Lakeland Currents – Bee Keeping Industry Concerns

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Lakeland Currents is sponsored by Nisswa Tax Service.
Nisswa Tax Service offers tax preparation for individuals
and businesses. Across from city hall in Nisswa and on the web at Nisswa Hello again everyone and welcome to
Lakeland Currents where
tonight our topic is the challenge facing bee keepers
and the bee keeping industry.
And I think for people who may think this
is affecting people a long ways away from your family table.
I think you’ll find out that
this something that’s going to be really important
to all of us. My guest this
evening is Don Jackson who is the vice president of the
North Central Minnesota Bee
Keepers Association. And I must say that I have
known Don for well over 40 years now. I hate to say it’s been that long ago but it has been that long ago. In addition to being
a bee keeper, Don’s been a bee keeper for many many years.
He has also Minnesota state bee keeper
inspector. for the state of MInnesota for
over 20 years. I can tell you
he also is a pretty darn good
9 fingered piano player. And I told him this before
but in my college career he is one of the outstanding teachers that I ever
had. He was a philosophy
teacher when I had him. I had him as a college instructor.
So Don welcome to the program Good to see you again. It’s been a long time since we’ve actually spent any time together. But you are still industry,
you’re still waving that flag for the bee keeping group.
Let’s talk a little bit about bees, before we get into
some of the challenges that
are facing bees. Probably there is a lot of things
about bees that the average guy just doesn’t understand. For example how long it takes a little group of bees to make a pound of honey. You’ve been in the business a long time and I know you write for professional magazines
on the bee keeping industry but tell us a little bit of what you do
with your business at home. And how many hives you have
and what is a hive? Asked you a lot of questions didn’t I.
You ask plenty of questions
there is always a million things I could talk
about. And thanks for the compliments by the way
now I’ve got to live up to
them. Laughter Okay. We generally run
a couple hundred colonies of bees.
We’ve pollinated almonds in California,
watermelons in Texas, I bred sunflowers in North Dakota
and northwestern Minnesota. Hegland’s 220 acres of irrigated cucumbers in the Staples area. We’ve pollinated the Alfafa, and Red Clover, and Buckwheat and Alsike Clover and some of the other native crops in the local area. And continue to do some pollination we pollinate one raspberry farm with our bees.
We pollinate 2 apple orchards. One which is more
than 500 trees. And we pollinate an organic farm
of 7 acres a vegetable garden. with a fellow who markets his stuff
in the Twin Cities. So we’re
pretty busy in the bee keeping industry. Keeping things going in
our local area. Ron: How long
have you been doing this? 45 years. Yeah,
I started when I was a kid. and then when off to college in Chicago. And when I came back I got back into it again up in the north country. I guess the north country bug bites you and you can’t get away from it. Before we get too much
into the bees I might say a few things about some of the products of bees. Everyone knows about honey, which we market in
a local stores. We don’t market it from the house
generally, but we market in
our local stores. Of course people with allergy
problems our especially looking for a local farm of honey, a local source of honey. There are other products
in the bee hives. This
particular container contains
a stuff called propolis which is what the bees
use as a sterilizing agent in the bee hives.
They also plug up holes and
whatnot. Propolis is a sticky substance
gathered from local shrubs and trees.
It’s full of resins. It is active against
bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. So it’s very good
to use during time when you are coming down with
a cold or the flu. It’s
effective against a whole range of gastrointestinal infections. It’s available at health food stores in pill fashion. The next one
is pollen which the bees have of course gathered from flowers
in the process of pollinating
the plants. which is their main value to agriculture at large in the United States.
They pollinate probably about 19 billion dollars worth of agricultural crops, commercial
agricultural crops. Plus of
course a host of backyard
gardens and fruit trees in the neighborhood and what not
in the process. So I’ve heard
estimates of of the value of honey bees
for pollination being in the
neighborhood of hundred billion dollar of crops
in the United States. That’s right so it makes a interesting project. Some people collect the pollen, you’ll find that
also in health food stores. It has the mixed pollen sources
has the entire range of vitamins, minerals and all of the amino acids.
