Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers

NPR Heard on All Things Considered By Anna King February 18, 2019

Bret Adee, a third-generation beekeeper who owns one of the largest beekeeping companies in the U.S., lost half of his hives — about 50,000 — over the winter. He pops the lid on one of the hives to show off the colony inside.  Greta Mart/KCBX

Bret Adee, a third-generation beekeeper who owns one of the largest beekeeping companies in the U.S., lost half of his hives — about 50,000 — over the winter. He pops the lid on one of the hives to show off the colony inside. Greta Mart/KCBX

Almond bloom comes nearly all at once in California — a flush of delicate pale blooms that unfold around Valentine's Day.

And beekeeper Bret Adee is hustling to get his hives ready, working through them on a Central Valley ranch before placing them in orchards.

He deftly tap-taps open a hive. "We're gonna open this up, and you're going to see a whole lot of bees here," Adee says.

Under the lid, the exposed sleepy occupants hum away. He uses a handheld smoker to keep them calm and huddled around their queen.

This third-generation beekeeper works night and day with a crew of more than 35. Adee has been busy staging more than 100 semi truckloads of his honey bee hives in almond orchards over a 200 mile swath of the Central Valley.

When temperatures rise and the blooms open, his bees wake up and go to work. It's his hives' first yearly stop on a 6,500-mile tour across the nation.

But this almond bloom, Adee's scrambling more than usual.

Deadouts

Adee lost more than half of his hives over the winter — 50,000. And he's not alone.

"You know, in September, I thought we had the most awesome bees ever," Adee says. "The bees looked incredibly good."

Like Adee, many beekeepers across the U.S. have lost half their hives — they call one with no live bees inside a "deadout." Some beekeepers lost as many as 80 percent. That's unusual. And many of the hives that did survive aren't strong in numbers.

A healthy hive able to pollinate has at least eight frames mostly covered in bees on both sides. But the fear this year is that there will be many weaker hives put into California almond orchards for pollination because so many hives have died across the country.  Greta Mart/KCBX

A healthy hive able to pollinate has at least eight frames mostly covered in bees on both sides. But the fear this year is that there will be many weaker hives put into California almond orchards for pollination because so many hives have died across the country. Greta Mart/KCBX

For decades Adee says if he lost 5 percent he really got nervous. Now a 40 percent loss every few years is more common, he says. But this many lost hives across the country is concerning.

Every hive

California almond orchards have grown so much over the past 10 years, the bloom requires nearly every commercial hive available in the United States.

Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade. Bees travel from as far as Florida and New York to do the job. Without these hives, there is no harvest.

Almond bloom is just as important to the beekeepers. It's a chance to make nearly half their yearly income, and a place for the bees to work and grow early in the spring while healing up from winter.

This year, many beekeepers have had to tell their orchardists that they won't have enough bees this year to cover their entire contracts. And some orchardists are desperately calling beekeepers. Some report pollination prices going up.

Sneaky suckers

Experts say honey bees are dealing with many stressors: chemicals, loss of wildflowers, climate change, nutrition and viruses. But this year, a special problem might have taken down the honey bees more than usual.

A matrix of almond branches show off delicate early blooms near Lost Hills, Calif. Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade.  Greta Mart/KCBX

A matrix of almond branches show off delicate early blooms near Lost Hills, Calif. Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade. Greta Mart/KCBX

A tiny parasite called the varroa mite sucks at the bee's body, causing big problems.

Ramesh Sagili, a bee expert with Oregon State University, predicted these big bee losses because of mites earlier last year.

"It's a very lethal parasite on honey bees," Sagili says. "It causes significant damage not only to the bee, but to the entire colony. A colony might be decimated in months if this varroa mite isn't taken care of."

He says unusually early and warm spring weather last year made the bees start rearing baby bees early. That gave varroa mites a chance to breed and multiply too.

Varroa mothers crawl into the cells of baby bees and hide there until the bees close the cell up with wax. Then they lay an egg and rear their young on the baby bee.

Emotional sting

When the almond blooms fade, beekeepers will truck their hives across America — from the Northwest and Dakotas to the South and Maine, chasing spring.

Eric Olson, 75, of Selah, Wash., points out the fruiting wood on his cherry tree. Pruning helps to open the canopy so the fruit can ripen well, and cuts back on fast-growing branches called suckers that can sap the tree's energy away from the valuable fruit.  Anna King/Northwest News Network

Eric Olson, 75, of Selah, Wash., points out the fruiting wood on his cherry tree. Pruning helps to open the canopy so the fruit can ripen well, and cuts back on fast-growing branches called suckers that can sap the tree's energy away from the valuable fruit. Anna King/Northwest News Network

In Eric Olson's foggy and frosty Washington state cherry orchard, bloom is still a while off. His crew is busy pruning away the wood that would block light to the fresh fruit.

He's helps manage one of the largest beekeeping businesses in the Northwest.

He says their hives experienced a dramatic loss this year. But it's not as bad a when he lost about 65 percent of them.

"That's when I cried," says Olson, who served 20 years in the Air Force. "I was a pilot and I spent my time in combat situations. Never in my life was I as low as when we lost 65 percent of those bees."

Chasing spring

Still, spokespeople for the almond industry are saying it's all fine.

"Orchard growers who have long-standing relationships with beekeepers are not experiencing problems," says Bob Curtis, a consultant for the Almond Board of California. "Folks that are having trouble are the ones that don't make the contracts in the fall with beekeepers."

If Northwest growers line up beekeepers early, Olson says he expects there will be enough bees for the region's smaller fruit tree bloom. Still, he's worried for his orchardist friends.

"If I can't get bees in my cherries I'm in trouble," Olson says. "I don't have a crop. What do I do? I don't know."

Surveys later this spring will give a better idea of nationwide bee losses, but that might be too late for orchardists at the end of the pollination line.

This story comes to us from the Northwest News Network.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/02/18/694301239/massive-loss-of-thousands-of-hives-afflicts-orchard-growers-and-beekeepers

The Super Bowl Of Beekeeping

The New York Times     By Jaime Lowe     August 15, 2018

Almond growing in California is a $7.6 billion industry that wouldn’t be possible without the 30 billion bees (and hundreds of human beekeepers) who keep the trees pollinated — and whose very existence is in peril.

Will Nissen’s bees north of Bakersfield, Calif. Credit Ilona Szwarc for The New York Times

Every February, white petals blanket first the almond trees, then the floor of the central valley, an 18,000-square-mile expanse of California that begins at the stretch of highway known as the Grapevine just south of Bakersfield and reaches north to the foothills of the Cascades. The blooms represent the beginning of the valley’s growing season each year: Almond trees are first to bud, flower and fruit. At the base of the trunks sit splintered boxes — some marked with numbers, some with names, some with insignias — stacked two boxes high on a wooden pallet that fits four stacks. Inside the boxes are bees, dancing in circles and figure-eights and sometimes just waggling. With almond season comes bee season. Everyone in the valley knows when it’s bee season. There are bee-specific truckers; motels occupied by seasonal workers; annual dinners to welcome the out-of-towners; weathered pickups with license plates from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Florida parked in front of orchards at all hours of the night. And those ubiquitous boxes.

