

CSBA Annual Convention: Register Now!

 You can Save on the 2014 CSBA Annual Convention if you Register Now!
Online Pre-Registration Cut-Off is November 6.  Mail no later than October 30. 

"Celebrating 125 Years of California Beekeeping" 

When the California State Beekeeper's Association, founded in 1889, meets November 18-20, in Valencia, CA for its 2014 convention, it will mark a milestone: 125 years of beekeeping. Thus the theme of this year's convention: "Celebrating 125 Years of California Beekeeping."

CSBA President, Bill Lewis, has put together a Convention Program that will inform, entertain, and enlighten.  Take some time to look it over. You should be able to find presentations addressing your level of beekeeping, from the beginning backyard hobbyist to the largest commercial beekeeper.  The hard part will be making decisions as to which sessions to attend.

Learn About Our Excellent Speakers!
 "We'll hear about things going on in the world of beekeeping on the local, state, and national levels," says Lewis. Our Keynote Speaker is Dr. Thomas Seeley, bee behavior expert from Cornell University. He'll share with us the results of his study, "A Survivor Population of European Honey Bees Living in the Wild in New York State."

Read more about A Gathering of Beekeepers.

If you're visiting from out of town and have a few more days to spend, there's lot's of Activities in Valencia/Santa Clarita Valley/and Beyond!

Each year funds raised at the CSBA convention go to research. Researchers attend the conference and provide updates. They are in "the front lines of the bee health battle," Lewis noted.

The convention (as well as membership in the California State Beekeeper's Association) is open to all interested persons.

CSBA President, Bill Lewis, says: "I hope everybody noticed page 92 of the October 2014 'Bee Culture' magazine.  Thanks Kim!"
  
It's going to be a great convention!  Don't Miss It!

A Gathering of Beekeepers: Follow That Buzz!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   October 21, 2014

Follow that buzz! 

When the California State Beekeepers' Association, founded in 1889, meets Nov. 18-20 in Valencia for its 2014 convention, it will mark a milestone: 125 years of beekeeping. Not so coincidentally, the theme is "Celebrating 125 Years of California Beekeeping."

And to think that California's first honey bees are "fairly new" newcomers: they didn't arrive in the Golden State (San Jose area) until 1853.

The conference promises to be educational, informative, timely and fun. "We will hear about things going on in the world of beekeeping on the local, state, and national levels," said CSBA president Bill Lewis, who lives in the San Fernando Valley and maintains 650 colonies of bees (Bill's Bees) with his wife, Liane, and business partner, Clyde Steese.

Topics range from “Keeping Bees Safe in Almonds" and “Land Trusts Working with Beekeepers," to "Mead Making" and "Urban Beekeeping, Beginner to Advanced."

Among the hot topics: Entomologist Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University will speak on  “The Effects of Bee Safe Insecticide" on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Biologist Thomas Seeley of Cornell University will speak on "Survivor Population of European Honey Bees Living Wild in New York State” at the research luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 20. He is also scheduled for two other talks, "Honeybee Democracy" (the title of one of his books) and "The Bee Hive as a Honey Factory," both on Nov. 20. In addition, speakers will address such topics as forage, land management, queen health, genetic diversity, and pests and diseases.

One of the featured presentations will be the richly illustrated documentary, "Almond Odyssey," a look at California's almond pollination season, the world's largest managed pollination event. The state's 900,000 acres of almonds draw beekeepers and their bees from all over the country.

The gathering of beekeepers will include multiple generations of family-owned commercial beekeeping operations, bee hobbyists, and those hoping to start their very first bee hive, Lewis says. They're there to learn the latest about beekeeping from world-renowned researchers and industry authorities. 

The University of California, Davis, is expected to be well represented. Amina Harris, director of theHoney and Pollination Center, UC Davis, will speak Wednesday, Nov. 19 on  “Honey Wheel” and “California Master Beekeeper." Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology serves as the organization's current apiculturist and parliamentarian (as well as a frequent speaker). He will introduce the new Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Nino in a Nov. 20th presentation titled "California Extension Apiculturist--Passing the Torch." (For a complete list of sessions and speaker biographies and to register for the conferene,  access the CSBA website.) 
 
