ABF Meeting, San Diego, CA , The Speedy Bee, March 1979
San Diego, California is renowned for its climate, fostering an unparalleled zoological collection; international character (Mexico is just eighteen miles away); and port facilities. It headquarters the Pacific tuna fleet and U. S. Naval Training Center. It also has hosted the annual meeting of the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) twice in the last ten years. This year’s meeting, the 35th in ABF’s history, was born on a wave of optimism and praise.
Hood Littlefield, who along with his wife, Thelma, was in charge of the local arrangements committee, welcomed the group. He compared this convention with the first held in San Diego in 1970. That year the Federation was plagued with debts. Only 200 persons attended and the local arrangements committee was not experienced. Furthermore, lawsuits were pending because the convention was not held in Oklahoma City as originally planned. This year though there was money in the Federation’s treasury; about half the 1,700 members were expected to attend; and the local arrangements committee had some valuable experience to draw from In planning this year’s meeting.
The only lawsuits pending were those by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), undertaken at the industry’s request, to enforce the honey adulteration law. Quite a contrast and record of achievement in a decade. President Bob Ray also had praise for the Federation’s accomplishments in the last year, but tempered his remarks by mentioning items still needing attention. The FDA, for example, was unduly slow in enforcing honey adulteration. All honey bills died in committee during the last congress — because only three senators were contacted by beekeepers even though all members were written individually and urged to make commercial honey handler of $5,000 to start such a program. Outgoing President Ray charged the membership to help the elected leadership with these important questions during the next year or plan to see much of the Federation’s accomplishments in the last few years eroded.
MORE PESTICIDE PROTECTION
One of the achievements in the ABF ‘s decade of progress has been to push for laws protecting honey bees from pesticides resulting in the beekeeping indemnification program. Even though this act has been extended, beekeepers still lose countless dollars to pesticide damage each year. One of the ways to protect bees is encouraging the use of integrated pest management instead of relying totally on chemical insecticides. IPM, the acronym for integrated pest management, was the subject of the keynote address in San Diego. Mary Louise Flint delivered the presentation in place of California’s main proponent of IPM, Dr. Robert van den Bosch, who died unexpectedly last November. Ms. Flint spoke with reverence and poignancy about her late advisor, boss and friend.
A befitting epitaph, she said, is a quote from his recent book, The Pesticide Conspiracy: … I have become increasingly involved in the roaring pesticide controversy . . a vicious, nerve-wracking imbroglio that has turned my entomological niche into a veritable hornet’s nest. What is most saddening . . . I have turned into a ruthless gut-fighter in a slugfest without rules or semblance of fair play … but if we remain indifferent, we stand to lose much of what we love, not to mention our self-respect.”
She went on to describe some of the facts surrounding pesticide use in this country. The U. S. produces over one and one-half million pounds each year, which is responsible for untold injuries not only to the environment, but ourselves as well. The honey bee is also a heavy loser in this chemical war. About seven percent of the colonies in California, for example, are killed each year by insecticide and there’s no telling how many more are damaged. Bee losses resulting from pesticides in Arizona alone have been estimated to be $30 million.
Relentless insecticide use has changed beekeepers from sedentary pastoralists to transients in a futile effort to trade gasoline for honey, said Ms. Flint. It was discovery of DDT that helped develop the philosophy of “if a little is good, more must be better.” This was and continues to be a tragic illusion. In fact, overuse of insecticide actually creates insect problems rather than solving them. Ms. Flint also stated that the new generation pesticide gimmicks only perpetuate simplistic approaches to insect control. Hormones and pheromones alone are not the answer. Instead insect pest problems should be looked at as part of a greater system and be cured within that framework. This is the philosophy of Integrated Pest Management ( IPM). It uses pesticides, but under controlled conditions (proper dosage and placement), and only when needed, not “willy nilly” or “just in case.”
