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Wintering hives.  Cattle have knocked off some of the bricks.

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Monday 1 December 2003
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The meeting started at 8:30 and went all day.  AgendaMeeting details.  The focus was identifying the challenges and opportunities facing beekeepers in the next few years and deciding how to deal with them. 

Among the major concerns expressed, is the rapidly increasing sensitivity of food analysis techniques, and the increased frequency of finding residues of common agricultural and other foreign chemicals in foods.  The question in the minds of producers and consumers is what levels are acceptable?  One speaker compared finding one part per billion of a foreign substance in food to finding 9.08 special bees among all the 227,000 hives in Alberta with 40,000 bees in each.  Although the current sensitivity is amazing, one part per trillion sensitivity is not far in the future.

Does that small an amount of anything matter?  No one knows., but as another speaker said, "Perception is reality".  Consumers don't know either, but tend to err on the side of caution.  The conclusion was that, as an industry, we must strive to avoid chemicals, and also ensure our neighbours are scrupulous as well. 

After we heard a talk about the persistence of Tylosin, and the revelation that the metabolites of Tylosin are persistent antibiotics as well, I heard one beekeeper later question the warning to only use Tylosin in Fall, and say he thought that early spring is okay!  That is scary.  Tylosin is not approved for general use in bees, although it is permitted if a vet prescribes it for a specific problem, and there are no Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for Tylosin, although it is used in other livestock applications.  More info on Tylosin: (1),  (2) (3) (4)

The recent retraction of Argentine honey from the world market was, apparently due to several beekeepers in the Argentine deciding, on their own, without official approval, to use nitrofurans.  When it was discovered, all the Argentines suffered -- all Argentine honey was withdrawn from export until the authorities straighten things out -- not just the few who brought the whole thing down on their heads.

We cannot just look away when our neighbours abuse chemicals.  If we do, we may just find that none of us can sell our honey.  How soon we forget.  It was not that many years ago (15?) that Saskatchewan beekeepers had to dump loads of honey after sulfa was found in their crop.  At that time sulfa was not illegal, but also not approved, much like Tylosin today.  Both drugs work well against AFB, but are persistent.

Beaverlodge has been working to find safe ways to use Tylosin, including feeding it in protein patties, so that it all goes directly to the brood, but apparently some beekeepers are doing things their own way.  They are playing with fire, and they won't be the only ones to get burnt.  They could lose their entire crop, and get sued down to their last shekel, to boot.

A word to the wise...

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A major theme of the meeting, agreed by all to be top priority, was that we need to move away from dependence on pesticides and antibiotics in our operations and find non-chemical solutions to our pest and disease problems.  The consensus is that, currently, there is no danger to beekeepers or consumers, but that, since perception is reality, that we need to move with the trend and get as organic as possible.  we are presently working on quality assurance programs with strong HACCP-like characteristics, and it behooves us all to co-operate and to encourage our neighbours to 'get with the program'.  Although, in then past, the record keeping burden was perceived to be impossible, current high prices and advances in technology bring such systems into reach.  We have a strong incentive to make them work to protect our livelihoods.

The difficulties brought on by border closure was also a focal point. Although the meeting was for Alberta beekeepers, beekeepers from Saskatchewan and Manitoba also participated.  Even the beekeepers who claim to have achieved self-sufficiency acknowledged that others do need a reliable source of good bees in spring and the consensus was that there is no longer any good justification for maintaining this outdated embargo.

Another major problem, coming our way fast, is mite resistance to coumaphos.  We knew, going in, that both Apistan and Checkmite+ were stop-gap measures to keep us in business until more gentle and sustainable measures for mite management were developed.  Our time is running out, and probably the only justification for maintaining any control over US imports is the concern about chemical resistant mites.

Here's an Important Project...

During a break, I spoke with Willy Baumgartner of Medivet.  He is currently working on approval for oxalic acid (OA) evaporation at his own expense.

In my opinion, this is the solution to our chemical problems.  For an investment in equipment of about $1,000, beekeepers could switch to a treatment that is highly effective, easy on the bees, and very inexpensive -- and forget about Apistan and Checkmite+, and the worries that go with using such pesticides.

Each hive treatment with OA costs about $0.02, compared to $4.00 per hive with strips.  Although there may be some additional labour, with some planning, the cost of application could be similar to using strips.  OA treatment does not require opening hives, works best when brood rearing has ceased, and when temperatures are just above freezing.  It seems that OA treatment could be done in conjunction with wrapping, or at about the same time, when things are slowing down for the year.  A treatment in early spring is another option.

There are several concerns to address before approval is obtained, and this is where the cost comes in.  IMO, beekeepers should make every effort to get behind Willy in this effort and be prepared to chip in some money to help.  A beekeeper with 1,000 hives stands to save $4,000 a year, minus the cost of OA setup and use.  I figure about $3,000 a year.  Those with 5,000 hives stand to save $ 15,000 a year.  Why not get on board?

