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Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping – Transcription

Hi Guys, this is the transcription of Randy Olivers interview on our podcast. We had some hearing impaired beekeepers contact us about providing this transcription. If this is useful to you please comment below. We may make it part of our regular show notes.

The podcast and show can be found here:-
Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping – KM061

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Randy Oliver Transcription

Welcome to the Kiwimana Buzz

Gary:

Hello everyone this is Gary here from the Kiwimana buzz and this is episode 61 of the beekeeping podcast and this week we are talking to Randy Oliver all the way from California and North America.

And Hi this is Gary and along with my partner Margaret we produce this beekeeping podcast from the hills of the Waitakere Ranges in the West Auckland, and the podcast is about beekeeping, gardening and sometimes [00:00:30] and we also interview beekeepers from around the world to talk about their beekeeping and their views on issues.

And the views of our guests are their own views and not necessarily the views of Kiwimana. And this interview has got some controversial points at the end. I would think so. If you have got any views about it please comment on the show nights which would be https://kiwimana.co.nz/ Randy. And a bit about Randy, Randy runs a popular website scientific beekeeping, that’s at scientificbeekeeping.com but the links will be in the show notes. Randy started as a hobbyist beekeeper in 1967 and he went on to study biological science specializing in Entomology at the University. He uses his scientific background to investigate current issues facing bees and beekeepers and Randy has also written for the American Bee Journals since 2006. Randy has around 1000 hives that he runs with his two sons at the grass filly area of the Northern California. So, Welcome Randy, We have given the audience a little overview of you but tell us who you are and what you do?

Randy:

Well, I’m a beekeeper, only around 1980 decided to start slowly building it into a living. It took about 20 years. I made the bees pay for themselves. I took about 20 years to build the operation big enough for me to make a living out of it, and then a few years ago my two sons decided to come on board so we’ve grown the operation to around a 1000 hives. We make about 1200 colonies in the spring and take about 800 of those to almond pollination. So we do almond pollination we sell a lot of nucleus colonies in the spring and then we make a—with the drought right now very small local honey crop. One of these days it may rain again in California and we’ll make decent honey again.

Gary:

Yeah, it’s terrible what’s going on. What’s the forecast coming up with the rain? [chuckles]

Randy:

So, how many you wanna bet on a weather forecast? There’s no telling—I mean, California’s had historically really bad droughts. The other thing we do is a lot of bee research, either contract research for companies that have products that they want to sell to bee keepers and they have me run the actual field trials. And then I also do—I get donations from beekeepers worldwide. I put them all in a pool and spend those towards doing research and publish that research in the American Bee Journal and then I post it to my website. So, it’s 100 % beekeeper supported research and people seem to appreciate that, they keep sending me money so I keep doing research. We’ve been very busy with research projects this week—this spring. We typically have from anywhere between 100-300 hives at a time involved in some kind of a formal controlled field trial of one sort or another going on at almost any time so it makes it a little hard to run the commercial operation. With the donations, we can afford to do that and have them pay for it and it works out.

Gary:

Oh yeah, that’s fantastic. And you write for the American bee journals we talked about before and that’s some yes, some great articles there so, I recommend you all to subscribe today. And what’s your website if people want to donate to your cause?

Randy:

Oh, scientificbeekeeping.com

Gary:

Yea, that’s—we’ll keep an eye to that and there are some great articles here. That’s really fantastic. I saw Richard from Waiheke honey just added some money too today. That’s fantastic. Yeah they are Richard’s so.

Randy:

Okay Yeah. They came out to do a—they actually came out and visited here, very nice seeing them.

Gary:

Oh that’s right, he’s been over in America recently. I didn't realize he had come and seen you. Oh cool. Fantastic. And so, how did you get started in beekeeping you have been doing it a while, haven’t you?

Randy:

Well the usual, when I was a young teenager, a swarm landed in a bush next door to the house and I put on a sweat shirt and a skin diving face mask and some garden gloves and put the—got the swarm in to a cardboard apple box and then—then I had to learn what to do with it so one of my classmates in high school had a father who was a sideline beekeeper, he had a couple hundred hives. So I apprenticed to him, I did it the traditional way. I apprenticed to a bee keeper who knows what he’s doing. I did all the heavy lifting for him for couple of years and learned beekeeping in the traditional way.