Unfortunately, the IPM revolution is not sweeping the country, according to Ms. Flint, because pesticide companies and their representatives are far more effective in disseminating information lauding the benefits of insecticides than are others who would counsel a closer look and wiser use. Researchers, extension workers and regulators must take some of the blame. Some have sold out; others have slipped into indifference to escape the raging issues brought on by more and more pesticide use. In the end it would seem a hopeless battle, but there are some integrated pest management programs that prove the tide can be changed. The answer is that growers somehow must be convinced to adopt the 1PM philosophy themselves; it cannot be legislated and be effective.
Billed as “New Trends in the World of Apiculture,” Virginia’s state apiarist Homer (Pat) Powers’ presentation was a potpourri of gems about what’s cooking in beekeeping. He warned against the surge of ordinances being passed to ban keeping bees. Legislative staff members, not congressmen, write the laws, so they’re the ones who must be informed about what these ordinances mean to bees, beekeepers and the general public. Mr. Powers called himself a “scientist watcher.” He questioned what will be the next step for the scientist who brought the Cape bees (Apis mellifera capensis) to Princeton (they were subsequently destroyed) and who will replace those research giants Floyd Moeller and Bud Cale?
Scientists Mr. Powers is watching include: The Johanssons in New York, Burgett in Oregon and Orley “Chip” Taylor in Kansas. Bee venom’s biological activity and the human immune system versus botulism spores are new horizons to be explored in the future noted Mr. Powers. It’s not the real problems, but the world of fantasy concocted out of misinformation a la “Mac Donald’s wormhurger” that scares him.
Finally ethylene oxide fumigation Is the best alternative to drugs in combating that old pest, American foulbrood. This new technology must be ruthlessly used to eliminate reserves of the disease wherever it’s found, Mr. Powers concluded. only then will some control be possible against this virulent killer.
Since Dr. Orley Taylor was stranded in the Miami airport, his presentation was canceled. Instead the audience was subjected to a lengthy lecture concerning the imminent release of a new beehive, billed as the first effective beehive modification since the Langstroth design. Apparently it is double-walled and has a bottom board, top section and telescoping cover. Details of the hive were sketchy, however, and the inventor seemed to be more concerned with the status of his patent than providing information to the membership. Bee disease and inspection are always topics of concern to beekeepers. Some have valid gripes about inspection procedures in their areas.
Bee inspection in California, as described by Len Foote of the Agriculture Department, is sympathetic to beekeepers. Disease will always be a problem in interstate movement and it’s getting more difficult to adequately inspect all bees. For example, over 130,000 colonies were moved into California last year just to pollinate the almonds! Mr. Foote proposed bee in-spection go to a sampling procedure which wouldn’t be aimed at finding all disease, just the majority of it. He also described an honor system whereby out-of-state beekeepers found with disease would be sent home and selected beekeepers be given carte blanch movement privileges without inspection provided they have a minimum qualification of cleanliness and report all their bee movements.
The honey bee-soybean relationship is receiving a lot of attention now that the bean is being grown so extensively and being exported. Elbert Jaycox of the University of Illinois reported investigations in five different areas: (1) measuring field populations of bees in soybeans; (2) using cage studies to predict how bees in-fluence bean yield; (3) comparing bean production versus distance fields are from beehives; (4) estimating the effect of different races of bees on soybean yields; and (5) determining how soils, rainfall and other climatic data influence bean yield. In general, Dr. Jaycox’s work shows: (1) on the average, 45 colonies of bees will pollinate 80 acres of soybeans (1.8 colonies per acre; (2) bean varieties differ in their attractiveness to honey bees; and (3) honey bee attractants sprayed on beans have little effect on yield. He also found Caucasian and Carniolan bees work beans more than Italians and concluded that honey bees are indispensable for hybrid soybean seed production.
DAMAGE REPORTS IMPORTANT
Phil Gray of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ended the first full day of the convention with a presentation entitled: “The Role of the EPA in Protecting Bees from Pesticides.” He noted the EPA’s role is limited in scope to registration procedures and label infractions. However, the organization is taking a hard look at Penncap-M®‘s status and the future of the label is uncertain. There will be some public meetings held in the next few months concerning this controversial pesticide’s use. In order to be more effective in determining the impact of chemicals on the environment, Mr. Gray called for beekeepers to report as much data on kills and damage as possible. This helps regulatory agencies do a better job. Usually though, the EPA only gets hearsay evidence or word after the fact with no data. He also noted that responsibility for registration and training of insecticide applicators lies with individual states and is independent of the EPA.