The other big bonus is that, once OA is approved, there is no need to worry about Apistan and CheckMite+ resistance.  As a result, the only remaining justification for maintaining controls on US imports will be eliminated. 

Call Willy and offer to help. Write , telephone: +1 (403) 652-4441,  fax: +1 (403) 652-3692. 

The sooner you contribute,

  1. the sooner you start saving,
  2. the sooner you stop worrying about mite resistance,
  3. the sooner we stop worrying about fluvalinate and coumaphos in our hives, and 
  4. the sooner we see an end to excuses for refusing Canadians the right to import US stock.

References:  hive treatment with OA | Vaporisation of oxalic acid in a field trial with 1'509 colonies | Oxalic Acid Vaporizer | VARROX Verdampfer | Oxalic acid treatment

In the evening, Medhat, Malcolm, Bruce and I went to the Mall for supper, then returned to the hotel.  As always, beekeepers met in the bar until after midnight, discussing things that only interest beekeepers.

Monday : Sunny. High plus 2.  / Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus

Tuesday 2 December 2003
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The Canadian Honey Producers Association  (CHPA) met in the morning at nine, and when the meeting was over at noon, and I drove home, stopping to visit with Jean who was in Red Deer to take Mckenzie in for a routine check-up.  I got home around 6. 

The CHPA meeting was attended by about 25 people, from all the western provinces, and was very congenial.  I'd not attended before, and had not joined CHPA until now.  Frankly, like many, I'd hope that CHC would prove to serve the industry better than in the past, and given them a chance, and another chance, and another chance... 

I guess I had the impression that the CHPA was a one issue, reactionary organisation.  That's the impression some people give, but the people who make up CHPA seem to be generous, open people and good managers, intent on running their own businesses and not afraid of their neighbours.  They have managed all the problems of the past years with aplomb, are looking to the future.  They are working to increase opportunities for all beekeepers, and for new entrants.  They simply don't understand those who take a negative, protective, fearful approach and who insist that beekeeping should be difficult and who maintain or try to create regulatory hurdles.

The executive reports CHPA membership has reached about 50 and represents a very large number of hives (I can't quite recall the number).  I'd summarize the meeting, but I expect that a report will be on the new CHPA site shortly, but I will mention a few things that interested me.


A point, of some considerable import that came up in at the meeting, was that CHC, intentionally or not, apparently finessed this group and the ABA, by appearing to be reasonable and compromising, then -- after no one presented a motion calling for the ABA to leave CHC at the ABA November meeting -- reneging on their promised approval for the import of queen at both the Saskatchewan and the Ontario meetings, which were held immediately after.

Everyone, including CHC, was expecting a motion to be presented at the Alberta meeting, demanding that Alberta quit the CHC.  The Kelowna meeting was set up to head that off by dealing with the one critical issue that would lead to that split.  At that meeting the import problem was discussed, and all provinces agreed to support a solution that would have seen CHC support a speedy approval of queen importation for provinces that need imported queens.

CHPA and the ABA trusted CHC to follow through on their commitment in good faith, and consequently did not present a motion to withdraw from CHC at the Alberta meeting.

 Our fly on  the wall tells me that, at neither provincial meeting, did the CHC reps make a sincere effort to explain the reasoning and compromises that took place at Kelowna, or press for pity on those oppressed by the current regime.

At this point, the Kelowna meeting is looking more and more like a dirty trick, something this scribe suggested, even before it was held.  We don't fault Heather. It is increasingly clear that, in spite of her honest efforts, she was double-crossed (again), as were we, by several CHC delegates.

This is the sort of thing that has lost CHC my respect in the past.  I've seen this sort of thing over and over.  Although CHC does good work in some areas, especially since Heather has been on board, politically CHC just does not work; delegates cannot make decisions that bind their organizations.  They go to CHC meetings, learn to understand the issues, make promises, then go home and forget everything they learned.  Over and over.

Apparently the sticking point is traceability of imported queens. 

This whole area of concern is based on rather tenuous hypothetical arguments.  There is really no practical need for traceability, and this ruse is a transparent protectionist stalling tactic, but enough people have been duped into believing in it, that it can be expected to gum things up for a while.

Why do people claim that imports need to be traced?  Just sticking to the more credible arguments, the idea is that something nasty will come in with queens and need to be eradicated.  Well, I can't think what might come in that is not already here, and eradication has never worked, but let's take a look...

  1. Checkmite+ and Apistan resistant varroa are already here, but it takes a year or more to discover them, so in the meantime, we can pretend they are not already here.  Rather than worry about that, we need to get oxalic acid evaporation (OA) approved ASAP and get away from pesticides like Apistan and Checkmite+ for more reasons than just the threat to our bees.

  2. Maybe Small Hive Beetle (SHB) is a worry, but, then we are more likely to get SHB from Australia, and if we did, experts believe that it will not reproduce successfully enough here to be a problem.  SHB has already entered Canada several times, but failed to thrive, and apparently died out. 