This year the beekeepers responsible for those bees gathered on a mid-February Saturday for a potluck lunch at a community center in Kerman, a small town of ranch houses wreathed by acres upon acres of almond orchards. The meeting was supposed to kick off the pollinating season, but the beekeepers, many of them wearing tucked-in plaid shirts and trucker caps with dirt-curled bills, had already been at work for a couple of weeks, summoned to the state early by a heat wave. The sun beckoned the blossoms, and the blossoms begged for the bees. Farmers have a window of just a few weeks when pollination has to happen, otherwise the nuts won’t set, which is what it’s called when blossoms are pollinated and kernels emerge. When the nuts don’t set, much of a crop can be lost. By the time of the potluck, it seemed as if the season were already at its midpoint.

The beekeepers lined up to fill their paper plates with pork chops, baked beans, chicken, rice, salad and three different kinds of cake. Teri Solomon, the organizer of the event and a longtime local beekeeper, collected $10 each for lunch. A list of speakers was taped to the table where she sat — respected beekeepers, bee brokers, scientists, a Fresno County sheriff’s police detective and a rep from the Almond Board of California. Topics of the day included the steady growth of the almond industry, the science of pollination, agricultural theft (hence the cop) and the ever-more-imperiled state of honeybees. That last item carried the most weight with the crowd, as they were all struggling to maintain the vast numbers of bees needed for almond pollination. Bees are central to an enormous agricultural industry — about one of every three mouthfuls of food we eat wouldn’t exist without bee pollination — and beekeepers’ custodianship of billions of these delicate animals is as much an art as it is a science. Beekeepers themselves, Solomon confided, are funny creatures: solitary in the field, trying to anticipate the needs of a finicky insect and, unlike that insect, social only once in a while. “We’re an odd bunch, very individualistic in nature,” she said. “But we’re in trouble.”

Honeybees on a removable frame from a bee box in the Central Valley. Credit Ilona Szwarc for The New York TimesMostly the beekeepers and bee brokers — the agents who negotiate contracts between beekeepers and farmers — were trying to get a sense from one another of how badly bee populations had been hit, how much each was charging per hive and how much they could increase that price for the next season. There was talk of disease, pesticides, drought, floods, suburban sprawl, parasites. They talked shop: Which menthol strips are you using to inoculate your bees? How often do you change the treatment-laced pad placed in the hive to keep your bees healthy? Are the wafers or quick strips more effective for mites? Where do you apply them in the box, and for how long? Does the medication affect the performance of the bees? Can you get rid of a mite infestation, or are preventive measures the only option?

About 10 years ago, the nation was seized with alarm when a Pennsylvania beekeeper lost 90 percent of his bees. He found that entire colonies had abandoned their queen. Losses like this were reported across North America and in Europe, but no one knows exactly what caused the die-off that came to be called colony-collapse disorder (C.C.D.). There hasn’t been a reported case of C.C.D. in years, but bee populations within colonies are still declining, and many scientists point to parasites as the cause. Since 2006, annual winter losses in colonies have averaged more than 28 percent, nearly double the historical winter mortality rate of 15 percent; in 2015, the U.S.D.A. reported more losses in the previous summer than the winter for the first time ever. According to Gene Brandi, a former president of the American Beekeeping Federation, the current plight of the bee population can be summed up in the four P’s: parasites, pathogens, pesticides and poor nutrition.

Pollination is a migratory practice now — more than two-thirds of America’s honeybees are mobilized for pollinating almond trees, and most come from out-of-state apiaries. One slide from the Almond Board rep showed the path of beekeepers who transport their colonies in semi-trucks around the nation seasonally — bees winter in Texas and Florida, head to California for almonds, then often summer in cooler states like North and South Dakota, where beekeepers will rebuild their colonies by splitting hives and feeding their bees manufactured protein patties and natural forage. The Midwest used to provide weeds, wildflowers and alfalfa for native and domesticated bees alike, but in the last couple of decades much of this food source has disappeared. Drought and suburban sprawl leave beekeepers with less open acreage for their bees to forage.

Last year, climate-intensified hurricanes and flooding along the Gulf Coast destroyed entire apiaries; they drowned blooms in Florida and led to the starvation of thousands of bees; wildfires in Santa Barbara and Ventura, Calif., killed more. And beekeepers need to worry not only about keeping their charges alive but also about keeping them from being stolen. Last year, just a few miles from Kerman, two men were arrested in association with what may be the largest bee heist ever, a three-year crime spree that added up to nearly a million dollars’ worth of stolen bees. A preliminary hearing is set for November. When one defendant was caught at a local bee yard with stolen boxes, local newspapers and major media outlets had fun with the bee heist, lacing copy with inevitable puns about sting operations. But the reality for beekeepers and bees is much more grave.

The worst of the woes is the Varroa mite, a pest that was identified in the mid-’80s. The mite has become increasingly associated with the spread of viruses, including deformed-wing virus. The size of a poppy seed, this parasite sucks blood from both adults and developing broods. Varroa leaves bees in a zombie state, unable to navigate.

Lyle Johnston, a Colorado-based beekeeper and bee broker, at an almond orchard in California. ‘‘A lot of guys go through hard times, get their butts kicked,’’ he said. Credit Ilona Szwarc for The New York TimesLyle Johnston, a beekeeper and broker based in Colorado, described his methods for keeping colonies healthy: Feed them protein patties to make up for the lack of forage, and place menthol strips in the brood chamber in early fall to stave off mites. And always reserve some of the honey that bees produce to feed them come winter. He learned that last tip in the early ’90s from Joe Traynor, a bee broker based in Bakersfield, who has been renting bees since 1959. The audience sat rapt. While most of Johnston’s peers were losing 40 percent of their bees every season, Johnston said he was losing only 10 percent. “Until you have a mite collapse and your bees actually go down, you don’t really learn how to treat for mites,” he said. “A lot of guys go through hard times, get their butts kicked” — losing thousands of colonies, sometimes all their bees.

“If cattlemen lost 50 percent of their cows, you know people would do something and react,” Chris Hiatt, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association, told me. “But since it’s bees and everyone thinks we can just breed more, nothing’s done. No one appreciates the stress we’re under.”

Domesticated honeybees and agriculture have been tethered to each other for millenniums. Egyptians floated hives up and down the Nile to pollinate flowers. Some honey jars were even found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Highly refined apiculture techniques existed in prehistoric Greece, Israel, ancient China and Mayan civilizations. When colonists came to the New World, they brought bees in straw hives. When pioneers traveled west on the prairie, bees accompanied them in covered wagons. The biggest break in modern beekeeping came in the mid-19th century with the invention of a portable hive by Lorenzo Langstroth, a clergyman and apiarist. The bee box, with its suspended files of removable honeycomb, was so effective that its design has barely changed in all the years since. Langstroth allowed space for bees between and around combs — he calculated the optimal gap to be about three-eighths of an inch wide; less space is sealed with propolis and wax, while wider gaps are filled with comb. The box made it possible to move great distances with thousands of bees. Bees traveled by steamboat and rail, and once the Model T was invented, they were trucked from orchard to pasture and back again.

Frames of honeycomb in a portable hive. Since 2006, annual winter losses in bee colonies have averaged more than 28 percent. Credit Ilona Szwarc for The New York TimesNow they’re transported to Florida to pollinate watermelons, to Washington State for cherries or apples, to Maine for blueberries. And to California for almonds — the largest managed pollination event in the world. California grows more than 80 percent of the world’s almond supply. In 2014, the almond industry contributed $7.6 billion to California’s economy and was responsible for more than 100,000 jobs. A record total of 1.3 million acres in the state were devoted to almond production last year, an increase of 7 percent from the previous year.