So people use it as a vitamin
supplement and it is also aid to them in combating of
allergies and what not from the local area.
The 4th thing of course this is
a candle, you can’t tell by the color
the source of it is beeswax. The beeswax is a
very desirable form of wax to have for candle making because it has a high melting point like about 45 degrees. Unlike many candles
it is not so quick to tip over. Beeswax is used for other
things as well of course. During World War II it was used
to coat the aluminum coverings
of airplanes so that they wouldn’t corrode. And it’s heavily used by the cosmetic industry in many
things. At the Crow Wing County Fair, our fair booth for the North Central Bee Keepers Association sells beeswax lip balm for going after chapped lips and what not.
And then I brought a couple of
books just to give you an idea of what is
out there on the market. This
particular one The Hibernation Diet,
the authors claim that you can lose weight at
night time by taking a teaspoon of honey before you go bed.
Ray: Do they claim how much you
can lose? I might have to try it. Don: Well I don’t know that
you need to try it, you look
pretty fit and trim to me. The thing is the
brain never stops sleeping so you have to feed the brain at all times. The contention of the author is that honey which is
sequestered in the liver is released during the night to reactive brain
which is in the process
dreaming and everything else. They even claim that you
can lose more weight during
that than everything else. than you would going into a diet
or heavy exercising. Ray:
Really Don: That’s right. And the other book
is about honey and gourmet medicine written by J. Trainer,
who is a fellow controls pollination of almonds
in the west coast. Which we dealt with when we were
out there and they also has a
master’s degree in scientific area
so he writes books as well. Ray: Well the bees have been as you
said very important to our
agriculture economy. They are amazing
little critters. Probably most people don’t realize that the honey bees that we talk about for the most part are not native
to the United States are they. We have native bees that produce honey, but the Italians and different varieties that we have
are not American native bees. Ray: There is something like 22
different vanities of bees world wide, maybe it’s 28
I don’t remember which. But they were first brought to the
western hemisphere in the 17th
century by pioneers. As matter fact there
was a saying of the Indians, you could always tell when the white population was moving into the area because the white man’s fly would proceed them. The white man’s fly being the honey bee of course
as they swarmed out of there crowed little skeps and
confined oak wooden guns that used to keep the bees
in at that time. So yeah the
bees are not native here, but they have been here a long time. A lot of things that weren’t native here are the kinds of agricultural we practice in this day age and that brings us to the general topic of
pesticides. The heavy pesticide usage
right now is raising a great toll on bees themselves.
The problem is that so bad after World War II
in 1946, this county had about 5.8 million
colonies of bees. And now it’s down to about
2.6 million. There are already people saying that
because of the pesticide problem from this summer in particular. We may
have trouble supplying enough
bees to pollinate the almonds of the
west coast in California this
winter. Ray: I know there has been
reports of in North Dakota very large producer of honey and I know
there has been reports of some
of the largest producers out there losing
30 – 40 percent of their bees this summer just from
a variety of issues. I guess pesticides certainly could be considered
one of the top reasons. But
there are other, they call it the disappearing, what do they call it the disappearing? Don: The Colony collapse disorder.
Ray: The colony collapse
disorder where there is bees that just leave. But there more and more evidence that that’s connected to the chemicals to isn’t.
Don: There is evidence that
it’s connected to a whole range of subjects. For one first of all our agriculture has changed in recent years as farmers practice more and more monocultural.
And farm fence row to fence row there are not the flowers and wild flowers and the native plants that the bees use to feed on. So they are not able
to get a complete diet or they are not able to get a diet
at all because of the farming. Second thing that is causing this
so called colony collapse
disorder is a little mite called Varroa,
which is which came out of asia originally.