  3. Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) are very low risk, due to the US suppliers that are to be approved.  Besides, studies show that AHB is pretty much indistinguishable from European Honey Bees (EHB) when transported to temperate areas (Dewey Caron).  If anyone doubts that, it is a known (but not well-advertised) fact that AHB colonies have been transported to Michigan, Alaska, and many other US states, and that they have fit in there without showing any unusual or threatening behaviours.  Further, AHB have failed to migrate from Texas to Florida in spite of having been expected to do so by now, and in spite of trucks hauling bees all over the USA.


Some beekeepers also are worried about the dilution of their 'special' stock, if imported queens come to their area.  Disregarding the fact that this is a protectionist argument, and thus contrary to our trade agreements, what do people think that is happening currently with Australian and New Zealand stock?

Since people are already bringing in queens and packages, would it not be better to at least be surrounded by decent genetic material, rather than the often questionable stock that we get from Down Under?  Would it not be better to have a neighbour buy packages headed by Russian queens or install Spivak's New World Carniolan queens (available readily in quantity from the USA), than bring in more of the Down Under stock that has been proven to have high chalkbrood and disease susceptibility?   Although I have seen some good stock from Down Under, many of these strains are definitely not hygienic and many do not winter well.


As for CFIA's stated intention of moving towards approval, apparently, at this point, although the importation approval is in the pipeline, it is at the lawyers for a month or two.  Then, the change must be gazetted, and then go through a comment period.  Only then, if there are no strong objections, an approval may be granted for imports.

If SK and ON have reneged, as apparently they have, and protest loudly, as they have in the past, who knows how long things could take?  For those of us who can count, and also know how long government can delay, it appears that the soonest we can get the green light will be late May.  Of course, queens won't just start coming in the day the approval is made.  Plans will have had to be made, and orders placed with suppliers long before then.  It takes time for the buyers and sellers to prepare, and, what wise buyer would hold back, waiting for a process that has proven to be full of sticking points?

Besides, late May is after the peak demand.  After May, local queens are easy to raise and somewhat available, but splits made that late are much less productive.  Imported queens are absolutely essential in the West during May, and much less so, later in the season.  That is another problem with queens from Down Under: the Oz and NZ season is over by May, and queens are either not available in May, or have been banked too long.  Hawaii has proven in recent years that it cannot, or will not, nearly meet the demand.

Hawaiian queens are sold out by December and any extras that might come later are rationed.  In the West, many beekeepers had to do without this year.

New beekeepers are particularly hard hit, since they do not have a place in line.  I know several new beekeepers who were forced to let hives raise their own queens in late April and early May, a recipe for disaster. This is a travesty.  Shame on those established, but sadly ignorant beekeepers who say to them that they should be raising their own queens!

It is truly sad to listen to people who are well established, experienced, and well-financed pontificate how people getting established, and just learning, should be just like them.  How??? Maybe they will in a few years, but for those starting out, and for those who have come across misfortune, good early spring queens are a necessity.

We should be doing all we can to help newcomers to this industry rather than hamstring them, then pontificate about how well we are doing, using bogus numbers.

Another point that came up at the meeting was that statistics from several provinces have been found to be badly out of date, and grossly misstated.  There have been huge changes in the industry since the border closure, and the accounting has not always kept up with reality.  I'm told that, false numbers are being used to prove things that are not true and that, in fact, opposite conclusions would be reached, if the truth were known.

Apparently, in Manitoba, where they had a recent problem with electoral irregularities that ended with removal of some of the association executive, a reassessment of the number of beekeepers showed that there are, in reality, about 80 beekeepers with more than 100 hives, rather than the 800 or so previously stated!

Nobody really knows how many commercial beekeepers there really are in several of the other provinces, and the consensus at the meeting was that several provincial apiarists are reluctant to come up with accurate numbers because the numbers are embarrassing, or would not support their continued employment -- or their political agendas.  Some pointed out that Saskatchewan bears closer examination, since things there don't seem to add up.


CHC has again proven that it cannot be trusted -- in spite of the best efforts of some honest and hard-working people -- and it is looking now as if the smart thing to do would be to break CHC's back.  CHPA (formerly CCHPA) was hoping that the threat of action, and the sight of forces massing against CHC would sober them up.  It seems to have worked temporarily, but it seems clear that they are proving that they cannot be trusted the minute that the pressure is off.

At this point CHPA is considering requesting that Alberta and Manitoba withhold funds from CHC, if the seats have not already been paid, and working to have Manitoba withdraw from CHC, at its upcoming meeting.  Since Alberta's meeting has passed, Alberta's withdrawal may be more difficult, but may be possible through a mail poll.

If Alberta and Manitoba leave CHC, CHC will be about half its present size, assuming it does not collapse entirely. The combined Alberta/Manitoba group would comprise about half the hives in Canada, and could operate together with CHPA.  These groups have the money, the management skills, and the will to get things done.  It would be a shame to lose the worthwhile part of what CHC does, and maybe that can be taken over by the new organisation, and many of the current participants are only working through CHC because it has been the only game in town.