In keeping with a fairly new policy, the second day of the convention was abbreviated so the membership could take advantage of various attractions San Diego had to offer. The morning session, however, was highlighted by Charles (Chuck) Dadant’s perceptive comments on the changing economics of beekeeping now and in the future.
INTO THE FUTURE
Transportation will be a big cost item for beekeepers in the future, said Mr. Dadant, because of the U. S.’ reliance on foreign oil and the EPA’s strong stand about emission from high sulphur coal. Lumber will be offered in lower grades and quality, but at least it’s one capital expenditure that varies greatly depending on how it’s managed by the beekeeper. The price is artificially high now due to political crises in Africa. Mr. Dadant cautioned against adulteration of beeswax which might erode this product’s value in the future. Labor cots in beekeeping are up, up, up, continued Mr. Dadant. Look for more class action suits on the part of workers resulting in mandatory workman’s compensation and liability insurance. Somehow the dilemma of labor seasonality must also he confronted — full-time labor will be a must in any future business’s success.
Because of price increases, cost stability will be a problem in the future. Lead time on goods is up; a large inventory is now more important than ever. Look for interest rates to rise and lawmakers to consider heavily the concept of value-added taxes. The single most important cost in the future, however, will be caused by government regulation predicted Mr. Dadant. All this adds up to two viable alternatives for beekeepers — either keep small or expand greatly. One way to decrease costs in the future will be to greatly increase honey bee productivity.
Don Foster is one beekeeper who’s become increasingly concerned about his stock in recent years. He’s seen it become more temperamental and lose egg-laying potential. Mr. Foster said he looked at his operation and asked what could be improved? Almost always the answer was, the queen. In order to develop his stock, Mr. Foster went to three genetic reservoirs, Madison, Wisconsin; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and California’s Sacramento Valley. He was looking for stock with consistently good temper and superior egg-laying ability. He knew the program would take time, but was surprised at how soon he had demonstrable results.
Instrumental insemination, isolated mating yards and vigorous selection at all levels were used together with excellent success in this breeding program. Mr. Foster is continuing to use the same techniques to develop superior over-wintering stock—it will take longer, but be worth the effort. Every beekeeper has a commitment to the public to watch the temper of his stock, concluded Mr. Foster. In addition, each must ask himself how he’s getting his stock and if he’s putting enough time in stock improvement. In the final analysis, these and only these efforts will pay maximum divi-dends in the future of a beekeeping operation.
The future of the honey market was also on the minds of many in San Diego. R.L. (Dick) Hubbard has a world of experience in honey purchasing and sales; his report at the meeting was more than cautiously optimistic. There was a nationwide increase last year in honey production of 42 percent California increased by a whopping 136 percent. Mr. Hubbard said there’s more demand now for non-table (amber) honey—so much so that there’s a greater shortage of it than the lighter varieties. Better marketing will pay more dividends in the future, he predicted, and cautioned beekeepers not to get greedy and overprice their product. Teamwork between producer and packer will continue to produce stronger honey sales, he said, in concluding his report.
BEE VENOM THERAPY
Thursday morning in San Diego was devoted to sessions on bee venom and its potential as a therapeutic agent for degeneraitive and other diseases. Charles Mraz, an acknowledged leader in this field, presented a tape of NBC-TV’s Today Show on bee venom therapy. It was eight minutes long and represents untold dollars worth of good publicity for the beekeeping industry as well as an objective account of bee venom therapy,
According to Mr. Mraz. bee venom stimulates the adrenal gland’s cortex to produce cortisone. That’s the reason this therapy is effective in alleviating the pain of arthritis. Mr. Mraz noted that bee venom has been used to treat severe cases of gangrene, Renaud’s- Syndrome, calcification of the inner ear, Hodgkin’s disease, sclerodema and even tumors.
