Perhaps you want to sell honey and beeswax, rent your bees for commercial crop pollination, rear queen bees, or sell bulk bees.
The newly published second edition of the Small Farm Handbook, which draws on the knowledge of 32 experts from the University of California, contains a wealth of information. The chapter, "Raising Animals," covers beekeeping as a business.
“Costs to start a beekeeping business are not particularly high compared to many small businesses, and a well-planned and managed operation can be profitable,” writes Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“Beekeepers own, rent or find rent-free apiary locations where their bees can forage for food without becoming a nuisance to humans or livestock. Beekeepers must manage their colonies to the benefit of the bees and in compliance with existing state, county and municipal ordinances.”
For those who want to rent bees for pollination, “rental rates are as much as 10 times higher for almond orchards, which need to be pollinated a time of year when bee supplies barely meet demand.”
Indeed, California has some 750,000 acres of almonds, and each acre needs two colonies for pollination. Since the Golden State doesn't have that many bees, they are trucked in from all over the country.
"Fifty percent of the bees in the United States have to be in California to pollinate the almonds," molecular biologist and biochemist Joseph DeRisi of UC San Francisco said Jan. 9 at his lecture in the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility at UC Davis.
DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF, pointed out that “California supplies 80 percent of the world's almond supply.”
No bees, no almonds.
“Beekeeping can sound deceptively simple,” Mussen writes in the chapter, “but in fact beekeeping is a form of animal husbandry that involves providing feed when nectar and pollens are lacking, preventing infections from various microbes, dealing with two well-established parasitic mites, and reducing the influence of Africanized bees. Before you try to keep bees commercially on your own, you should gain experience working with a commercial beekeeper for one or more seasons.”
The latest parasite discovered in bees is the parasitic phorid fly (Apocephalus borealis). In work published Jan. 3 in the Public Library of Science (PLoS One) journal, San Francisco State University researchers wrote that the parasitic fly lays its eggs in the honey bees; it was previously known to parasitize bumble bees, but not honey bees.
The fly-infested bees display altered bee behavior. Nicknamed “zombie bees,” the bees fly at night toward lights, such as porch, building or street lights. They do not return to the hive; they die.
Neither Mussen nor DeRisi believes that the parasitic fly is a dominant factor in colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive.
For tips on beekeeping, be sure to check out Mussen's bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and his other resource, Bee Briefs, both posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
And if you want to become an full-time commercial beekeeper, read the “Estimated Investment Needed for a 1,000-Colony Bee Operation” in the Small Farm Handbook.
Honey bee heading for almond blossoms, spring of 2011, at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The queen and her court at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“We’ll be looking at the latest rangeland science, practices, and collaborations that support the many public benefits we receive from rangelands,” said UC Cooperative Extension Watershed Specialist Ken Tate with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, a key organizer of the event. “Participants will see why diverse interests have agreed on the importance of working rangelands and the need to preserve this way of life for the benefit of future generations of all Californians.”
The two-day gathering at Freeborn Hall will feature two events in one – the first Range Research Symposium and the 7th annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit. The first day will highlight rangeland research from throughout California. The second day will include ranchers sharing their conservation stories and successful collaborative conservation initiatives, research presentations, and plenty of networking opportunities.
The full agenda and registration information is available here. Student discounts are available.
The survey tallies silage and grain corn; small grains for hay, silage and grain; tomatoes, cotton, dry beans, and melons managed as no-till, strip-till, ridge-till and mulch-till – which leave at least 30 percent of residue from the previous crops on the soil surface – in the nine-county Central Valley region. In 2010, such conservation tillage accounted for about 14 percent of the crops’ total acreage, an increase from about 10 percent in 2008. The survey also found that minimum tillage practices – which reduce the overall number of tillage passes by at least 40 percent relative to what was done in 2000 – were used on about 33 percent of crop acreage in 2010, up from about 21 percent in 2008.
There are many potential benefits for using conservation tillage, said UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell. Conservation tillage is credited with water conservation, dust suppression, reduced pesticide runoff into surface water, lowered labor needs and costs, and fuel savings. In addition, limiting tillage helps to keep carbon in the ground and prevent the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
CASI has conducted comparisons of annual row crop acreage farmed under different tillage systems in the Central Valley region since 2004. More than 35 Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of California and private sector experts take part in the survey.