If only CHC would stay out of politics.

Tuesday : Sunny. Low minus 4. High plus 5. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h overnight. Low minus 1. / Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Wednesday 3 December 2003
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I spent the day working on two websites: a new CHPA site and a site for a friend. 

The pages, themselves, are not a lot of work, but the registering, configuring and background work, plus setting up forums and chats and guestbooks take more than a few moments.  As if I don't already have too much to do, I also took on the job of editing a category for The Open Directory  and spent a few hours at that.  In checking the various site I host for others, I noticed that Honeyland Canada's site has grown, and dropped over to see what Hrong has done.  Not bad!  If you want to have your own web pages, contact me, and I can get you going on the cheap.

The weather turned quite nasty i late afternoon and we had high winds all night.  Even though it was only minus twelve, the south end of our house got cool.

Allen's
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Today : Cloudy. 70 percent chance of flurries or rain showers. Wind becoming northwest 30 km/h late this morning. High 5 with temperature falling to minus 6 in the afternoon. / Tonight : Clearing early this evening. Low minus 15. / Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Thursday 4 December 2003
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Another morning at the keyboard.  I spent a lot of time re-writing previous material and other jobs.

I decided sometime back to change the ball joints on my car myself.  I used to do all my maintenance, then trained a man to do it, and it's been a while since I have done much.  Machines have  changed a bit. 

Anyhow, I started on the job the other day, and found the ball joints were riveted on.  In  the process of cutting off the rivets, I burnt a CV boot and found myself doing a lot more than I had planned.  Oh, well.  I wanted and adventure, I got one.

I then bought a manual to find out what was inside the driveshaft boots and a new boot.

Today .. Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h this afternoon. High minus 3./ Tonight .. Clear. Increasing cloudiness overnight. Wind southeast 30 km/h. Low minus 12.

Friday 5 December 2003
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I dunno.  I must have lost a day somewhere.  It's Saturday today. 

Anyhow on Friday, I worked on websites again, and on the car, which sits, jacked up, in my basement.  I got the boot on, and the left side pretty well back together.  Actually the job, although a bit daunting going in, was not too bad.  These things, and many others, are only a pain if you have expectations and a schedule.  I'm often apprehensive when approaching something I've never done (I've done ball joints, blueprinted and rebuilt engines and much more, but not lately).  If I can overcome that dread and just get started, I'm usually just fine.

Having said that. My job for Saturday is getting the books ready for the pre-yearend meeting with my accountant.

Here I am.  I have enough money, time, and air miles to go anywhere; and I'm sitting at home, playing with computers and working on an old car or going to bee meetings.  Am I nuts?  Or am I doing what I want to do?  Human behaviour and motivation is hard to comprehend.  Harder still if it happens to be your own.

Friday .. Clearing. Wind south 20 km/h. High plus 4./ Normals for the period .. Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Saturday 6 December 2003
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By about 1 PM, I find I am away ahead of schedule.  I have most of my procrastination done, and am ready to start the books. This morning, I worked further on the CHPA site, worked on this diary, and I have now pretty well run out of distractions. 

I wonder how long it would take to do the other side of the car (Assuming I don't burn off a CV boot?...).


I looked outside and found it was plus 9 C.  I checked the weather forecast, and could see that this is the warmest it'll be for a few days, so I went outside and moved some things around, and checked to see what had happened to the truck the other day that resulted in a cloud of steam.  It had blown out its block heater.  Unusual, but it happens.  The little cross arm had given out, and it looked as if something had happened before, since there was silicone around the thing.  I looked around downstairs, but suppose I'll have to get a new one.

By then it was too late to do the books :), so I had supper, then went swimming in Three Hills.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind southwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 this afternoon. High 7.  / Tonight : Clear. Wind west 20 km/h. Low minus 5. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Sunday 7 December 2003
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I'm noticing that we're having a winter that is much colder than usual,

Hello allen:

"Here I am.  I have enough money, time, and air miles to go anywhere; and I'm sitting at home, playing with computers and working on an old car or going to bee meetings.  Am I nuts?  Or am I doing what I want to do?  Human behaviour and motivation is hard to comprehend.  Harder still if it happens to be your own."

 I don't think anyone really ever retires  from  this crazy business. It gets into your blood and won't leave.  It's addictive in more ways than one.  Beekeepers are the greatest people in the world and you never want to stop being  one.

Congratulations on your prediction of  CHC's turnabout or delay tactic on the border issue,  I would  have bet money on the same outcome.  Seems like some beekeepers live in a very small world, and don't want to see it change, for a number of reasons.

I'd love to see the California bee breeders association sue the Canadian government thru NAFTA over this closed border and have them recover their lost income for the past several years.  The border would be open this spring!