The almond industry’s bullish expansion is not without controversy. It takes one gallon of water to produce a single almond; almond cultivation requires water year-round in a state where residential water usage has been restricted and some rural communities don’t have clean water at all.

On a hot February afternoon in Chowchilla, about 45 minutes north of Fresno, Johnston pulled up to an orchard in bloom. The trees appeared from afar to be still, but they were in fact vibrating with activity. “The almond pollination is the Super Bowl of beekeeping,” Johnston told me. His family has been in the bee business for 110 years. For decades, Johnston Honey Farms was primarily a business that sold honey. “I’d rather just do honey; it’d be a lot less stress,” he said. “We had to find another way to generate revenue. When I first started in the ’80s, we were probably 80 percent honey, 20 percent pollination, and now it’s the opposite.” In recent years, American beekeepers have been finding it increasingly difficult to compete against cheaper honey from China. As a result, most beekeepers turn to pollination events — especially the almond season — to make ends meet.

Many beekeeping operations are, like Johnston’s, third- and fourth-generation businesses. Johnston always knew he would be a beekeeper — on his first day of school, he left during recess to go home and tend to the bees. “Dad had Mom take me right back to school, but there was no question I was always going to work in bees.”

Beekeepers refilling sugar syrup (honey bee feed) on an almond orchard near Madera, Calif.CreditIlona Szwarc for The New York TimesAt 6-foot-5, Johnston towers over his hives, and he is scientific when it comes to his bees. He is beholden to his tiny insects, his mood dictated by their moods. Today they were happy, so he was happy. The bees, coated in pollen, flew from branch to hive and back again, with full pollen baskets, the part of the insect’s legs where they store loads for their brood. The bees clustered at the bottom of each box, pushing to deposit their pollen into a cell where larvae would eventually emerge, expanding the colony’s population. Johnston burned wood pellets in a gunny sack to work up mesquite smoke to pacify the bees, then pulled a frame out of one of his boxes. His bees looked fat and healthy and boisterous. A good beekeeper can immediately tell when a hive is unhealthy: The bees push to the outer edges of the frame as if they’re trying to escape.

As one of the biggest brokers in the nation, Johnston was running 73,000 hives with a rental value of roughly $14 million per year, distributed among his 22 beekeepers. According to the U.S.D.A.’s Cost of Pollination Survey, an annual tracking of honeybee health and pollination costs that started in 2016, 1.7 million colonies were used to pollinate almond trees in 2016; an estimated two million colonies were needed in 2018. “If almonds went down, we wouldn’t be running bees,” Johnston said — meaning the financial incentive of the pollination event would disappear. “The population of bees would change; it would drop by around a million hives.”

Honeybees used for managed pollination are domesticated; they are actually considered by a number of states to be livestock. Without their human keepers, honeybees might have faced extinction decades ago, as some of their native counterparts are beginning to now. Three bumblebees are believed to have gone extinct already: Bombus rubriventris, Bombus melanopoda and Bombus franklini; the rusty-patched bumblebee was listed under the Endangered Species Act just last year. The threat to both managed and wild bees is considered serious enough that in 2015 President Barack Obama established a task force to promote the health of honeybees. Its report called upon the Department of Agriculture to track honeybee-colony loss and to restore millions of acres of land to pollinator habitat.

At the potluck lunch, the Almond Board rep passed along a U.S.D.A. forecast that by 2020, 300,000 additional acres of almond trees would be blooming. Johnston said: “They’ve tripled the acreage since I started, and I remember an old-time grower telling me this thing is all going to go down; when they get to 400,000 or 500,000 acres, this thing is going to collapse like a crater. He was totally wrong: They blew right past that, and they’re going for more.” The problem is that there aren’t enough healthy bees to accommodate the growth of the almond industry.

A beekeeper in an almond orchard in California’s Central Valley. Ilona Szwarc for The New York TimesHives north of Bakersfield, where bees are trucked in for the largest managed pollination event in the world: the annual pollinating of California’s almond groves. Ilona Szwarc for The New York Times

On a dry-erase board in an office in the back of a lab lined with experimental patches of wildflowers in the entomology department of U.C. Davis, the professor and researcher Neal Williams explained what he teaches to his undergraduate and graduate students and what he has found through decades of research. Pollinators can produce crops in a variety of ways — and sometimes, obviously, as nature intended, just by showing up. “Some of the work we’ve done is to determine whether some combination of wild bees with honeybees improves overall pollination,” Williams said. “If there is a synergy. If you want more pollination, you either need more bees or you need to make them better.” Williams found that planting wildflowers increases pollination in two ways: It attracts native pollinators, which create competition in managed honeybees, and the wildflowers vary bees’ nutritional intake. Several years ago, Williams conducted a study that monitored populations of bees for two consecutive seasons when growers planted wildflowers on the borders of their orchards. The results established that the wildflowers had not distracted honeybees from almond pollination.

Farmers have worried that flowering plants compete for pollination with almond blossoms, so they’re reluctant to allow for any other plantings. The bases of almond trees are usually stripped clean, with mounds of bare soil protecting the roots. To persuade growers to adopt new techniques, Williams and a colleague developed an algorithm to determine the exact cost-effective plants to suit the specific needs of each crop. But almond growers are reluctant to change standard practices, especially when there’s financial risk involved.

Agricultural entities — including California’s Almond Board — pour money into pollinator research, but they are simultaneously anticipating the end of bees. There was talk in Kerman about a new variety of almond tree that is self-pollinating. One almond grower and distributor said a lot of new orchards were buying the self-pollinating plants, but no one could tell if the trees were actually self-pollinating or if the bees from neighboring orchards were slipping into their blooms. Either way, the same farmer added, the almonds tasted bad, and he wouldn't be planting them anytime soon. Outside the ag labs, extreme measures to address the apocalyptic world-without-bees scenario include the deployment, in China, of armies of workers to hand-pollinate crops. In March, Walmart filed a patent application for a drone pollinator. “Robot bees would be a major challenge,” said Nigel Raine, a University of Guelph pollinator researcher. “I would be really nervous about putting our faith in robot bees.”

Driving outside Bakersfield, Will Nissen of Five Star Honey Farms pointed out the orchards owned by the Mormon Church, the Wonderful Company and retirement and investment funds. Then he pointed to his colorful and branded boxes at the base of almond trees. It was the end of the day, and his bees were all heading to the hives for the night. After releasing a plume of smoke, he pulled open one of their roofs (“You’d be angry too, if someone took the roof off your house!”) — then delicately exposed a hanging frame. Nissen showed me the filled honeycomb where larvae would start poking through, workers waggling and the queen, bigger and colored a deeper orange than her drones. After almond season, Nissen and his wife, Peggy, would spend several months breeding queens for future broods. He asked if I’d ever tasted fresh honey and handed me a chunk of wax with liquid dripping from the sides. I could taste the pollen, a texture like dust, and then the honey. I couldn’t tell if the honey tasted like almonds or if almonds taste like bees.