Who knows how it got to this
country may have come up from South America,
or come across the sea, on a ship. Years ago they took
a swarm off a ship that had
docked at Milwaukee. All the swarm
has to do is ride the ship and fly off to the land
and it’s there. With the Varroa mite has come a
host of bad diseases, viral diseases
in particular with nasty names like acute paralysis virus
and Kashmir bee virus and deformed wing virus
and invertebrate iridescent virus. And these
really make the bees sick and die. So some of
that has been called responsible for this so called
colony collapse disorder. Then we have a third thing that has
come in recent years, called a
microsporidian called Nosema. We’ve had Nosema,
in this country for many years. The history books called
the isle of white disease,
which is what occurred in Great Britain way back
in the early in the 20th
century. But we have a new strain
of it that has apparently come out of asian. Who know how it got to this county, although it devastated the bee keeping industry in Spain
before it got here. It called Nosema Ceranae
Now ceranae is a chinese word maybe it originally began in asia
I don’t know. The North Central Bee Keepers Association which
is a group of beekeepers from about 10 surrounding counties.
Ray: Surrounding the Crow WIng
area? Don: Yes Sure, Actually all the way
from St. Louis county to Wadena, to Beltrami and Todd and Morrison and all these other counties.
We have kept the demonstration
yard of bees at the arboretum. And two years in a row we’ve lost the bees. And we had this Nosema Ceranae in there
but we also had pesticides. And we had the second
most common used pesticide in the United States. Actually
pesticide or fungicide
different literature calls it by a different name. And that wiped us out twice so we had to move the bee area.
We lost the bees. and we lost the equipment. Ray: And the arboretum is located here in Brainerd. And I believe it’s about a
500 acre piece of land so those bees can go a couple of miles when
they are pollinating? Don: A
couple of miles Ray: What was this from?
Don: We can’t pinpoint what it was from. There is no way we
can know But there are within flying distances of the
arboretum at least 5 outfits that would
normally use chemicals on there products on
their plants and what not. The big box stores of course and two
greenhouses. Ray: Spraying
flowers Don: Spraying stuff.
Plus households that go to one of the stores and buy
something and perhaps it has a neonicotinoid right in it like
Imidacloprid. The farmer sprays
it that on his crops to
destroy destructive insects but the household version of it
that you might spray on your
fruit tree or on your lawn may have
a density of it that 20 times greater. And it just wipes
the bees out, It just kills
them. We had to take samples
from our dead bees and our contaminated equipment
and send them to the United States federal USDA lab that’s in Gastonia, North Carolina to find out what had killed the bees. And they came up with a couple of these
contaminates that are used in the environment. So those are some of the problems that we are facing at the present time and it’s just
devastated the industry. Ray: I can remember because I was a bee
keeper at one time. Don: There
you go. Ray: I remember I use to get about 30 cents a pound
for honey. What does a pound
of honey worth today? What’s the value of that? Don: Well it depends on who you’re getting it from. If you are getting it from the bee keeper
and he’s already paid for the
bottle and put the time into liquefying the stuff an getting it on the market. He’s probably going to get $3-$4 a pound. The price is really up from what it used to be. When I started bee
keeping the wholesale price on
honey was only about 12 -18 cents a pound.
So that will give an idea
about how scarce it’s become. Besides that it has
also become a well known health product for many reasons.
I pointed that out when I talked about these two books here.
And so it’s in fairly heavy
demand as well. The other thing is that the
United States right now is
producing about 150 million pounds
of honey per year. Our market is for more than 400 million
pounds. So we’re not even supply half
of the market that we need. Due to the shortages of bees partly
and the change in agriculture
to a monoculture and the use of all the pesticides.
It’s very difficult for this country to get an adequate supply of honey. Ray: Do you think this is the canary in the mine shaft in a sense?
Don: That term has been used to describe what is happening to agriculture yes.