Keep up the good work.  Any more predictions?  Could be interesting at CHC in Winnipeg.  I'd bet the border won't open this spring.

Predictions?  Well... why not?  Fools rush in where angels fear to tread...

I predict that, unless things change, and change soon,

  1. The border will not open in time to do any Western beekeepers any good, due to lack of support -- opposition, actually --  from CHC.

  2. The bee embargo will then make the news alongside the Lumber Dispute and the unjustifiable, but real, continued closure of the US border to Canadian cattle.

  3. The current import prohibition directed against the USA, and only the USA, will be allowed to lapse that the end of 2004 after the industry mobilizes US allies to lobby against it.

  4. The honey industry will see a strong resurgence immediately thereafter, one like we have not seen since the mid-1970s.  

  5. New people will enter our industry and beekeeping outfits, even old equipment, will become worth amazing amounts of money.

  6. The honey market will divide into two markets:

    1. One for premium product with a pedigree and accompanied by good paperwork, and

    2. One for all other honey.

  7. The premium product will continue to command high prices.  The undocumented product will be banned from many markets.

  8. Beekeepers will be required to carry product liability insurance in order to sell honey, and have a lot of trouble finding it without a COFFS or HACCP-like program in place on their farm.

  9. Within 5 years we will lose the use of currently favoured pesticides in hives, and also lose antibiotics due to public concern over residues.  Beekeepers won't dare use them.

  10. Electron beam irradiation of comb will become a routine management practice, as will oxalic acid evaporation.

  11. Before then -- in the next year, or maybe two at most -- we'll have a major problem crop up with discovery of non-approved substances in Canadian honey, and a painfully large amount will be condemned either to be destroyed or used for feed. We'll be lucky if it does not become a scandal and wind up in court.

  12. The co-operatives will not be spared, and members may suffer a triple whammy: some of their honey may be seized, their co-op may suffer even bigger losses than usual, and the members who have their savings on deposit with the co-ops may not be able to access their money!  Even a small 'run on the bank' at the co-ops, if permitted, would drive them under in a moment due to their vulnerable financing structure.  (More on that someday).

  13. CHPA will get serious this year, and will become a more focused organisation, hire some high-powered help, and break CHC in half.

  14. CHC will finally lose the political and financial support of several important provinces, and then disintegrate due to lack of funds. 

  15. CHC re-organization as proposed currently will fail to deal with systemic problems in Council.

  16. Heather Clay will leave Honey Council by the end of 2004, possibly sooner.  It will come as a shock.  She will deny any intent to do so, until the last minute.

  17. We will learn a lot more about bee nutrition in the next 3 years.   Everyone will feed protein supplements Spring and Fall.

Pretty gutsy, huh?  I'll be doing well if I bat .500, but I might just do better. 

Food for thought, anyhow.

Now, really, I do have to do the books!

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. High minus 3. / Tonight : Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 14. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2

Monday 8 December 2003
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 I'm off to town this morning to see the accountant.  (As it happened, my appointment was re-scheduled for tomorrow)

Getting ready is just a matter of going over everything and looking for errors, and I got a lot done last night.  I am always up to date on the entries.  I use Quickbooks 2002 -- haven't upgraded since then and have no intention of doing so.  I like the software, but hate the company, Intuit.  Along with Microsoft, they are trying to make software much more expensive, more tied to the net, and to add features that expire after a while and require a fee to reactivate.  I don't need those 'features'.  The old software, after many patches, works OK.

I got a call from a friend last night and we discussed a few things, including a proposed bee commission under the Marketing Act, for Alberta.  I'll get around to discussing that later on this page, perhaps.  I have a few big topics to chew over, and each one is a lot of work to consider fairly from all sides.  The Alberta honey Co-op and BeeMaid is a topic that really needs a good looking at, more than the commission idea, but time is a constraint.

I visited the ABA site this morning, in the process of checking out a few things and it has been updated.  It no longer advertises the past convention.  Buried in the 'Events' section is this notice:

IPM BEEKEEPER WORKSHOP: February 19 - 20, 2004; Executive Royal West, Edmonton.

There is no proposed agenda, no list of speakers, nothing.  Just a name, a place and a date.  The event is not featured on the front page of the site, so guess what?  The same old crowd who have heard the whole thing before, but always like to get together to swap lies and keep their ear to the ground will show up, and the ones who have not heard the message will stay home. 

Now is the time to start thinking about going.  It does not matter whether the topic interests you.  These meetings are the place to talk to other beekeepers you would not otherwise meet. and learn some new tricks.  These meetings are always worth the cost and the time, even if the topic is worn out for many of us.  As for me, I'm dreaming of being in Osoyoos or Mexico at that time.

Date: Sun, 7 Dec 2003 12:22:55 -0700
From: allen dick
Subject: [BEE-L] Time to think of the US meetings coming up in January
To: BEE-L

It's time to think of the US meetings coming up in January, again, so I went to their web sites to get the lowdown. It's not that they both haven't sent me stuff in the mail. It's just that my paper filing system for that kinda thing leaves something to be desired, and the web is just so much easier to search. I expected that everything would be laid out there. (Sound familiar)?