Randy Verhoek, former president of the American Honey Producers Association, in an almond orchard near Madera, Calif. Credit Ilona Szwarc for The New York Times

Nissen had been deployed by his broker, Joe Traynor, who was too busy during bee season to leave his office. For the first few months of every year, Traynor, 82, sends a flurry of emails to a list of all the beekeepers and brokers and scientists he has encountered — updates, research reports, weather forecasts and long-winded exchanges about the nature of bees. Sometimes he’ll forward a poem — like the one he sent after frost threatened this year’s crop written from the perspective of a farmer praying for rain and debating suicide. Traynor studied agriculture at U.C. Davis and by his own admission wasn’t a great student. “I got a C in economics at U.C.D. — all I learned was the law of supply and demand,” he said. Now, after nearly 50 years of renting bees, the demand is wearing on him. He barely sleeps during almond season and spent hours creating aerial crop maps, color-coded to indicate which acres he’s responsible for pollinating.

At his office in downtown Bakersfield, Traynor shared his collection of bee research and theories on pollination. The hallway to his office was shedding paint; on his door, a simple brass plate read “Scientific Ag Co.,” as if he were a private investigator. Inside the office — where he catches whatever sleep he can during the season — files, books and papers were stacked on every conceivable surface. Traynor’s shy, studied demeanor shifts at the mention of bees. He becomes laser-focused. Every year, he gets the same anxiety about whether he’ll have enough bees for his growers, whether his bees will perform, whether the almonds will set and how fast he can get the boxes out of the fields before farmers start working their crops with pesticides. There is a lot of tension between beekeepers and growers about timing. Once blooms are pollinated, growers will start spraying their orchards, and bees have to be removed quickly.

That night 130 people gathered at the annual beekeepers’ dinner Traynor hosts with Mike Mulligan, another area bee broker. A sudden frost had set in, and they stood around open-pit fires at Mulligan’s house, adjacent to an almond orchard. Beekeepers and brokers and scientists talked about the same issues discussed at the meeting in Kerman a week earlier. How do we treat hives for Varroa mites? What do we do to feed our bees when there’s no forage? How do we keep up with pollination? How can we raise prices if the frost affects almonds? How do we continue on as beekeepers without going broke? All the questions added up to one big question that hovers over every meeting and every dinner and every potluck: What is the future of bees?

Mulligan stood in front of the crowd to say a prayer for friends and for the season. He talked about how at the beginning of pollination he was worried he would be short a thousand hives. “The bees aren’t looking good, the weather is lousy, we just have to cancel,” one of his beekeepers called and told him from Texas. Mulligan reminded himself of a passage from Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Within a couple of days, he made up the loss with last-minute hives from local keepers whose plans had fallen through and who needed to place their bees. Many other beekeepers short on hives did not have the same luck.

Each year the beekeepers compare notes on whether to raise prices for pollination in the coming season — a decision that might depend on drought or frost or how big the almond crop would be. But one thing they didn’t anticipate, back at that dinner in February, was a tariff war. Beekeepers are now negotiating contracts with almond growers for next season. This season’s yield, which will be harvested in September, is projected to be a record crop. But trade disputes that have been initiated by the Trump administration are likely to affect most large-scale nut distributors, because both China and Europe are major buyers. If President Trump’s policies are carried out, almonds sold to China will be subjected to an additional 15 percent retaliatory tariff starting Aug. 23.

“Beekeepers are pushed into the margins,” said Randy Verhoek, former president of the American Honey Producers Association. “We’re doing things we never imagined would even be a factor in beekeeping. We’re just trying to do everything we can to keep them healthy, because there’s nowhere to go. Where are we going to go?” Verhoek, a migratory beekeeper based in Texas, has dealt with one almond grower in California for 17 years. This past season, he dropped 9,000 hives on 4,000 or so acres. He’ll gross $1.4 million from pollinating almonds, but when I asked him about profits, he said, “Well, that’s the problem with beekeepers; we don’t crunch the numbers. We just put everything back in the business and hope we’ll be here next year.”

Jaime Lowe is a frequent contributor to the magazine and the author of “Mental.” She previously wrote a feature about the incarcerated women who fight California wildfires.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/magazine/the-super-bowl-of-beekeeping.html

LACBA Meeting: Monday, August 6, 2018


Our next meeting will be held Monday, August 6, 2018.
Open Board Meeting/Committee Meeting: 6:30PM
General Meeting: 7:00PM Location: 
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
3561 Foothill Blvd.
La Crescenta, CA 91214


Meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association are open to the public. All are welcome!

Meeting Agenda:

Please bring something for the RAFFLE!

1.  Committee Meetings
     A.  Fair
     B.  Randy Oliver
2. Monthly Meeting 7pm
     A.  Welcome, flag salute, introduce the board, sell raffle tickets, index cards for questions, introduce new members, thank yous
     B.  Old Business & Treasurer's Report
     C. New Business - Renew Liability Insurance
     D. Events, Committees & Announcements - Membership, Fair Literature needed, Beekeeping 101, Observation booth at Fair, Cindy with fair info, Randy Oliver Workshops, The Valley Hive Honey Competition
     E.  What are you seeing in your hives?
     F.  What is Flowering in your area?
     G.  Q&A
     H.   Review for next month
     I.  Raffle

SAVE THE DATE(S):  SEE EVENTS PAGE

General Meeting:  Monday August 6, 2018 Committee Meetings 6:30pm General Meeting 7pm

Beekeeping 101:  August 19, 2018 9am-12pm

LA County Fair Set up:  August 18th & 19th - look for an e-mail coming soon to sign up to volunteer 

Special Workshop with Guest Speaker RANDY OLIVER:  August 25, 2018  @ Cal Poly Pomona

Special Workshop with Guest Speaker RANDY OLIVER:  August 26, 2018  @ The Valley Hive

LA County Fair Bee Booth:  August 31st to September 23rd - look for an e-mail coming soon to sign up to volunteer 

CSBA Convention:  November 13th - 15th Harrah's Southern California

Beekeeping 101
PLEASE NOTE: Beekeeping 101 classes will be held at the 9633 Baden Ave, Chatsworth, CA 91311, (The Valley Hive Apiary/Bee yard location).   Full bee suits with veil, gloves and closed toed shoes will be required.  Watch your e-mail for more details about this class as it gets closer to the date.

BEE ON THE LOOKOUT!

For an e-mail to sign up for to work the LA County Fair Bee Booth (Sign Up Required)

An Evite e-mail to attend the Randy Oliver Workshop at Cal Poly Pomona (Reservation Required)

An Evite e-mail to attend the Randy Oliver Workshop at The Valley Hive (Reservation Required)

MEMBERSHIP: 

Have you updated your contact information with us this year?

To get the latest information regarding what is going on in the club, please complete the online membership form now!

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The purpose of this account and platform is to share flowering plants throughout the month to announce during the 'What's Flowering' portion of the General Meeting each month.

How To Use 'LACBA Hive' Account on Instagram
To follow 'LACBA Hive' account for frequent updates of what is flowering and where:

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It's nice to include the location of the flowering plant too

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How to Steal 50 Million Bees

Bloomberg Businessweek     By Josh Dean     June 26, 2018

Every winter, apiarists from all over America rent their hives to farmers in California, attracting the attention of some very specialized thieves.

ILLUSTRATION: ALEXIS BEAUCLAIR FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

Lloyd Cunniff felt terrible, literally sick to his stomach, about trucking his bees to California, but fate had painted him into a corner. Bad weather, bad luck, scrawny, needy bees—a whole mess of headaches had upset the economics at Beeline Honey, his third-generation apiary in Montana. It was colony collapse in 2015 that had really tipped things sideways. The mysterious affliction, which causes worker bees to vacate a hive en masse, had destroyed half of the Beeline colonies. Cunniff and his wife, Brenda, were down to 489 hives, when he bit the bullet and did the thing he really didn’t want to do.

