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Updated January 22, 1996
- With honey prices continuing to rise, many packers are facing a real price-squeeze accompanied by some cash-flow problems in some cases. Wholesale prices for liquid honey are up from about 56 cents per pound last year to about 70 cents (US) right now. Very little honey remains in North American producer's hands. Small quantities are selling retail for about $2.00 per pound, US. Here in Calgary, Canada, stores retail 500 grams (just over a pound) for about $3.50 to $4.50 (this is about $2.75 US currency per pound). The producer should be receiving from 75c - $1.00 per pound, Canadian money, in wholesale lots.
- Reporting from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, we are not in the best part of the country to comment on weather, crop, moisture, and farming conditions, but we are monitoring the media and talking to a few beekeepers who can give us a general picture of the 1996 outlook. Moisture conditions may be good as we look forward to the spring. Southern Alberta has been receiving record snow-fall and the extremely cold weather (around minus 30 C for weeks) is keeping the moisture locked-in. Properly prepared hives will not have problems surviving this winter's bitter cold. Farming practices may create a minor concern - 20 percent less canola acreage is predicted for the coming growing season, with wheat plantings expanding. Canola, the major nectar source for much of the prairies, is still extremely abundant, even with decreasing acreages. Only if this trend continues for several years should we expect to see a major effect on production.
- Lots of reports have been coming in from New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio that suggest massive losses of bees this fall. It is rumoured that 80 percent of all hobbiest hives have perished. The problem seems to be varroa mites which are just now reaching critical populations in many beehives in the north-east. Some beekeepers are disputing this claim, saying that their bees have been treated with Apistan. Whatever the cause, with such large numbers of hive losses, the few surviving colonies might have some biological resistance to varroa that should be investigated, or some other desirable traits. Somewhere among the few thousand colonies still alive may be the wonder bee that is not destroyed by varroa mite.
- China continues to lead the world in honey production. Almost 500 million pounds in 1995. This is twice as much as the USA produces and almost ten times Canada's production. Before 1960, mainland China had no honeybees at all - today there are about seven million colonies of honeybees in Mainland China!
- Coming up soon: February 19-24, the 1996 Bee Masters Course in advanced beekeeping is being offered at Canada's Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. For registration and more information, call 604-291-3649.
- Zdravstvoy! You might say to the USDA researchers in Far Eastern Russia. They are looking at bees which have developed a natural resistance to the varroa mite pest. Maybe the natural, genetic fix to the problem which was predicted by beekeepers years ago is about to happen?
- Canadian research has been significantly reduced in the past few years. Dr. Mark Winston, of Simon Frasier in B.C., writes in the May 1996 Bee Culture magazine that only five government and university positions in apicultural research are left in the entire country. Funding has been cut from its 1993 level of about $250,000 US to about $95,000 US. This possibly reflects the very strained health of the Canadian beekeeping industry. Many of the researchers and government regulators helped weaken the Canadian bee industry by preventing the importation of package bees and queens from the USA. They should not be puzzled if little support is left for their research activities today.
- A continuation of the US Honey Loan program was defeated in the American Congress. The decision was based on the perceived cost of administration of the program. The net effect on beekeepers will likely not be felt as honey prices continue to rise. The program's utility is manifested in periods of low commodity prices. Perhaps a few years from now, news of the demise of this program will actually be of more concern to most beekeepers than it is today.
- UPDATE and CORRECTION!!! This Web Page has stated that Varroa mite was discovered on an island off the coast of Australia. This is approximately true, but the islands ( Boigu, Dauan and Saibai Islands) are part of Papua New Guinea, ABOUT 250 KILOMETRES from the Australian coast! Australia remains completely Varroa mite free and the Aussie beekeepers and their government are working hard to continue to maintain that status. David Goble, manager of the Kangaroo Island WWW site, tells us that beekeepers are working with the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS), investing their own funds, developing educational materials and research tools in order to continue to maintain mite free status. Sentinel hives, public awareness, and pheromone-baited traps are being used to reduce the possibility of the introduction of Apis cerana and/or Varroa mites. Our thanks to David for this update. Despite these extensive and expensive measures, and in spite of Australia's mite free status, it appeared as if Agriculture Canada might ban Aussie bees from import into Canada this spring! We hope such decisions will be based more on good science and less on politics in the future. Varroa is already wide-spread in Canada (it has been reported in nearly every province), so the ban of mite free Australian bees would not have made much sense!