Seems that neither the ABF http://www.abfnet.org/  nor the AHPA http://www.americanhoneyproducers.org/  have much on their web pages, although the ABF at least mentions the upcoming meeting, and provides a few links, including one to the hotel, that does not work -- the Sawgrass Marriott Resort and Beach Club. The AHPA appears to be still a year out-of-date, with no mention of a 2004 meeting. (And I was complaining about EAS)!

Anyhow, I dug up the info:

ABF: 61st Annual ABF Convention Jacksonville, Florida Jan. 14-17, 2004
AHPA: 35th Annual Convention Omni Hotel, San Antonio, Texas Jan 7-11, 2004

I did a quick analysis, and it seems that the two meetings are 1,100 miles apart, with two days in between. For those wanting to drive between, and the suppliers with displays to haul, that does not leave much time for dropping into Mobile, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, or Galveston on the way by. So far, I have not decided which one to attend, or both. I want to go to Florida, but I have business in Texas. At any rate, the point is this: if you have never been to one of these meetings, you simply have to go, if you possibly can. Although there is a cost involved, the friends you will make, and the information you will absorb at either meeting is invaluable, and will pay you back several times over within a year.

Whichever meeting I attend, I hope to meet some of my BEE-L friends there.

Note: On the topic of finding association sites on the web, Dmoz, the Open Directory Project that feeds Google and other search engines, has a category for beekeeping associations. Many are listed there already, but if you have an association, and you have a web site, why not visit http://dmoz.org/Science/Agriculture/Animals/Insects/Beekeeping/Associations/ and submit your site, using the link at the top?

allen

I caught a rumour that he or Bob have Andy Nachbaur's website on a computer somewhere, and I thought I'd write them.  I set off to find Gene Brandi's email address, and I came across the NHB site.  It's a good one.  As a webmaster, I rate it high for content and soul.  People are down on the NHB, but I'm puzzled; I think it has done very good  excellent work and returned excellent value.  All Canadian beekeepers exporting to the US pay the fee indirectly, and are glad to do so -- at least I've never heard one  complain.

I don't understand US politics (bee politics OR the other kind).  They all seem like real nice folks, but they don't always like one another.  Go figure. 

We Canucks never disagree, or call one another names, do we?

Allen's
Links
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Today : Sunny. High minus 7. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low minus 19. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Tuesday 9 December 2003
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Forum | Sale | Write me

I went to the accountant this morning and got that job done.

  Allen's Rant of the Day

I don't know what is the matter with beekeeping organizations.  They make a big noise about being on the Internet, and they spend too much money -- or too little -- on their sites, but seldom make good use of this new, powerful and inexpensive medium.  There are a few exceptions, but a number of Canadian provincial associations and the big 2 US organizations are perfect examples of what I find so annoying.

For major upcoming events, like meetings and conventions, even if I have been sent stuff in the mail, I naturally go to the organization's site to get the latest lowdown, links to accommodation, updates, registration forms and such; however, more often than not, I am disappointed with what I find, if anything.

These organizations are spending tens of thousands of dollars on an event, and don't bother to spend a few minutes on what has become, in recent years, the most potent form of advertising and communication!  Sometimes the newest material on these sites is more than a year old!  No kidding!  It is obvious that no one in their executive or office bothers to take a look at their website, or update it.  Meantime, they spend thousands on printing and mailing.  Getting the same info onto the web and distributed worldwide takes and hour or two and has zero additional cost.  As often as not, the moment printed agendas or reports are folded and mailed, someone generally finds an error or omission.  That's easy to fix on the web, but hard to correct in the old media.

Even among those associations that are web-savvy, many don't bother to put their most important and timely material on the web, or if they do, they put it somewhere in the back, where people don't think to look.  They then look at their stats or web counter, and see they got a few thousand hits, and they then pat themselves on the back because they got so many hits. What they don't realize is that all those hits were from visitors searching in vain and going away frustrated, shaking their heads.

What a waste!   A website -- as anyone who comes here often knows -- is a very potent tool to get timely information across, but rather than use their site, the organizations spend tons of money on paper materials and then waste time mailing and faxing.  Why not just put all the public information onto the web, where the members can retrieve it and print it if they like, from just about any computer?  On the web, agendas and other material can be updated, and additions can be made.  Moreover, there is no limit to how much can be made available, at no cost, and links to hotels, attractions, deals, etc. are a simple matter to insert.

These days managing a website is no more difficult than word-processing and cheaper by far than mailing.  New, inexpensive software that works like a word-processor has made web management a simple task.  Anyone who can run a word-processor can manage a website.  Web publishing and delivery are essentially free once you have paid the annual fee for the site.  (If this is not true for your organisation, and you have a site that you cannot change in a moment from your home or office, then we need to talk  Write me for advice on your specific situation.)

