California Bee Breeders Conference

Last week was the California Bee Breeder’s Association meeting. Mike, Rob and I attended and Dennis flew in from the East to go. I always enjoy the meetings in a large part because we get to watch all these independent personalities interact. We work with each beekeeper individually and get to know them, but only at the meetings do we really see this bigger image of how they all fit together. Sure, they disagree (and can be pretty vocal about it), but their goals are the same in that they all want to breed the best bees possible. If it helps their bees, they will…

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The Promised Land

This past week has been incredibly busy. We just started our major sampling for beekeepers – collecting about 100 samples in alcohol for Nosema and Varroa and recording information for each of the 100 sampled colonies like frames of bees, queen status, colony weight, temperament, bee color, and any diseases. The goal is to help them choose colonies to breed the next generation of queens. Queen breeding season doesn’t start until the end of February, so we are helping them get a jump start on grading colonies. Last Wednesday, a reporter, Robin Wise, from program called The Promised Land came out to the first beekeeper…

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Pesticide Kill

Northern California is a beautiful place. I am located in the Sacramento Valley between the Sierra Nevada and Northern Coastal mountain ranges. The good soils partnered with a Mediterranean climate makes the Central Valley (the northern Sacramento Valley and the southern San Joaquin Valley) one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world. The intense food production means it is a breeding ground for insect pests that feed on the crops. Growers need to control these pests in order to produce a viable crop. One repercussion of this is sometimes beneficial insects take a hit. This is what I saw on a visit to…

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Nectar Flow

It’s August in Northern California and the nectar flow from the Yellow Starthistle is on… In fact, some beekeepers have already begun extracting honey. For those beekeepers trying to make pure Starthistle honey it’s important to have their bees in locations where there are few other nectar producing plants. Starthistle nectar and honey have a distinct green tint that is visible in both the cells of the hive and the jars on the shelves. Last week, Rob Snyder and I were in the field with Shannon Wooten to sample some of his hives. He took us to a few of his locations in Shasta County…

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Bee Squad

When starting out, some hobby beekeepers feel overwhelmed with trying to understand what is going on in the hive and how they can best help their bees. I was really lucky when I learned how to keep bees, because I spent 40 hours per week with people who had spent years researching and keeping bees, and who never stopped asking questions to find more about bees (mainly Gary Reuter). If I didn’t understand something, there were several people who I could ask. For beekeepers that are just beginning, they rarely get access to the expertise and information that I did. There are books to read,…

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Rice Country

A couple of weeks ago, Randall “Cass” Mutters took Rob, Mike, and me on a tour of the rice industry in Northern California. Cass is the rice farm advisor at UC Cooperative Extension, Butte County with an office just down the hallway of my own. According to www.calrice.org, 95% of the state’s rice is grown north of Sacramento – my region. About 2 million tons of rice is produced annually.  Driving around the area always made me wonder about rice production, especially because of the oddity of seeing fields of standing water. Northern California is notorious for the lack of rain in the summer, so it…

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Moving West and Settling In

This panorama of Badlands National Park was taken about 2000 miles into our trip from Allentown, Pennsylvania to Chico, California. Rob Snyder and I were moving to Chico to join Katie Lee for a chance to work with some of the best beekeepers/breeders and scientists in the country. We left Pennsylvania Monday June 13, 2011 and arrived in Chico, California 7 days later. From the Badlands we got back on Interstate 90 and moved toward Wyoming stopping briefly at Devil’s Tower National Monument and Grand Teton National Park to take the following images: Before hitting the Tetons we did some fishing in Shoshone National Forest…

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Colony, a Beekeeping Documentary out on DVD

  Get out your popcorn. Film directors Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell’s bee movie “Colony” is out on DVD. Avoiding the quirky approach of “Vanishing of the Bees”, Carter and Ross allow you to experience the reality of California beekeepers facing threats of Colony Collapse Disorder and the declining US economy in 2008-2009. Certainly not a downer, the film also captures the excitement of life challenges, nature, agriculture, and successes hard fought. I had the opportunity to meet Carter and Ross over dinner at the 2007 Heartland Apiculture Society conference in Kentucky. They were just about to set out on their cinematic journey West after…

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Present

I never thought I would get sick of listening to classic rock, but I did on the three day drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Chico, CA on a road trip with my dad. It is his favorite music, and since he was generous to come with me we listened to whatever he wanted. It was a small price to pay for his company and driving help. We left Minnesota and her terrible winter on December 1st. I was hoping to make it out of state before snow hit, but we were far too late. Our cross-mid-country trip took three days and about 2,500 miles. I…

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California Bound

There are so many things that have been said and written about the state of California; the people, the places, the lifestyle...Growing up in Pennsylvania I have always dreamed of living in California.  In just a few hours Rob and I will begin the 2800 mile drive from Allentown, PA to Chico, CA. This past week has been very exciting.  I watched one of my younger brothers get married last Friday and went to the beach to see my other brother play in his band.  I took an over night river trip with 8 of my very close friends and spent some time talking to…

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