CSBA's mission is to support and promote commercial beekeepers and pollination services in California's agricultural farmlands. Each year funds raised at the CSBA convention go to research. Researchers attend the conference and provide updates. They are in "the front lines of the bee health battle," Lewis noted.  

The conference (as well as membership in CSBA) is open to all interested persons.

  

 

Read at

 

Honeybees Stung by Drought from CNBC

California Department of Food & Agriculture   By Mark Koba    October 22, 2014

There’s very little in California’s agriculture industry that’s been left untouched by the ongoing drought, and bees are no exception.

Besides making honey, bees are crucial to pollinating about one-third of all U.S. crops.

But the drought, heading into a fourth year, is threatening honey production and the ability of beekeepers to make a living in a state that was once the top honey producer in the country.

“My honey production is down about 20 percent from the drought,” said Bill Lewis, president of the California Beekeepers Association.

Lewis, who manages around 50 billion bees in Southern California, explained that the lack of rain has reduced plants that provide food for the bees and the nectar they turn into honey.

Lewis said he’s had to feed his bees much less nutritional food such as sugar water that’s threatening the health of the bees and slowing the generation of honey.

“It doesn’t have the minerals that real food from plants have,” he said. “It’s like putting them on Twinkies.”

Lewis added that feeding the bees this way costs him more but it’s a cost he can’t pass on to consumers.

“Imports of honey keep me from raising my prices,” he said. “It’s a real challenge, financially.”

Commodity Cutbacks

In 2003, California was the top honey producer in the U.S., but it has since fallen behind North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Florida. And according to the Department of Agriculture, California’s honey crop fell from 27.5 million pounds in 2010 to about 10.9 million pounds in 2013, or less than 5 percent of the country’s yearly $317 million crop.

But beyond honey production is bees’ crucial role in the pollination of numerous crops, like plums, strawberries, melons, lemons, broccoli and almonds.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of bees to our industry,” said Bob Curtis, associate director of agricultural affairs at the Almond Board of California. “The drought has decreased forage for bees within California, and ensuring a variety of forage is a long-term challenge.”

Leading Production States

State
Pounds Produced
Dollar Value of Production
North Dakota 33,120,000 $67,565,000
Montana 14,946,000 $31,088,000
South Dakota 14,840,000 $30,570,000
Florida 13,420,000 $27,377,000
California 10,890,000 $22,869,000
Source: US Department of Agriculture

 

Pollination also is a revenue source for beekeepers, but a lack of irrigation water has left many fields empty. An estimated 420,000 acres of farmland went unplanted this year—about 5 percent of the total in the state. That means that fewer farmers are renting hives and beekeepers have less income.

“I’ve had to raise my prices to farmers who do rent, which hasn’t been easy,” said the California Beekeepers Association’s Lewis.

“If we don’t get any water, there will be more cutbacks on commodities,” said Eric Mussen, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. “And that will affect bees, honey production and pollination of crops going forward.”

Call for help

As bad as the situation in California is—80 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought—the Almond Board’s Curtis said the lack of rainfall has not prevented almond growers from getting sufficient bee pollination so far.

But the drought is just one hazard making honeybees suffer. Beehive losses worldwide have increased over the years due to pesticides, parasites and colony collapse disorder, by which adult bees disappear from colonies due to various causes.

However, for Lewis, the drought is enough of a crisis to make a plea for help, even if it means using more water.

“It’s devastating,” Lewis said. “What people can do here is plant flowers wherever there’s dirt. The bees need them.”

Link to story 

Read at: http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7061

Bill Lewis Featured on the Hallmark Channel: Home and Family Show

Hallmark Channel: Home & Family Show    July 15, 2014

Bill Lewis of Bill's Bees will be 'talking about bees' on the Hallmark Channel's Home & Family Show Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 10am9c. The show will be replayed Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at noon. 

President of the California Beekeepers Association Bill Lewis is buzzing about town today with information on how to save honey bees and why we as humans are so dependent on them for our food supply. The bees not only pollinate the plant-based foods we eat, but also pollinate the foods animals eat, which in turn provides us with meat, dairy, and more. It's all about preserving the food chain. Learn more about how parasites, drought, and pesticides impact the bee population and how we can help by planting flowers. Plus, find out how to raise a honey bee colony in your very own backyard.