Bill Shipman followed Mr. Mraz with a detailed analysis of the components of bee venom. A bio-chemist with the U.S. Navy, he became interested in the curative properties when it helped his pet horse overcome the pain of joint calcification. Bee venom, “shakes, rattles and rolls- the endocrine system,” which is good for the whole body. Since arthritis is really a population of diseases in the body, jolting the endocrine system provides relief in several ways. Painful joints, said Mr. Shipman, result when cartilage is dissolved by lysozomes (the body’s garbage disposal system) and calcium deposits take its place. The lysozomes also destroy many mast cells which release histamine into the joint causing swelling and pain. The body responds to the pain by walling the joint off with bone, a painful process resulting in calcification.
Mr. Shipman was able to isolate substances found in bee venom using a biochemical “filter.” Each substance somehow aids others in doing their work. A major component of bee venom, for example, is hyaluronidase. This destroys hyaluronic acid, one of the body’s structural components. Phospholipase A is also present in bee venom and in all other known venoms. It promotes conversion of lecithin (a structural protein) to a poison, lysolecithin, which destroys red blood cells. Both hyaluronidase and phospholipase A open the defenses of the body by promoting freer fluid exchange. When these defenses are lowered, Mr. Shipman said, the next major venom component, mellitin, is allowed to work. It’s a strong detergent and sort of “washes” down the body cells nearby.
Since it has a positive charge, all negative (so-called “bad”) charges are attracted and captured, eliminating them from the system. Many other minor components are also found in bee venom too numerous to mention, but it’s these and the major ones working that together contribute to the “whole body effect,” which is responsible for the many therapeutic effects of honey bee venom.
“Sweating” can be one of the effects of bee venom therapy, and according to California beekeeper, Homer Park, it’s a necessary part of getting adequate protective bee laws on the books. California beekeepers had to “sweat and tough it out” to get their laws passed. Mr. Park said laws should be oriented toward pesticide destruction as well as disease control. The key to success is getting the “ecology people” as allies, and always keeping the agriculture commissioners informed and on their toes.
MORE EFFICIENT PRODUCTION
In a presentation entitled “The ‘New Beekeeping,” Don Pee of Nipawin, Sasketchewan, recommended to beekeepers to over winter their stock and continually try to improve productivity. He measures productivity by using one guiding principle—the honey to wax ratio. The more efficient the operation the higher the ratio keeping colonies light (taking of the honey early-even before it capped in some cases) boosts the ratio. Moisture removal can be accomplished by using dehumidifiers–letting the bees make cappings means more wax production, dropping the ratio and therefore the efficiency. Efficiency in overwintering is achieved by wintering the bee: “warm.” Dr. Peer recommender raising the R factor of beehives in insulating with fiber glass. A large top opening promotes ventilation, which keeps the insects dry. His “automatic” requeening is also designed to raise productivity. Ripe queen cells are placed into honey supers to emerge an supersede the queen—effective 90 per cent of the time if done before the honey flow peaks.
Dr. Peer’s selection techniques in back improvement differ somewhat from those used by Don Roster. He said it’s wrong to fix genetic characters and then try to reproduce them. Instead he’d like to see different breeding techniques based on open mating. One reason this kind of system works for him is that the queen’s femaleness takes a colony in a certain direction, smoothing out variations in genetic lines. Stock should be selected based on temper, overwintering potential and productivity, according to Dr. Peer. The latter is a function of over 20 major and many minor characteristics. Instead of selecting queens laying solid brood patterns, he prefers those which have a more open brood nest—this reduces crowding, preventing swarming in the spring. The compact brood pattern is only important if you’re not wintering the bees “warm.”
Research on control of wax moth has come a long way, according to Frank Randle, Alabama bee inspector, who filled in for Dr. Ross Nielsen of the USDA lab in Baton Rouge, La. Mr. Randall said the technology to control the wax moth is available using Dr. Nielsen’s “decreased fitness” concept, but there seems to be opposition to the inoculative (small scale) approach from federal decision makers. Mr. Randall related his experience using the inoculative approach which produced significant results in local areas of the south where wax moth was a major problem. Decreased fitness is achieved through exposing moths to low levels of radiation.