In January 2017, Cunniff piled 488 of his 489 bee boxes—24 to a pallet—onto a semitruck trailer, strapped them down, and headed west to chase the sweet, sweet almond dollars that were drawing so many of his beekeeping brethren to California’s Central Valley. Loaning his bees out for a season, 1,000 miles away, made him very uncomfortable. But if your business is bees, California is where the big money is. Or it is at least in February, when 1.2 million acres of almond trees don’t get pollinated without the help of honeybees, which love almond flowers. California produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds, and over the past 15 years the trees have come to dominate the valley, pushing out all kinds of row crops. There aren’t enough California bees to pollinate them, so every year the call goes out to keepers: Bring your boxes west. An acre of almond trees needs at least two hives, meaning that every February, 2.5 million colonies—two-thirds of the commercial honeybee colonies in the U.S.—are clustered in a few California counties. Beekeepers command as much as $200 per hive for the season, which runs a few weeks.

Cunniff has a long-standing relationship with Strachan Apiaries, a Yuba City-based business that’s one of the most famous names in American bees. Don Strachan, the founder, helped Cunniff’s grandfather get his apiary up and running. For years now, Valeri Strachan, Don’s granddaughter, has sent a few trucks of California bees to Montana to make clover honey in the summer, when there’s little for those bees to eat or do in the Central Valley. So when Cunniff decided to participate in the 2017 almond season, the Strachans were happy to help out an old friend. They arranged for farmers to hire his bees and offered to keep them for a few weeks until it was time to head south from Sutter County toward Fresno and the trees.

When Cunniff arrived in Yuba City, the Strachans directed him and his truck to a dike running along some sunflower fields southwest of town, between the Sacramento River and the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, and that’s where he unloaded his bees on Jan. 17, arranging the boxes in tidy rows. Leaving them that evening, Cunniff felt better about things. The bees seemed happy; that’s what he told Brenda when he called her from his hotel.

The next morning he rose early and drove back to the site. The fog had rolled in overnight, and Lloyd couldn’t see 100 feet past his nose, so he wandered around to make certain he wasn’t fog-blind. Then he double-checked to be sure he was in the right place, because goddamn if something weird hadn’t happened: The hives were gone.

Almost 50 million bees, in 488 white boxes with cedar lids, every one of them hand-crafted by Cunniff, had vanished into the fog.

The first thing Philip Strachan, Valeri’s son, thought when Cunniff called him in a fugue state, muttering about stolen bees, was that this was the work of professionals. No normal criminal would think to steal bees or have the equipment or know-how to pull it off. Cunniff was thinking the same way, and the evidence was right there in the dirt. He could tell by the thieves’ tracks that they’d used single-axle, dual-wheeled straight trucks, and not semis, probably because they knew there wasn’t room to turn a semi around in a hurry. He also saw signs of a forklift, so they’d come prepared to lift pallets.

Hives go missing; that’s no surprise. But historically, Strachan says, it’s been “one here, two there.” Just some drunk opportunists in a pickup. But this was a methodical operation. Cunniff’s weren’t the only hives taken. In total, more than 700 of them, valued at as much as a million dollars, went missing in a single night. In addition to the heavy equipment, the burglars needed the gear required to subdue and corral the boxes—namely, full keeper suits and hand-held smokers. Whoever did this knew how to handle bees.

And this wasn’t the first time, either. What sounds to novice ears like the plot of Fargo Season 4—a crew of guys in white suits and beekeeper hoods boosting hives in the fog—is a small but growing niche of agricultural crime. Two years prior, someone stole a bunch of hives in a neighboring county, and the next year more were taken, Strachan says. Counting the loss of Cunniff’s bees in 2017, then, “it was three years in a row that we had large thefts in this area.”

“I wouldn’t steal my neighbor’s car and park it right next door”

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, hive heists are an epidemic. There the motive is manuka honey, a highly prized variety that goes for $150 a kilogram (or 2.2 pounds), and authorities suspect an organized crime syndicate may be to blame. “It doesn’t matter if it’s beekeeping or meth; this is just the new gold rush,” one apiary manager told Reuters.

The culprits in California were almost certainly not local. Beekeepers are a close-knit community. They share wisdom and are aware of one another’s operations and equipment, particularly within a given area. Anyone new showing up with a bunch of hives for hire is going to stand out. “I wouldn’t steal my neighbor’s car and park it right next door,” Strachan says. “And it was pretty obvious that if you were going to take them from this area, they’re probably going to take them straight down to the almonds.”

Cunniff grew up around bees and hears their buzz in his sleep. His grandfather tended hives on the high plains of Montana, so did his father, and so did he, as soon as he was old enough to participate, at age 13. The morning of the theft, Cunniff drove around in a daze, his hope dwindling. He stopped every time he saw a beekeeper tending to boxes, but their reactions sunk his spirits further. The bees, folks said, were almost certainly gone forever. Stolen bees just aren’t found. “One kid said that he’d lost 300 colonies the year before and never saw anything of them,” Cunniff recalls.

He’d hated the idea of moving his bees in the first place, but this was far worse than anything he imagined. He’d lost so much more than the $100,000 in pollination fees. His entire livelihood was gone. One day, he had almost 500 hives. The next, he had one. “I was 57 years old, and I had to start over from scratch,” he says. “Where I had been thinking about retiring, now I got to … there’s no way I can retire now.”

Valeri Strachan, a former president of the California State Beekeepers Association, mobilized that organization. The CSBA has a fund for rewards, and it put up $10,000 for information that could lead to an arrest and conviction for the hive thefts. More important, law enforcement took notice. Agriculture crime detectives in Madera, Sutter, and Fresno counties were all put on the case, and the FBI even offered assistance.

Around the state, bee people were on the lookout for boxes that fit the description of those stolen from Cunniff and several others, but with 2.5 million hives in a concentrated area, the task was daunting. California law requires commercial keepers to brand their boxes by burning or cutting a state-assigned number into the wood. But the law isn’t strictly followed. Some beekeepers can’t be bothered, whereas others, such as Cunniff, are from out of state.

Market forces wouldn’t help, either. Demand in almond season is often desperate, something thieves can exploit. “You’re going to come across somebody who may not have bees on his almonds yet, and you’re like, ‘Do you want bees?’ And that guy is not going to ask questions,” Philip Strachan says, “because without those bees, he’s not going to have a crop.”

ILLUSTRATION: ALEXIS BEAUCLAIR FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEKCunniff’s main business is honey. That’s how it used to be for most apiaries, especially those on the high plains of the western U.S., where the air is clear, the water is clean, and the forage, as keepers call the many plants bees plunder for pollen and nectar, is plentiful. Bees in Montana and the Dakotas produce more honey per hive than any other bees in America, and that’s been good enough to keep three generations of Cunniffs housed and fed, with money left over to vacation in Hawaii and send the kids to good colleges.

But the business isn’t what it used to be, for them or anyone else who raises bees commercially. Today’s commercial beekeeper can never relax. He can expect to lose 30 percent of his bee stock every year, from bad flower years, pesticides, disease, and bears, which really do love honey, just like the cartoons say. Climate change is a problem, especially as it pertains to drought, because bees need lots of water. They both drink it and collect it to take back to the hives for the queen and her nurses, which is why you always find bees floating in pools and buzzing around leaky sinks.