Why so many bee organizations hide their light under a bushel is beyond me.   I wonder if there is a subconscious desire to keep things under control, and  hidden.  C'mon folks, don't hog the info.  Share. 

We're in the Information Age.

 

A Closer Look at Honey Production in Alberta Since 1987

by Allen Dick, Retired Commercial Beekeeper

 With data and charts from "The Economics of Honey Production in Alberta 2002",
available from Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural Development: Agdex 821-62
See also Commercial Honey Industry.

Alberta is a fairly young province.  The town I live in, Swalwell, was established in 1917, electricity came here in the 1950s and the town had declined before I arrived in 1968, largely due to the drought and depression in the thirties and the War.  When I arrived, a lot in town was $5, and a good house went for $350 -- with several lots, a forced air gas furnace, and water!

By the mid-70s, however, Alberta was on the upswing.  Oil development had been well underway for a decade, and a lot of money was being spent on roads and infrastructure.  This made travel easy and facilitated the expansion of beekeeping, since extensive beekeeping requires easy access to lots of land via all-weather roads.

Also fueling the growth was the fact that, Japan started to buy honey in the early 70s, and the price doubled, then tripled, very much as it has recently.  After a year or two of disbelief, and making good money, beekeepers had some savings, and bid the price of used hives with drawn comb up to amazing levels.  Any piece of old equipment went for new price and more.

Unlike today, package bees in the seventies and early eighties were available in any quantity, cheaply, and packages with queens or bulk bees to boost weak overwintered hives could be had well into the spring.  The price of 2 lbs and queen was $6 in 1970 and went up to $8 by 1975. That would be about $40 in today's dollars, for a 2 lb package delivered, based on cost of living calculation on the web. (Here's a link to a COLA calculator on the web). Interestingly, that price -- $40 -- is right in line with the delivered price of packages today in the USA (in C$), but not in Canada; here the price is about twice that amount.

The price of honey, after the big rise, peaked at about 45 in 1975.  That would be about $1.60 in today's money.  So, we can see that, although the price has held up, and even gained in purchasing power -- depending on how long this current price spike lasts -- over 1975, the price of bees, when available, has doubled in real terms, even while availability and quality has deteriorated.

From 1970 to 1990, honey production fluctuated from year to year, but, when averaged over the years until 1990, was quite consistent.  We can detect a slight decline, during the last decade, but must take into consideration the fact that pollination hives, which totaled almost 20% of the hive count by the end of the nineties, produce much less honey per hive, and thus drag the provincial averages down.

Looking at the third chart, we see clearly that beekeeping in Alberta grew at a steady pace until 1987, then dropped drastically, and recovered slowly over the next two decades, but did not reach the 1987 total again until 1999.  The increase in the number of hives had quite closely followed the pattern of the honey price until the major setback in 1987. 

In fact, Alberta hive numbers did not recover until hybrid canola pollination expanded and created a new industry for beekeepers.  During the nineties, seed companies progressively placed tens of thousands of hives under favourable contracts and guaranteed a good, almost risk-free return.  In spite of some false starts and difficulty obtaining bees for expansion, in spite of high prices, and in spite of questionable bee stock quality, beekeepers expanded to fill the demand.

The Number of beekeepers is added for interest, and I divided by ten so it would be the same scale more or less as the others.  The return per hive (yield x price in 1974$) is expanded by a factor of ten to get all the lines on the same scale.  So, the left axis is Beekeepers (multiply times ten), returns per hive in constant 1974$ (divide by ten), and number of colonies: actual numbers. Click to enlarge.  Raw chart data


This chart is interesting inasmuch as it is 'stacked'.  The average annual return is taken as a constant, and is shown as a straight line across the top.  Each of the other parameters is plotted according to how it varies in relation to that return. The grey line is price (not smoothed), the red line is the number of hives, and the blue line is the number of beekeepers in Alberta.

I took the time to do more charts.  The first one plots the per-hive average return to honey production in Alberta for each year since 1970, in constant 1974 dollars, along with number of beekeepers, and number of hives reported. 

This graph is quite interesting, in that it reveals a lot more about the effect of average total return per hive (defined here as price converted to 1974 dollars times average provincial yield for each year) than the price chart, where no consideration is made for the decline in the significant purchasing power of the money over time -- especially during the 1970s.  This new chart shows the combined effect of the good and bad crops and price along with hive numbers and colony numbers.


The second chart is not quite as easy to understand, since, using the same empirical data that is shown in the other charts, we hold the return, smoothed back over three years1, as a constant, and plot the other parameters against it.  That way we see how both the number of beekeepers and the number of hives have varied, when honey return is not a factor.

Since that is really what we want to see, this view is very instructive.  It is very obvious in this view that 1987 was a watershed year, and that, given a constant return, the number of hives has declined since then, until pollination came onto the scene.  The effect of pollination is the bump in the red line on the right side that runs against the trend. Click for a closer view of the charts.