Gary:

Yea, it’s definitely a good way to go. So you started using a diving mask, have you got photos of it? [Laughs]

Randy:

They didn’t have digital cameras back then. [Laughter continues]

Gary:

Yea, so. It’s a good idea stop getting stung in the face and on the eyes. So, what excited you about beekeeping, Randy?

Randy:

Well, I’m a—I enjoy the science. I enjoy the biology. I enjoy it—I understand the biology and I like the lifestyle of beekeeping. I like working outdoors. I love being close with nature and beekeeping definitely fits that lifestyle. I enjoy a business that I’m doing something productive for the world with a green footprint. We are growing food, we are supplying bees, and we are pollinating crops, and I get to work with my sons. So, I like everything about it and I find the research and the biology part very exciting because there is so much to learn still about beekeeping and it’s a field that even a small beekeeper like me can—funded by beekeepers can step in and add to the body of knowledge for beekeeping.

Gary:

Yea absolutely I mean, it’s a fascinating topic isn’t it. You never stop learning and I think—

Randy:

You never stop learning. That’s the one thing for sure. You can keep bees all your life and you’ll die with more questions than you started with.

Gary:

Yea there’s an old saying, If you meet a beekeeper who says I know everything you have to run away quickly.

Randy:

You better run away quickly. [Laughter].

Gary:

Alright so, let’s just travel back in time to before the time when you donned your diving mask to fight a feared swarm. What’s the one thing you were told about as young Randy about beekeeping?

Randy:

Oh nothing, I was the first one in my family so I knew nothing about beekeeping. I was—I was, I was a born biologist. In elementary school my father was a high school teacher and he would take me over to the high school and I would hang out in the—with the biology teachers then and I read his college biology text books when I was a very young child and lived outdoors and—so, I was a born biologist and beekeeping just fit right into that.

Gary:

Oh yea, absolutely, that’s fantastic. And so, going back in time then, what would be the one book you’d recommend yourself? If you had one book, suggest one book.

Randy:

Well, wait a book for recommending for what?

Gary:

Oh for just keeping bees in general.

Randy:

Boy you know what? There was a book called Beekeeping tips and topics by Albert Jacox and it’s actually a free download now, I believe. I really enjoyed that book, that one was very influential to me in my early days of beekeeping. It was very practical and I’m very much—even though I approach beekeeping from a scientific biological aspect. What I like is the practical application of that so I like practical beekeeping books. I like the old—reading the old books Old do little, Miller Dadant books in the late 1800’s. These guys were incredible beekeepers and they understood bees very well. Now through the lens of today’s scientific knowledge we can—we know things that they didn’t know but they knew how to keep bees very well back then. But that was all before Varroa, everything, once Varroa showed up everything changed in beekeeping and see you guys learned, in New Zealand you got your first silver bullet the—the Apistan strips which made beekeeping easy again for a few years until that fails and then it gets hard again and it was interesting visiting New Zealand right at the time when Apistan was starting to fail and seeing that what you guys were doing then was – it was like déjà vu to me, it was like going back 10 years. You guys, the beekeepers in New Zealand were asking all the same questions trying all the same things that we had done in the United States 10 years before and the Europeans had done several years before us and it’s amazing how beekeepers tend to reinvent the wheel. The questions I was getting from the New Zealand beekeepers were things they picked up off the internet that were 10 years old and I said, ‘Guys look at the data on these things. If those things worked, we’d all be using them’ but the point is—yeah they are around the internet 15 years ago, we tried them and a lot of them didn’t work. So, you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel, you can learn from our experience instead. Not that American beekeepers were any kind of fantastic beekeepers, it’s just that we had been there we had done that we can tell you what, it doesn’t work.

Gary:

Yea, you have been through that experience haven’t you in the past so, absolutely. I mean that’s one good thing but the incident nowadays is that you can learn from other people around the world and that’s kind of what our podcast is about so, you learn from different people in different places. In the olden days it would take you—it used to take you a month to get [00:09:56] isn’t it from overseas.

Randy:

Right. The one problem with the internet is that there is no editor, there’s no editors—

Gary:

Yeah, No.