“We spend so much money to keep them alive,” Cunniff says. “We feed them pollen substitutes that we never, ever dreamed of.” Those are $2.50 a pop for each hive. “They used to make enough honey to make it through the winter. Now they won’t make it. You got to feed them corn syrup at 40¢ a gallon.” Twice a year, he treats for varroa mites, a scourge his father never had to deal with. The treatment used to cost $1 a hive. It’s now $4.

“It’s probably twice the labor it used to be to maintain the beehives,” says Valeri Strachan, who took over the Strachan Apiaries business when her father passed away and will soon hand it over to Philip. Honey is third on the list of revenue streams for the Strachans. Above that is queen bee breeding. If an apiary in America is using Carniolan queens, they’ve almost certainly been bred by the Strachans, who’ve perfected the art. Valeri’s specialty, and it’s a rare one, is instrumental insemination. She’s one of a handful of Americans who can extract semen from drone bees and use it to inseminate virgin queens, a delicate skill requiring a steady hand, tiny tools, and a microscope. The Strachans produce close to 50,000 queen bees a year. “We use some, some die, and then the rest are shipped,” Philip says. A healthy Carniolan queen costs $31 (or $28 if you buy bulk); she’ll be sent overnight by UPS in a tiny box with screened sides along with six bodyguard bees that tend to her needs in transit.

At the top of the pyramid for the Strachans is pollination. The company maintains an average of 10,000 hives in a given year, an exponential leap from the 600 Valeri’s father started with and the most it has the space for. Bees move from almonds to prunes to any one of many other crops: apples, cherries, melons, sunflowers. This summer there are eight Strachan hives in a cilantro field; others will soon be sent to farmers of alfalfa seed.

Back in 2013, a Whole Foods in Rhode Island wanted people to recognize how important bees are to their daily diet. For a few days, the market removed all produce that grew on plants that depend on pollinators. More than half of the section was empty: 237 of 453 products in the section, or 52 percent of the store’s produce, were gone.

In late May 2017, four months after Cunniff’s hives vanished in the fog, someone who knew enough about bees to recognize an odd sight called the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to report something suspicious: A vacant lot at the intersection of two roads about 20 minutes east of downtown Fresno was filled with bee boxes—many more than any reputable beekeeper would store at a single location. And it wasn’t just too many boxes. These were scattered all over the one-acre lot, stacked haphazardly, and in various shapes, sizes, and colors.

When a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy arrived at midday to inspect the site, bees impeded his investigation. They’re most active in warm temperatures, and these bees were agitated—too agitated for him to get anywhere near the boxes without getting stung.

Cops returned later, this time after dark, and found what Fresno Detective Andres Solis called a “chop shop” for hives. A man in full beekeeper regalia—veil and all—was sitting in a passage between some stacked boxes that seemed to be his workspace. He appeared to be in the process of splitting each colony into two, so he’d have twice as many hives to market. (Half the hives would then be without a queen, of course, but healthy hives often split anyway, when they get overpopulated. The bees make a new queen from a fertilized egg.) Nearby was a station where someone had been sanding and repainting, as well as a stencil for the name that had been sloppily spray-painted on many of the boxes: Allstate Apiaries Inc.

That was the name of the apiary operated by the man detectives arrested there, a 51-year-old Ukrainian immigrant named Pavel Tveretinov, who’d been renting hives to local almond growers and selling them to buyers around the U.S.

Detectives asked a local beekeeper named Ryan Cousins to come down to the lot and help them ID the hives so they could begin the process of getting the very angry insects back to their rightful owners. Cunniff’s boxes weren’t marked, but they were handmade and had a unique configuration of frames inside. Cousins recognized them from photos Valeri Strachan had posted on Facebook.

Several of the thousands of recovered beehives near Sanger, Calif., on May 16, 2017.PHOTOGRAPHER: SCOTT SMITH/AP PHOTO

The police called the Cunniffs in Montana, and Lloyd and Brenda drove immediately to Great Falls to catch a flight to Fresno. They were on a stopover in Salt Lake City when a detective called with an update. “He said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but we found two more locations with your bees since you got on the plane this morning!’ ” Cunniff recalls.

In California he went immediately to one of the lots and wandered through the rows of tipped and broken boxes, angry bees buzzing around his head. “Hives were tipped over and mixed together,” Cunniff says. “Oh God, it was like a nightmare.” Many had been split from their normal two-story configuration into single hives, not to mention painted over and affixed with the new stencil. He spotted some hives that looked familiar. He pulled out his phone and called the young man he’d met near Yuba City the day his own hives were taken, the one who said he’d lost 300 hives and was sure they were gone forever. He thought he ought to tell him he was right: None of his bees were left. “It was just empty equipment,” Cunniff says.

The authorities recovered more than 600 hives at the three locations, stolen over the course of at least three years. They charged Tveretinov, along with another Ukrainian immigrant, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, with 10 felony counts of possession of stolen property, and estimated that the value of the stolen equipment and bees was at least $875,000, making it “the largest bee-theft investigation we’ve ever had,” says Arley Terrence, a sergeant in the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Beekeepers from three states flew in to assess the damage and salvage what they could. “We had no intention of bringing anything home,” Cunniff says. The insurance company had told him not to. “But once we got down there, there was so much equipment, we just couldn’t leave it.”

Cousins called some friends, who brought a truck and a forklift and helped Cunniff load his gear and the remaining bees. The truck wasn’t big enough to carry it all, so they left some overnight, and when they went back in the morning it was gone. “They had come in and stolen some of the stuff, again,” Cunniff says. It was later recovered, again.

In beekeeper circles, it’s widely believed the arrested men are part of a larger criminal enterprise. But neither the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office nor the district attorney assigned to the case is pursuing that angle. The trial has yet to be scheduled, and the defendants have pleaded not guilty. Detectives initially feared the men would be a flight risk, but they’ve appeared at every hearing. “I’m a little surprised that they keep showing up,” Sheriff’s office spokesman Tony Botti says. “But they’re still insisting they’ve done nothing wrong. I don’t understand it.”

Sometime this fall, Kelsey Peterson, a deputy district attorney and agriculture crimes prosecutor, will open the state’s case against the two defendants in a courtroom at the Fresno County Courthouse, which itself looks very much like a honeycomb. As of late May, her investigator, Doug Bolton, was still pursuing leads in the hope that she might be able to add theft charges on top of possession. “I’d like to do that for the victims,” Peterson says.

Cunniff trucked his bees home last summer, but he and Brenda had already started over with all new hives, most of them started with Carniolan queens either given to him or sold at an extreme discount by the Strachans. “We were starting over, and then all of a sudden these other bees show up,” he says. He had to quarantine the old bees, to make sure they hadn’t picked up any diseases. “That’s like a whole different operation. You can’t go work on those colonies and then come work on the new colonies unless you sterilize all your equipment and change gloves,” he says. “I had to hire three or four guys just to try to keep up with all these different things that we were doing at the same time.”

Insurance covered a chunk of his losses, but not the loss of income from the missed almond season or all the honey he couldn’t make last year. This year his policy premiums jumped $8,000. The insurance company also decided it would no longer cover lost bees, only equipment.

That’s why, when January 2018 rolled around, Cunniff was once more doing the thing he’d hated to do in the first place, the thing he’d thought he’d never do again. He stacked his hives—456 of them—on a truck, strapped them down, and headed for California. This time he took precautions. Instead of bringing in the hives early to settle in and acclimate—but also give “everybody that’s crooked a chance to scope everything out and drive around and find stuff that’s easy to get to”—Cunniff waited until the last possible minute to take them west.