Note 1. The returns for each year, plus the two previous years was added, then divided by three to give a smoothed figure.  The reasoning was that most beekeepers get paid in the year following production, and that expansion decisions are based on what they have I the bank and what they can convince a banker to provide.  In most case, the effects of price or crop size lags by a year or two.

When we examine the charts, we see that total industry hive count today only exceeds its 1987 maximum -- achieved 15 years ago -- by roughly 40,000 hives, in spite of record honey prices, and we know that about 40,000 hives are on pollination. 

If we consider those 40,000 pollination hives to be a separate industry, we see that the Alberta honey industry has not managed to recover beyond 1987 numbers!  In fact the hives in honey production are still fewer than in 1987!


In fact, the Alberta hive count today only exceeds its 1987 maximum -- achieved 15 years ago -- by about 20% (roughly 40,000 hives) in spite of record prices, and, significantly, about 40,000 of those hives are on pollination.


It is clear that, until about five years ago there was no significant increase over 1987 numbers at all, and that all the net increase since 1987 can be attributed to pollination.  Compared to growth in other Alberta industries and agriculture, and the province's population growth, our honey industry growth has been very static since border closure.  Pollination has grown quickly and added new hives and beekeepers to our industry2, but why has honey production not recovered and grown in Alberta when it had formerly been growing at an annual rate averaging 10% until 1987?


Why has honey production stagnated in Alberta, when it was growing at a steady 10% average annual rate from 1970 to 1987?


The reasons for the poor performance of our honey industry since 1987 are related to increased risk, workload, complexity, and more difficult financing:

  1. Profitability and risk, not price, drive the hive count, and the certainty of profit has not risen as quickly as the price of honey, due to increased risk and complexity of operation, which is due largely to the lack of a good supply of replacement bees.

  2. Beekeepers can no longer expand and contract their numbers quickly in response to market conditions as they did in the past.  Today, they must plan ahead, a year or more, to make splits, then risk a change in the market after they are committed.

  3. Beekeepers are kept occupied by the extra work involved in wintering and making splits.  The work necessary for success takes more time per hive than previously, and skilled help is difficult to retain for smaller operations.  So operations either stay small, or must somehow gain the finances to expand enough to support extra people year-round. 

  4. Bankers see honey production as much more risky than when production decisions could be made in spring and the operation completed by fall.

  5. Many sideliners and seasonal beekeepers left the honey industry because of the extra work and non-availability of bees.  Moreover, the appeal of a 'six months a year' business was no longer there.

When we study the charts, we see clearly that border closure in the mid nineteen-eighties, coinciding with a drop in honey prices, dealt a death blow to many Western beekeepers, some of whose equipment is still stacked in storage, and to businesses supplying beekeepers.  There was a 26% drop in hive numbers from 1987 to 1993.

Relying on wintered bees in the West is risky, especially when last minute replacements cannot be had.  An operation relying on wintering success is comparatively complex and requires far more management, capital, and labour than an operation that has easy access to good replacement bees.

Due to a poor risk/reward ratio, related to unreliable supplies and complexity, beekeepers in honey production are regarded with suspicion by bankers. Financing can be hard to find.  On the other hand, beekeepers in pollination have easy access to financing, both through advances by the seed companies, and by banks.

Although pollination has provided some expansion in the nineties, in the decade and a half since 1987, our honey industry has never managed more than to barely make back the loss in hive numbers, and still languishes behind where we were when the border closed and far, far behind where we should be today.

Although huge productivity gains have been made in extraction, trucking, and management, the high price and uncertain supply of replacement bees makes nuc-making and wintering necessary activities.  These currently necessary, but less profitable and more risky activities demand a great deal of expertise in many fields, and divert much of a Western beekeeper's management, time and effort away from honey production.

If these resources were put into honey production they would give a far higher return, at much lower risk.  Alberta has a comparative advantage in honey production, but California, our traditional partner during our years of industry growth,  has a huge advantage over us in low cost, quality bee production.

Denying Alberta beekeepers access to California bees is costing us a great deal every year in terms of lost opportunities, income and growth.

It's time to correct this situation.

Note 2: A number of beekeepers used the cash flow and financing available in pollination to build up or pay off their beekeeping operations, then moved over to honey production during periods when pollination was in temporary decline.  I was one.

The above article for printing

I've been spending far too much time at the keyboard, but I'm glad I finally did this.  I surprised myself.  The facts are there to be seen.  Who can deny them?

Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. A few flurries beginning this afternoon. High minus 9.
Tonight : A few flurries ending this evening then clearing. Low minus 15.
Tuesday : Sunny with cloudy periods. High minus 6.
Wednesday : A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 15. High minus 12.
Thursday : Sunny. Low minus 15. High minus 4.
Friday : Sunny. Low minus 6. High minus 2.
Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Allen's
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