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/homeandfamily/episodes/2202
http://www.billsbees.com/

2014 American Honey Queen Will Appear at the Bee Booth at the LA County Fair

Press Release from the American Beekeeping Federation  June 17, 2014

Susannah Austin, the 2014 American Honey Queen, will visit Los Angeles, CA September 8-15 as part of her National Honey Month tour.  She will be a guest of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Associations at the Los Angeles County Fair, speaking to fairgoers about the importance of honeybees to the public’s daily lives and how, from city to country, everyone can help the honeybee.  She will also demonstrate how honey comes in a kaleidoscope of colors.  

Susannah is the 20-year-old daughter of Kris and Catherine Austin of Orlando, FL.  She is a junior at the University of Central Florida, pursing a degree in biology, with hopes of becoming a veterinarian.  Susannah’s family began beekeeping through a 4-H project over 10 years ago.   

As the 2014 American Honey Queen, Susannah serves as a national spokesperson on behalf of the American Beekeeping Federation, a trade organization representing beekeepers and honey producers throughout the United States.  The Honey Queen and Princess speak and promote in venues nationwide, and, as such, Queen Susannah will travel throughout the United States during her year-long reign.  Prior to being selected as the American Honey Queen, Susannah served as the 2013 Florida Honey Queen.  In this role, she promoted the honey industry at fairs, festivals, and farmers’ markets, via television and radio interviews, and in schools.

The beekeeping industry touches the lives of every individual in our country.  In fact, honeybees are responsible for nearly one-third of our entire diet, in regards to the pollination services that they provide for a large majority of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. This amounts to nearly $19 billion per year of direct value from honeybee pollination to United States agriculture. 

For more information on Queen Susannah’s California visit and to schedule an interview, contact Bill Lewis at 818.312.1691.

(Note: The Los Angeles County Fair runs from August 29 - September 28, 2014.  Stop by the Bee Booth.  Los Angeles County Beekeepers will be on hand talking about bees, beekeeping, pollination and the importance of honey bees in our lives.  Check out the observation hive.) 

The Buzz on California Agriculture Day

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    3/19/14

The bees weren't all that buzzed at the 2014 California Agriculture Day, celebrated today (March 19) on the west lawn of the California State Capitol. 

The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and theSacramento Area Beekeepers' Association (SABA) staffed a beekeeping booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and filled it with honey straws,Häagen-Dazs premier ice cream and bee-related pamphlets from Project Apis m.  A bee observation hive, brought by Bill Cervenka Apiaries of Half Moon Bay, fronted the booth.

The bees buzzed all right, but the people--the general public lining for the ice cream donated by Häagen-Dazs--seemed to create the biggest buzz. They made a literal beeline for the strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Häagen-Dazs supports the University of California, Davis, through its bee garden and bee research (some 50 percent of its flavors require the pollination of bees).

By 11:35, the honey was all gone. "It vanished, just like our bees," quipped Bill Lewis, CSBA president.

Staffing the booth with him were Carlen Jupe, CSBA treasurer; Marti Ikehara of SABA, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Among those stopping to chat with the beekeepers were California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The California Department of Food and Agriculture sponsors the annual event, this year focusing on "Celebration, Innovation and Education."

Bill Lewis, who makes his home at Lake View Terrace in the San Fernando Valley, maintains 650 colonies of bees with his wife, Liane, and business partner Clyde Steese. Their company, "Bill's Bees," offers pollination services, honey, pollen, beeswax, candles and handmade soap.

Their bees pollinate almonds, oranges, avocados and alfalfa. 

For Lewis, his interest in bees began at age 14 when he took up beekeeping in the Boy Scout program and earned his beekeeping badge.  That was in Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee, where he maintained several bee hives in his backyard. "I 'abandoned' them when I went off to college," he said.

After earning his master's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University, he settled in California to work in the aerospace industry. Ten years later he began a 10-year period of working at a horse-boarding stable.  "Horses don't much like bees," he commented. "It bothers the horses when they have to share the same water bowl."

How did he get back into beekeeping? "The bees found me," Lewis said. He began keeping bees in 1991, first as a hobby, and then as a business. "I'm a first-generation beekeeper."

"Our food supply is so dependent on bees," Lewis said. As visitors flowed by, some asked him what they could do to help the bees.  Plant bee friendly flowers, buy local honey, try not to use pesticides in your garden, and generally, provide a friendly place for bees.