Unlike last year, the bees all came home. “They made some money, and we got them back in pretty good shape,” he says.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-26/how-to-steal-50-million-bees

(Thank you to Bloomberg Businessweek from the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association.)

LACBA Meeting: Monday, April 2, 2018

Our next meeting will be held Monday, April 2, 2018.
Open Board Meeting: 6:30PM
General Meeting: 7:00PM
Location:
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
3561 Foothill Blvd.
La Crescenta, CA 91214

Meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association are open to the public. All are welcome!

Commercial Beekeepers - The Unsung Heroes of the Nut Business

(Every year about this time, Bill's Bees takes part in the greatest pollination event in the universe - almond pollination. In 2015, Tracy Samuelson featured Bill's Bees in her piece for Marketplace, (it's reposted below in its entirety). Enjoy!)

By Tracey Samuelson, Featured on Marketplace, March 2, 2015 (Click here for Radio Interview) 17:15

An employee of Bill’s Bees prepares hives for transportation to almond groves. Credit: Tracey Samuelson/Marketplace

"Commercial Beekeepers - The Unsung Heroes of the Nut Business" 

"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.

  The best time to transport bees is after dusk, when they return to their hives for the night. Credit: Tracey Samuelson/Marketplace

Bill Lewis of Bill’s Bees loads several hundred hives onto trucks in Lake View Terrace, CA., in order to drive them a couple hours north to pollinate almond trees for a few weeks. Credit: Tracey Samuelson/Marketplace "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 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."

Featured in: Marketplace for Monday March 2, 2015 (Click here for Radio Interview

LACBA Meeting: Monday, March 5, 2018

Our next meeting will be held Monday, March 5, 2018.
Open Board Meeting: 6:30PM
General Meeting: 7:00PM
Location:
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
3561 Foothill Blvd.
La Crescenta, CA 91214

Meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association are open to the public. All are welcome!

Agenda

March 5, 2018

1.  Committee meeting  6:30PM

a.  By Laws. Mary Ann Soifer?

b.  Membership. Cheryl

c.  Education. Linda heading up 5 volunteers

d.  Website. Eva new website?

e.  Fair. Cindy

f.  Correspondence

g.  Mentoring ?

h.  Beekeeping 101?

2.  Monthly meeting 7:00PM

a.  Welcome

b.  Flag Salute

c.  Introduce the board

d.  Select Raffle ticket seller, index cards for questions

e.  New Members and/or guests

f.  Thank Doug Noland  for the treat du jour

g.  Old business

.  Treasurer's Report
.  Package bees coming in April for Fair volunteers
.  Committee report / formation

1.  By Laws
2.  Membership
3.  Education
4.  Website
5.  Fair. Literature?
6.  Corresponcence?
7.  Mentoring?
8.  Beekeeping 101.

a.  Feb we had 250 people attend with 137 new memberships. Tried a rotation of groups around stations, as Pomona’s Mark Haag does, seemed to work better that an amphitheater classroom type setting. 

b.  In the future, we will need more volunteers to move the groups around so that all stations are seen.

h.  Topic: Almond Pollination

.  Who has gone to central valley to experience Almond Pollination?  Eva, Robert, Bill.
.  Then, who relies on pollination fees?  Shawn, Dave, Keith, Bill, Jeremy, ElRay who else?
.  If you want to experience this, ask one of these people if you can come to pick the bees up. Some have full trucks but others not.

i.   Announcements

j.   Convention Reports- part 3

k.  New Business?

l.  Seasonal Update:

.  What are you doing this time of year, what do you see in your hives?
.  What is flowering? Instagram, observations + samples. . .

m.  Q&A- pass index cards forward

n.  Review agenda and goals for next month –

o.  Raffle

Almond Growers Assess Impact of Freeze

California Farm Bureau Federation - Ag Alert     By Kevin Hecteman     February 28, 2018

Steve Van Duyn cuts into an almond blossom to check on its health in an orchard he manages southeast of Galt. Van Duyn says it will likely be harvest time—around mid-August—before the extent of frost damage will be known. Photo/Kevin Hecteman

Steve Van Duyn looked around an almond orchard he manages southeast of Galt on a chilly morning, surveying the effects of California's weeklong run of freezing weather. Several nights with temperatures dropping below freezing have Van Duyn and other growers concerned about their crops.

"We've sustained some damage," he said. "The full extent, we won't know for quite some time. In a few weeks, we'll know—we'll have a better guess—but we really won't know till harvest time."

Van Duyn said he'd been irrigating orchards each morning, to help warm the blossoming trees as much as possible. The deep freeze that struck the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys had many growers pulling all-nighters, trying to save their crops.

"It was unprecedented for just a number of years, as long as I can remember, that we were up every night, Monday through Friday night," said Ripon-based almond farmer David Phippen.

Mel Machado, director of member relations for the Blue Diamond Growers almond marketing cooperative, said reports from Glenn to Kern counties showed temperatures as low as the mid-20s, with many areas dropping to 31 to 33.

Though Machado and others can put numbers on the temperatures, they can't do the same to the 2018 almond crop just yet.

"Long story short, I can't walk into my brother's marketing office and say, 'Here's what the crop's going to be,'" Phippen said.

Reports of damage vary widely.

"Because of the stage of (bloom) development, because of whether you have water or not to apply, we will see fields that are virtually untouched adjacent to ones that are severely damaged," Machado said. "It's going to be that variable, and it's going to make it that much more difficult to really figure it out."

California farmers harvested 2.1 billion pounds of almonds on 940,000 bearing acres during the 2016-17 season, according to the Almond Board of California. The objective forecast for 2017-18 calls for close to 2.3 billion pounds.

The cold snap resulted from a shift in the weather pattern, said Jeff Barlow, a meteorologist in the Hanford office of the National Weather Service, who said weather systems had been "coming out of the Gulf of Alaska and dropping south across the Pacific Northwest and sliding into Northern California, and then coming across the Central California interior."

At the orchard Van Duyn manages near Galt—one of the almond, walnut and winegrape operations he oversees in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties—he said the third-leaf Independence trees produce 400-500 pounds per acre in a good year.

"So if we come in with a crop of between 400-500, I'd say we had negligible damage," Van Duyn said. "If we come in at 200-250, I'd say we had a 50 percent crop reduction."

Van Duyn found damaged blossoms in the orchard, but also found many that survived the freeze intact.

"Every morning, we're up here running the water from about anywhere from 10 o'clock at night to 2 in the morning starts, and running them all the way till 9 o'clock, 9:30 before it warms up," Van Duyn said.

That water is a crucial factor, said David Doll, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Merced County.

"Most farmers rely on the use of water applications at a rate of 30 gallons per acre per minute," Doll said. "This will warm the orchard by 2-3 degrees, depending on the dew point and temperature. Farmers can also use wind machines, but this isn't as common" in almonds, he added.

Phippen said he's seen no crop damage so far around Ripon and Manteca, but orchards near Oakdale and Waterford weren't as fortunate. One 20-acre parcel owned and farmed by his son-in-law suffered severe damage, he said. Phippen added that he's guardedly optimistic about his crop, thanks in large part to the warm weather that set off the bloom earlier than usual.