- The USDA Bee Lab in Baton Rouge is looking for the help of American beekeepers in a program planned to reduce the impact of the Varroa mite. If you have stocks of bees which you believe may be carrying some genetic resistance to Varroa jacobsoni you are urged to contact Robert Danka of the USDA. Eventually, the bees will be tested and released back to the public. The address is USDA, ARS Honey Bee Breeding, 1157 Ben Hur Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70820-5502. Or use our link here to Robert Danka at RDANKA@ASRR.ARSUSDA.GOV.
- The advance of Africanized bees in Texas seems to have slowed down. The bees are several hundred miles behind their predicted northward progression. USDA scientist Dr. Bill Rubink says that the decrease in spread of these bees may be related to the cooler climate they are encountering in central Texas. Even Houston receives occasional frost- the weather is certainly cooler than South American tropics. Rubink also says that interbreeding with gentler Texan stock and the effects of Varroa (which is reducing wild swarm populations) are other factors slowing the spread of AHB. (Bee Culture, March, 1996) Dr. Robert Page, a UC Davis researcher studying the movement of the African stock through southern California is equally puzzled. He says 'The reason for its slow progress is unknown...Perhaps the AHB are reaching their natural ecological limits'. (Bee Culture,May, 1996.)
- The latest news from the eastern USA, where Varroa mites are common, is that honey production from domestic hives has been at record levels. Many beekeepers have had several consecutive record crop seasons. Beekeepers are starting to attribute this to the reduction of feral colonies (wild swarms living in trees). Feral colonies have been killed by Varroa mites. (Bee Culture Magazine, Feb. 1996) The reduction of wild colonies has resulted in less competition for nectar sources, leaving more nectar in the flowers for managed hives to acquire. Properly treated domestic colonies do not suffer from the Varroa pest, while wild bees may perish. Whether this scenerio is based on fact, or whether the past few years of good production is due to other causes, can not be scientifically determined.
- In Canada, some forward contracts for bulk honey in 55 gallon barrels have been set at $1.20 C per pound. A beekeeper in Saskatchewan says one million pounds of honey left Saskatchewan in a one-lot shipment at a price of $1.18 per pound in January. Very little honey remains in North American producers' hands. Small quantities are selling retail for about $2.00 US per pound. Here in Calgary, Canada, stores retail 500 grams (just over a pound) for about $3.50 to $4.50 (this is about $2.75 US currency per pound). The producer should be receiving from $.95 - to- $1.25 per pound, Canadian money, in wholesale lots. A few hopeful beekeepers are claiming that they expect honey will top $1.50 C by late summer! In the states, reports of a semi-load, about 45,000 pounds, of high quality Midwestern US honey being sold for $1.00 US per pound have been verified.
- Coming up soon: The Seventh International Symposium on Pollination in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada from June 23rd to the 28th. Lethbridge is located in the dry southern prairies of western Canada. Irrigation systems and the hot, sunny summers make this a diversified crop area. Government research centres have focussed on a variety of projects, including irrigation, crop diversification, and pollination. Lethbridge is a scenic but modest sized city, within an hour or so of the Rockies and a couple of hours from Calgary. Make your plans early for this conference! For more information, call K.W. Richards at the research centre. Tel: 403-327-4561; fax: 403-382-3156.
- Students and potential students of entomology should be aware that several scholarships are available to help their with studies. Our congratulations to Hannah Fraser, M. Sc. student at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, winner of the American Association of Professional Apiculturalist $1000 research award. Her work may lead to a better understanding and control of the wax moth which invades weak hives and stored bee equipment!
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