Ray: Because you can go to
California you can go to all the southern states. We’re finding that these bees are having problems surviving
around the whole country. And which is driving
the cost of that up too. If the almonds and some of
these major products or crops rather,
don’t have bees to pollinate that’s going to be tough for them to even grow
those crops isn’t it. Don: It
is the almond crop alone in California is their money raiser. Their biggest income raiser and that’s more
than 2 billion dollars a year. And so they need something
like one and a half million colonies of bees to do
an adequate pollination for those crops. And those farmers are invested heavily in paying for the irrigation and all the other things down the line. They have very high taxes on the land that has almonds on it
and there is a lot of work
maintaining them and taking care of them. So if they are short on pollination, if they short themselves on pollination because of a shortage
of bees they are throwing potential income out the window.
The bees in order to get a million and half colonies of bees out there for pollinating those almonds they are going to have to come
from all across the United
States. They have to come from Florida and
the eastern part of the
country. It’s quite a migration of each fall and winter
to get enough bees out there for the job. And then the bees normally go from almonds to either back to their home territories
perhaps a beekeeper from Maine takes his stuff to pollinate blueberries after that. Some of the growers run their stuff a little further north into Washington state to pollinate cherries and plums
and that sort of thing. The bees get very busy pollinating
and they get a lot of exposure
to pesticides in the process. Which is not helping
our colony collapse disorder problem. Ray: You know we’ve been
hearing about this issue of pesticides and bees for a
number of years and it’s becoming a political issue to me
the way so many of our problems involve politics.
What’s being done? to try to off set all of these
issues? Is there organizations that are trying to work with other organizations to see if they can minimize the damage
that are being done by
pesticides? I know Europe has taken some
strong stances against a lot of
chemicals that are being used and trying to
protect that segment of their
economy, that bee keeping segment.
Is anything like that happening
here? Don: In Europe the first
country to go after one of the pesticide
problems the neonicotinoids, was France and that was
about 13 years ago. They banned the use of it
in agriculture in that country. Now in this past year the
European Federation has gotten together to attempt to ban
all of the so called
neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are the pesticides,
that have been used to replace the organophosphates.
The organophosphates are found to be carcinogenic.
So they came up with neonicotinoids. Nicotine of course
is a tobacco derivative But without adequately testing
it the effects of that on the rest of life. So the Europeans tried to ban the use of that within
the past 12 months. Not entirely successful. I think they succeed
in getting some forms of it
banned. but not all forms.
In the United States the EPA
which is the organization that regulates that, has not yet banned it. Because first of all
it’s a multi billion dollar industry to produce this stuff.
And if it increases the size of
farmers crops they want to use it. So the United States has
not banned it at this time. because they say the science
isn’t there. Well they have a number of people working
on the science including the
University of Minnesota, under Dr Marla Spivak.
She’s working hard to test this stuff
and so is Dr Kushin. Person who gets to our state conventions
each year and talks about the effects of these different things.
A lot of money is being poured
into the research on it. But the governments are
really hard to move off that center pin especially if there is money involved from the other angle. And I think that’s part of our problem. Ray: Let’s just back up
for a minute. When you start out the spring with a cluster of bees,
it’s usually a 2 1/2 – 3 pound cluster of bees. What’s that costing
a bee keeper to buy those today? Don: Well if you get what’s called a package,
it’s probably going to cost you somewhere between $60- $90. If you buy what is called
a nucleus, a package of bees Let me back up for a minute. A package of bees consists of little cage box, with the bees inside there,
a can to keep them feed, in transport from where
they were brought in from and the queen, in a little cage
which is separately placed in
there. You can also get a nucleus of bees,
which consists of 4 or 5 frames of bees,
brood and the queen and the add carrying the honey
and whatever else is in it. That’s usually a little bit higher,
last spring those were going
for anywhere from $90 – $129.
Ron: Wow What’s the definition today of a commercial
bee keeper? What’s kind of
that cut off point? Don: The cut off for a number
of years has actually been in the neighborhood of 500
colonies. So you can imagine with someone
with the investment of 500
colonies at that value $90
or whatever it is and their losing 50-60,
40 percent of their inventory that’s hard
to overcome isn’t it. Is this
putting a lot of the people out of business
in the industry? Don: Oh it
is. This year loses were very common at 60%.