"We've never had this much frost, so that would tell you this isn't stellar," he said, "but the bloom has been one of the nicest blooms I've ever seen. There's been a long dwell on the bloom. The concurrent pollination from one variety to the other has overlapped beautifully. We've had a lot of bee flight hours. There's not a lot to be said negative about the bloom period that we've had. It's just that we had this frost along with it."

Phippen said he thinks he'll know by the first of May how the harvest will shape up.

An almond tree's vulnerability to frost will depend on a number of factors, Doll said.

"As the tree progresses through bloom and into nut development, it becomes more sensitive to frost conditions," Doll said. "For example, the critical temperature at pink bud (beginning of bloom) is 25 degrees; at full bloom, it is 26 degrees; and at nutlet stage, it is 28 degrees. Extended periods at or below this temperature (greater than 30 minutes) will lead to crop loss."

Citrus growers in the southern San Joaquin Valley used wind machines and irrigation to fight the chill, according to California Citrus Mutual. With nearly half of this season's crop already harvested, growers were aiming to protect next year's crop, as the warmer temperatures earlier in the month caused the bloom to arrive early.

"The coming days will reveal if damage was incurred," Citrus Mutual said. "Growers are optimistic that if there is damage, the trees will have ample time to bounce back and push out another set of blooms this spring."

Warmer temperatures could reach the Central Valley this week, Barlow said, as two weather systems reach California.

"We are looking at anywhere from a half to 1 inch of rain in the valley, and then 1 to 2 feet of snow up in the high Sierra," Barlow said. "Then we go back to a warm and dry pattern for the weekend and into early next week."

Average high temperatures at this time of year, he said, would be in the low to mid-60s.

Average, of course, doesn't describe a year in which spring-like, short-sleeve weather was followed immediately by the forceful return of Jack Frost.

"My dad is almost 84 years old," Van Duyn said. "He doesn't recall a year like this."

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be reached at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

Jon and Jeremy Go to the Almonds

Jon Reese (2018 LACBA President) and Jeremy Jensen (2017 LACBA President), commercial beekeepers, checking their bees in the California Almond Orchards. (Photos by Jeremy & Jon)

Mornings in the California almond orchards.

Jon and Jeremy arrive at their first honey bee hive location.

A look in the hive.A closer look in the hive.

Jon's pensive look in the hive.

A growing colony.Almond blossoms.There's bees in these blossoms.All's well! Heading home!

Choosing the Right Type of Almond

Almond Board of California

E-Learning & Continuing Education

The Almond Board provides educational opportunities to help strengthen the industry overall, and to keep California Almonds the Crop of Choice. Because growers and processors are busy throughout the year, the board has made online e-learning courses available to bring the expertise straight to your office.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TYPE OF ALMOND

When selecting the right California Almond for your specific need, understanding the differences between the wide assortment of almonds will help you confidently choose the right type of almond for the right purpose. In this course, you will learn more about how the size, grade, variety and form of almonds can help you determine the right type for the right use. There are no continuing education credits for this course. 

CLICK HERE to begin the course.

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.)

LACBA Meeting: Monday, February 5, 2018

Our next meeting will be held Monday, February 5, 2018.
Open Board Meeting: 6:30pm
General Meeting: 7:00pmLocation:
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
3561 Foothill Blvd.
La Crescenta, CA 91214

LACBA members who attended the 2017 California State Beekeepers Association Convention will give their reports on what's new in beekeeping.

Meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association are open to the public. All are welcome!

200,000 Honey Bees Killed In Prunedale

KSBW US     Reporter Sierra Starks    January 17, 2018

PRUNEDALE, Calif. — A bee killer toppled 100 beehives in Prunedale and sprayed hundreds of thousands of honey bees with gasoline over the weekend.

The honey bees were being kept on Mike Hickenbottom's Prunedale property along Echo Valley Road during the winter. The bees are owned by a man who lives in the Central Valley, where it's too cold during winter months, and they like feeding from eucalyptus trees that flower on the Central Coast during this time of year.

Hickenbottom believes his neighbors were behind the incident, partially because they had complained to him three times.

The bees are allowed to fly freely around the property, and Hickenbottom's neighbors said their children were too scared to go outside.

Hickenbottom said the Italian and Russian honey bees are not aggressive.

"I go up around the bee boxes without any protective clothing on. I've never been stung," he said. 

The vandals struck sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday.

"Somebody came here, and tipped over all the boxes, and sprayed them with diesel fuel. It killed a whole bunch of bees," beekeeper Alfonzo Perez.

An estimated 200,000 bees died.

Perez leases the hives to pollinate almond trees growing on farms across Californian.

The bee killing cost Perez more than $50,000, a huge chunk of his annual salary.

 

"I just feel really bad for Alfonzo because he work so hard to support his family. Then somebody goes and does something like this," Hickenbottom said.

DONATE: If you want to donate to beekeeper Alfonzo Perez, click here

A police report was filed with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office. No arrests have been made.

http://www.ksbw.com/article/200000-honey-bees-killed-in-prunedale/15263414

LACBA Meeting: Monday, January 8, 2018

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Since the first Monday of the month is a holiday, our next meeting will be held Monday, January 8, 2018.**

Open Board Meeting: 6:30pm
General Meeting: 7:00pm


Location:
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
3561 Foothill Blvd.
La Crescenta, CA 91214

**The meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association (LACBA) are open to the public. Everyone is welcome. Please see the draft agenda in the email link below and send any requests to add or revise agenda items to our President, Jon Reese, at lacba.president@gmail.com prior to the meeting. Don't forget to bring something fun to raffle!

Draft Agenda and Newsie Bits: http://mailchi.mp/79c2d0e8acfd/lacba-newsie-bits-january-2018-edition?e=3107f454ee

Please note: It was forgotten to be mentioned in the email but our LACBA President, Jon Reese, is hoping all those who attended the CSBA Convention will share a short report on what you found most interesing, informative, entertaining - something you can share with the rest of us. Thank you!

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve advice from;
Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History
Honey For Your New Years Celebration. 

According to the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, honey speeds up alcohol metabolism, which means that it will help your body break down the alcohol more quickly. - Source: What Women Need to Know - 2005, page 14, By Marianne Legato, Carol Colman

Eating toast and honey after a long evening's drinking will help prevent the morning-after hangover headache. -Source: Better Homes and Gardens - 1977, page 61

LACBA Meeting Monday, October 2, 2017

LACBA MEETING - Monday, October 2, 2017. (Meeting Starts: 7PM, Open Board Meeting 6:30PM). All are Welcome! Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta, CA 91214 (In Shilling Hall). Parking next to the church, overflow parking behind the church.

 

LACBA Meeting: Monday, March 6, 2017

Join us for the next meeting of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
Date: Monday, November 6, 2016
Location: Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta, CA 91214
Open Board Meeting: 6:00PM
Regular Meeting: 7:00PM
Topic: Website and Facebook Management

/meetings/

Board Meeting Agenda Items for March 6, 2017

1. The LACBA website
2. Possibility of raising membership dues
3. (If time allows) Swarm-Removals page management at
http://www.losangelescountybeekeepers.com/swarm-removals/

Our board meeting will be held at 6pm, March 6th, the night of our main meeting, to handle business issues, followed by our regular meetings to talk about the fun stuff, bees! All members wishing to weigh in on business matters are invited to join our board meetings. Any decisions warranting a full membership vote will be discussed at the board meeting and a board recommendation in the form of a motion will be presented with a brief summary of pros and cons at the main meeting for members to vote on.