Honey Bee Health Summit

Honey Bee Health Summit. Sponsored by Project Apis m, The Honey bee Advisory Council, and Monsanto. Chesterfield, MO.

I probably haven’t mentioned that I was invited to The Honey Bee health Summit, held at Monsanto headquarters this week, held just outside of St. Louis. It kicked off this afternoon, runs all day tomorrow and finishes up right after lunch on Wednesday. There are over 30 speakers in that time plus a tour of the research facilities.

The speaker list is impressive – Gordy Wardell from Paramount Farms, Jeff Pettis and Jay Evans, USDA, Randy Verhoek, AHPA, George Hansen ABF, Dan Cummings, Almond Board and Christi Heintz, Project Apis m, Zac Browning, Project Apis m, Kimiora Ward, Univ MT, Matthew Smart  and Katie Lee,  Univ MN, Dewey Caron, Univ OR, Reed Johnson, OH State, Chris Mullin, Christina Grozinger, Diana Cox-Foster and Jim Frazier Penn State, Dennis vanEngelsdrop, Univ MD, Eric Mussen, UC Davis, Jamie Ellis, Univ FL, Michelle Flenniken MT State, and Gene Brandy, Project Apis m, all from the beekeeping industry.

Monsanto brings Jerry Steiner, Ex VP, David Fischhoff, VP, Maureen Mazurek, Steve Levine, Merav Gleit, Alex Inberg, both from BeeLogics, and Kerry Preete, Ex.VP.

Larry Johnson from The Honey Bee Advisory Board, Sam Chun, and Economist from Washington St Univ in St. Louis were also presenters.

Tuesday was overview…the state of the Beekeeping industry, looked at by beekeepers, the economist, the Advisory people and the almond industry. It became very clear, very fast that the almond industry is the engine that drives this industry. Without it…there’s no industry. The price of honey today wouldn’t support a beekeeping operation, because of price and because of unpredictability. It’s also clean the industry is at the tipping point in terms of continued survivability. When an operation loses more than about 30% of its hives overwinter, they can’t make up the lost numbers in a year. Three years, five years in a row, and the point of no return looms large. This is where this industry is now.

Plus, almond acreage continues to grow, needing more bees. From where?

None of this is new of course, if you have been reading any of the journals. The economist had an interesting perspective in that he calculated the value of a single bee in almond pollination. Thirteen cents, if you’re interested.

Several speakers brought up the fact that by 2050 there will be 9 billion people to feed, up from the 7 billion now, and the world will need enough bees to feed all those people.

What are the problems, according to this group…nutrition (not enough good food), pesticides (in and out of the hive, plus availability), and pathogens. Jeff looked at researchers…not enough good field research, beekeepers and creative mite controls, big ag and monocultures, all of us needing to produce more food, and big brother with too much regulation, not enough regulation and money. He offers solutions that we’ll explore later…they are good. He summed it up in four words…sex, drugs and rock and roll. Sex…too many people, drugs from ag and beekeepers, rock…the earth, and roll, keeping bees on the road. Bees, and pollinators ARE more complicated than rocket science. It was good to hear that out loud.

The economist had interesting numbers, but his summary was more so…promote collusion, we are fragmented, too independent, needing a single platform and better coordination. Beekeeping is more of a lifestyle than a business, and beekeepers are not social. And he agreed with my assessment that put two beekeepers in a room, and you have…an argument of beekeepers. Sound familiar?

There was more, and we’ll get to it all here, in the BUZZ and the August issue. But the last question of the day was….where will the next generation come from…who will be leading the way, running the lift, cleaning covers…the answer? Immigrant employees now, former employees, foreign interests and a few, a very few, children. That, folks, is food for thought.

-Kim Flottum


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