I myself lost over 60%. Ray: 60% of your hives?
Don: That’s right. Partially
because of the strange year we had.
The winter that never ended, that went clear into May.
I split my strong colonies in
April and there was snow much snow I
couldn’t get into any of the
out yards to place them there. It was a
very very difficult spring this
year. But the beekeepers
have been trying to split their stuff to replace their losses each season. Some of them are getting rid of their old homes that have been contaminated
by the pesticides that have
been brought in from the farm products.
They are claiming some success. improving their equipment.
Still it costs $200 per colony to get
everything outfitted with boxes, and cones
and frames and bees. So it is not a cheap proposition. So if
you have 1,000 colonies of
bees and it cost you $200 a piece
it can start adding up the figures to $200,000 in an awful hurry.
Ray: That’s not having to do with you extracting equipment and
your transportation and all
your other costs that come with. Oh you can put
$50,00 into the extracting
equipment overnight. Of course you can
do a lot more than that in a
semi or what not to run them across the country to pollinate almonds so you can generate some income because you don’t know if you are going to
get a honey crop that’s going
to pay the bills. Ray: Where do you see this going?
What do you see happening? Don: I see a lot of bee keepers
struggling for a while. While
the research at the University,
the universities such as the University of Minnesota,
and Penn State University and some of the others
around the country. Others in
Nebraska and another good one in Texas.
While they try to get some of
the answers to specifically what is wiping
these bees out. I see this going as a period of struggle until we get more information on just what all is happening.
Now in our local situation here
with the North Central Bee
Keepers we had the colonies
destroyed two years in a row by the pesticides.
When we had the stuff checked to find out what was
in there we found Imidacloprid not Imidacloprid, chlorasalemil which is either an insecticide or fungicide depending on whose literature you read. And that interacts with one of the miticides that we’ve been
using with the bees. We were
trying to be environmentally friendly, so we used
Thymol. which lots of housewives use in their cooking and
what not. And unfortunately, the insecticide interacts
with the miticides and killed the bees. And it has what
we call a synergistic effect. in that the damage is
multiplied several times when it combines with
the other. So in our local area our solution was to destroy the diseased equipment, we burned
the cones. We moved the bees off of the location to out east of town
because we’d like to have demonstration yard for bee keepers
that are just beginning bee
keeping and need some hands on experience.
Cause our central bee keepers
is an educational organization.
And we put in all new frames and new foundations to get
the bees going. For now at
least we seem to have solved that part of problem.
Because they did well this year and they look healthy.
Ray: One of the things you
mentioned that’s changed so drastically is
the agriculture practices. It used to be a lot more hayfields
back when I was a bee keeper There was a lot of red clover, white clover and most of those are gone There’s soybeans, there’s corn,
edible beans, very specialized crops and you can’t blame farmers for wanting to get into that those areas where they can make money; cause they didn’t make a whole lot of money of those hay fields. But that has had
a real negative on honey
production Don: The loss of diversity in bee pasture has been a very serious problem. Bees need flowers. Even cutting the clovers and wildflowers such as Goldenrod, Sunflowers,
Jupine and what not in the ditches has damaged their
sources of nectar and pollen
both. We need all that stuff and I
think the loss of diversity across this country
in agricultural land generally definitely hurt.
Ray: Well we’ve run out of
time. It’s gone fast. Thank you for sharing that
information with us. Hopefully
we can get better news down the road.
It isn’t all going to be
negative news about pesticides and losing bees.
But right now we are certainly
in some kind of a real dilemma with what
is happening to this industry and that’s sad to see. Don: We’re very worried
about enough bees for
pollination. Don Thank you for coming on the show. And again Don is a vice president of the North Central Minnesota
Bee Keepers Association. I’m sure you have a website somewhere
if people want to go that.
Don: They do but I don’t know off memory. Ray: Okay then they can look
that up. But thanks alot for
being on the show. You’ve been watching Lakeland Currents, where we’re talking about what you are talking about. I’m Ray Gildow,
so long until next time. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

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