Thursday afternoon was a mixture of presentations including: honey extraction, making nuclei, hybrid sunflower production and the story of the Varroa mite in Europe. The latter critter could easily be introduced into this country since it’s already been found on honey bees in South America.
RESEARCH AND MARKETING
The last day of the convention focused on honey adulteration am bee nutrition, and climaxed with the business meeting and reading of the resolutions. Jack White although officially retired from honey research, continues to be interested in its progress. He said there are now two tests which can be used to detect adulterated honey—both should be used in enforcement. He also reported that of the “honey” tests which can be used to detect adulteration of such foods as artificial vanilla, various fruit concentrates and maple syrup. Dr. White warned that it’s a mistake to drop all funding for honey research as the Federal government is doing—”Re-search is not like a faucet,” he said, “you can’t just turn it on and off.” A continuing effort, small though it might be, is needed, he concluded. That’s why he’s planning to set up a modest lab on his own in the future.
Presently, one of the best ways to sell honey is to export it, according to David McGinnis of Tropical Blossom Honey Company. However, exporting is a risky business full of pitfalls, and only the most informed businessman can compete successfully. Mr. McGinnis recommended attending trade fairs and following up leads from these as the best way to feel out the export scene. The dollar’s devaluation and U.S.’ trade defecit, however, have given this aspect of honey marketing a “shot in the arm.” The government encourages exporting with incentives and the Export Import Bank stands ready to support these ventures with adequate credit. Start small, said Mr. McGinnis, and learn the business as you go.
BETTER BEE FEED
There is no perfect pollen substitute after nearly 40 years of intensive research, confirmed Norbett Kauffeld of the USDA Tucson lab. It’s all due to the complex sociality of the honey bee, which seems to continually work against definitive experimentation. One of the most recent materials Dr. Kauffeld is testing is milo which has about the same nutritional value as pollen. He’s testing various diets on nuts and hopes the perfect substitute is not far off. Since there’s no perfect pollen substitute at the moment, most beekeepers feed some natural pollen to improve a substitutes acceptance by the bees.
However, if pollen is stored for any length of time it tends to loose nutritional value, according to Al Dietz of the University of Georgia. Dr. Dietz tests pollen by feeding it to newly emerged bees and observing subsequent brood rearing. Bee-collected pollen which is dried, then frozen maintains brood rearing the best. For some reason, Dr. Dietz said, fresh frozen pollen is not as good and therefore he recommends drying it first. Even though nutritional research proceeds apace, beekeepers are not idle in their own search for something to feed their bees.
Both Clarence Wenner and Andy Nachbaur are California advocates of yeast feeding, claiming experience showed it worked, was cost effective and resulted in increased production of queens, package bees and honey. Both feed about the same diet. It’s a mixture of 50 percent torula yeast and 50 per cent brewer’s yeast. Type 50 syrup (50/ 50 sucrose and invert corn syrup) is added to make candy patties. About 140 pounds of syrup is mixed with 100 pounds of yeast mixture to which is added five pounds natural pollen. It’s fed in spring and fall. The fall feeding seems to help the bees winter and come out strong early next spring.
The final business meeting in San Diego was punctuated by several persons speaking in favor of keeping the pressure on the FDA to strictly enforce honey adulteration. Potentially, this still is the most serious threat to the beekeeping industry in this country and any laxness in this area could damage honey’s reputation seriously. Besides the presentations, honey show and exhibits, other attractions kept the participants extremely busy throughout the week. A scenic dinner cruise around San Diego harbor, queen coronation and ball, and annual banquet provided ample opportunity for social interaction. All this besides the zoological park animals, nearby Tijuana, Mexico shops and the many passing whales to watch added up to a super week,
Post Script. The number of quality presentations at this convention make it one of the most interesting and important in the history of the Federation. Pesticides continue to be an issue; feeding honey bees, instrumental insemination, honey adulteration and and research, and bee venom therapy were also on the menu.