His favorite variety of honey is black sage "but we're not getting to get much of it this year due to the lack of rain." His second favorite: orange blossom.

He also has almond honey, which he and Mussen describe as "bitter."  And, Lewis said, it gets more bitter with time."

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/

It's Confirmed - February 12th is Bee Day in the City of LA

[NOTE from William Lewis, President of the California Staqte Beekeepers Association and past President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association: "I am certainly in support of bees in the city, but only if Best Management Practices, which was provided to the city planners, are adhered to which means "known gentle genetics".  I don't think this can be achieved by keeping local feral colonies.  I have not seen proof that they are well behaved and in my experience, the ferals I catch have turned out to be very aggressive."] 

WORKS is pairing up with HoneyLove to support passage of the bee legislation coming to vote on February 12th

Hi All -

If you care about bees and I know you do, then next Wednesday, February 12th is an important day to turn out to City Hall.  If you or anyone you know can attend, please let me know me.  We would like to share with Andy Shrader from Councilmember Koretz's know how many of our Urban Ag Friends plan to attend.   

Here is the information on the press event and council motions.  Please pass it on!

LA City Council is voting on 3 pending bee measures on February 12th.  If you haven't been following the issue, "colony collapse disorder" has been devastating bee colonies around the country.  Bottom line, we need bees to pollinate our food crops.  And our flowers.  

LA currently has a healthy honey bee population and we want to keep it that way.

 Press event:

 When: February 12th, 2014   9:15am
 Where: Los Angeles City Hall, Spring Street Steps forecourt
 Who: Councilmembers Koretz, Bonin, likely Huizar...
 Rob and Chelsea MacFarland: http://honeylove.org/team/
 Urban farmers (invited, but not confirmed)
 What: To talk up these measures in support of bees: 

#1: LEGALIZE URBAN BEEKEEPING IN LOS ANGELES
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=12-0785

#2: SAVING AMERICA'S POLLINATORS ACT
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=13-0002-S134

#3 HUMANE POLICY FOR LIVE BEE REMOVAL
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=13-1660

From:  Francesca de la Rosa, Director of Policy and Strategic Alliances
Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS)
795 N. Avenue 50   Los Angeles, CA   90042
213-446-4522 (phone)
fdelarosa@worksusa.org
www.worksusa.org 

(Note: The Planning and Land Use Management Committee's (PLUMC) recommendation is that the council forward the issue to the Department of City Planning and Department of Animal Services for analysis/recommendations and report back to the PLUMC within 60 days.

 

 

California Drought Hurts Honey Bees

KMJNOW News Talk Radio         1/22/14

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Bill Lewis, the President of the California Beekeepers Association is worried about the lack of forage for honey bees this year.  

He says there will be lots of almond pollen for bees to feed on in the coming weeks.  But after mid March he fears there will not be a lot other blooming plants for the bees to feed upon.  

Lewis says the reason is simple, the ongoing drought in our state. Lewis believes the lack of forage is more of a concern than even a new virus that the USDA just recently information about.  

Without a good food source, Lewis says, bee colonies will have a tougher time with fighting virus outbreaks.  Millions of bees are used each year to pollinate the almond and other crops.

http://www.kmjnow.com/01/22/14/Cal-Drought-Impacts-Honey-Bees/landing.html?blockID=735083&feedID=806

Bill Lewis named President of the California State Beekeepers Association

We are proud to announce that Bill Lewis, our own local beekeeper, and longtime member and past President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, has been named President of the California State Beekeepers Association. For the past year, Bill has been the Vice-President of the CSBA, and has now stepped up to the role of President.

He will be bringing the CSBA Annual Convention to Valencia, CA in November 2014.

Congratulations, Bill!  

Beekeeping Class 101: Sunday, November 10, 2013 9-noon

REMINDER: Beekeeping Class 101: Sunday, November 10, 2013 - 9am-Noon. Bill's Bees Bee Yard.  

This is our last beekeeping class for the season. Topic: Keeping Bees Alive Through The Dearth
Bee Suits Required. All are welcome. $10 fee for non-members. Free to members (membership $10/year.) For details and directions see our Beekeeping Classes page. Our 2014 Beekeeping Class 101 will start up sometime in February. We will post the dates as soon as they're available. Thank you! Learn Responsible Beekeeping in an Urban Environment!