The largest change in conservation tillage acreage from 2004 to 2010 is found in the amount of corn silage acreage that uses strip-tillage. In 2004, there were only about 490 acres of summer silage corn using strip-till, while in 2010 more than 103,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley dairy region had adopted this form of conservation tillage. The overall use of minimum tillage practices has also greatly increased during this time from about 64,000 acres under reduced pass tillage in 2004 and just over 700,000 acres under minimum tillage in 2010.
California’s Conservation Agriculture Systems Institute involves more than 1,500 farmers, industry representatives, university, Natural Resource Conservation Service and other public agency members. Over the past 10 years, the team has come together to develop information on the costs and benefits of the production system and irrigation management alternatives and to develop long-term sustainability goals. For more information on the body of CT research, see the UC Conservation Tillage website.
But what kind of research could go through hundreds of socks a month? After years of experimentation, the research team has determined that socks are the ideal receptacle for hanging fisher bait in trees. The researchers are going through 250 pair a month, at a considerable cost, to create the “chicken in a sock” bait stations.
Besides the cost, chief scientist Dr. Rick Sweitzer is spending too much time in the Wal-Mart checkout line with a cart full of socks.
The scientists don’t need new socks; they would prefer old, unmatched, non-holey ones, something every American has cluttering up their sock drawers. You know the ones!
So, in an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, the SNAMP wildlife research team is putting out a call for lost and lonely socks. Socks may be delivered or mailed to 40799 Elliott Dr., Oakhurst CA 93644. For more information contact Anne Lombardo at email@example.com. To read more about the research project visit the SNAMP website.
Other wildlife are also attracted to the bait stations:
UC Davis researchers and state Department of Fish and Game officials are capturing deer between Dec. 2 and Dec. 15 along a stretch of the freeway from Millbrae to Woodside, said Fraser Shilling (video clip), head of the research project and co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis.
Using tranquilizer darts fired from a rifle, or "clover traps" (large netting enclosures), about 15 deer are expected to be captured. Researchers plan to capture another 30 deer by the time the project is completed in May 2013.
The deer would be "minimally disturbed" by the darts or enclosures, with the worst harm being from falling down, according to Shilling.
"That's the level of harm," he said. "There's no long-term damage to it."
The captured deer will be fitted with GPS collars that will record their location and send the information to researchers who will use the data to track the deer as they move along the areas adjoining the freeway, or onto the roadway itself.
Timers will automatically release the collars after six months, Shilling said.
Besides tracking the deer, researchers will also use 40 wildlife cameras to capture images of wildlife and map the locations of road kill. The information will be used to make a recommendation to determine what kind of strategies could be used to reduce the number of collisions between deer and other animals on the freeway.
Deer grazing along the side of the freeway and dead deer on the shoulder are common sights along the roadway, which runs through mostly heavily-wooded areas, rolling hills, and grasslands between San Francisco and San Jose.
The deer study, funded by a $320,000 grant through the federal Transportation Enhancement program, will be used to try to reduce the number of collisions between cars and deer on the freeway.
Every year, about 300,000 collisions occur nationwide between vehicles and wildlife, resulting in 200 deaths and 26,000 injuries. The costs associated with deer strikes alone add up to $8.5 billion annually.
Road Ecology Center at UC Davis
“Road ecology” is emerging as an environmental science focusing on the impact of roads on nature, such as how plant and animal populations are fragmented by roads, and how vehicle noise and pollution negatively impact animals and plants.
An understanding of road ecology also allows transportation planners to optimize mobility while minimizing the adverse impact of roads and vehicles.
The UC Davis Road Ecology Center brings together policy makers from transportation and environmental settings to design sustainable transportation systems that complement the needs of natural landscapes and human communities.
Some of the organizations partnering with the Road Ecology Center on projects include Caltrans, the California Department of Fish and Game, the UC Davis Sustainable Transportation Center, the John Muir Institute of the Environment and the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, and Defenders of Wildlife.
A “citizen science” component of the Road Ecology Center is the California Roadkill Observation System, a statewide roadkill reporting website for people to record their observations of dead animals and their environmental context. The information will be used to reduce the number of roadkill incidents.
The top 5 species of animals killed on California roads and highways are raccoon, striped skunk, California ground squirrel, Virginia opossum, and mule deer (or black-tailed deer).