Randy:

…which means that, ok, so I mean the rule in beekeeping, they asked me in beekeeping, if you want to get a clear short answer to any beekeeping question always ask a second year beekeeper cause those are the ones that have all the answers and they are the ones that post a lot on the internet. [Laughs]
So, take whatever you read on the internet with a grain of salt. In the US, it’s the commercial beekeepers. You know some people give the commercial beekeepers a hard time, but these guys they love their bees and they do it for a living and if you do something for a living you do things that work and you tend after a while to not do things that don’t work, so people who are not doing beekeeping for a living, that do not need to get a return on their investment, they can play with a lot of other things and they often can fool themselves to think that something is actually working because you don’t have a bank account to tell you whether or not it’s working or not. Whereas, commercial guy if it’s not working you start losing money and you see it’s not working. So, what I find is the hobby beekeepers can learn a lot from the commercial beekeepers and vice versa the commercial beekeepers can learn from the hobby beekeepers. But, I guess the point is, on the Internet be careful what you listen to there.

Gary:

Yea exactly, I think the other thing is something that you might have said, all beekeeping is local.

Randy:

Oh, very much so.

Gary:

Yea exactly. So, that’s also – Yea and you gotta like use something that’s gonna awaken your hearing, just get ideas from it but don’t deny. Just try stuff on a small scale and see how that works for you.

Randy:

Yea I may sometimes – When I was talking to my sons just yesterday about this that, we were trying a new mite treatment and we had tried it on 8 colonies and we killed 4 of them.

Gary:

Oh wow! Heh

Randy:

So, my sons were looking at that and said, ‘you know what amazes me is I talked to these commercial guys and they’ll try something new and they’ll try it on a 1000 colonies for the first try.

Gary:

That’s nuts.

Randy:

I said, you know, I’m just amazed at anybody tries something for the first time on a 1000 hives I mean, I would try it first on 10 hives and see how it works for you because it’s really easy to hurt colonies. So, we’ve been doing it this late summer we allowed some yards of bees to let their Varroa levels get high. You know what, if you’re doing any kind of trials on Varroa treatments it’s very hard to get meaningful results if the mite levels are relatively low because you don’t have enough difference. You don’t have high enough—much to calculate efficacy of mite control because they start low, you know going from 3 mites to 1 doesn’t tell you much. Going from 45 mites down to 2 mites that tells you a lot.
So, you have to allow some colonies to build up a [00:12:58] levels and yes they cost money because a lot of those colonies won’t make it to the winter. And then we try the various treatments and what we’ll do typically is if you gotta try a treatment try it at a high range find out what the bees can tolerate which means you are gonna wipe out some colonies. You are gonna find some colonies that you may not kill them but you certainly hurt them. So, they start backing down and you find out how high levels of treatment can you use on those colonies. Then you find a safe level that you don’t see the adverse effects on the colonies and then you can start experimenting to see what it actually does with the mites and any of this kind of work is very tedious work.
You need to get a routine you need to be able to take my samples to label everything very well to keep careful records. I built a mite washing table so we can wash the mites from bees for multiple samples at a time and you have to make a like an assembly line and if I have data sheets all printed off and filled everything out and then put it all into Excel and then you can start playing with it and then you actually get some meaningful usable data that you can use in the field.
As opposed to most beekeepers, they’ll try something once, they do kind of half assed and they don’t run a control group and they go “Oh this worked and this didn’t work”. Well if they thought it didn’t work and I saw this with a number of New Zealand beekeepers also, they tried something one time and said, “Oh, this does not work in New Zealand” and they—that ’s it. For the rest of their lives they say that does not work, and my – one thing that I mentioned at one of the conference is, that’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. If there is a treatment that works throughout the rest of the entire world and beekeepers have been using it for many years successfully. And you try it one time in New Zealand and you say it doesn’t work.
It’s not because the treatment doesn’t work. It’s because you gave up too early. It’s because you didn’t learn how to tweak it for your little cooking dishes. You didn’t learn how to use it. So, that’s an important thing is is don’t give up. Don’t just try something once and give up, really learn about it. And, especially if you are trying it once in a non-controlled trial without running a control group an untreated group to compare to. There’s a way to set up scientific experiments, if anybody’s interested, I’m working on a document on how to run scientific experiments for the citizen science by beekeepers. I’ll be posting it to my website soon but if somebody is interested they can email me—my tips on how to run scientific experiments with bees.

Gary:

Yeah, sounds fantastic. That’s some got some good points here, I think it’s really good and I think indifferently any gamble with the amount of [00:15:37] you are prepared to lose aren’t you? You know, if you are testing on some experiments. What was the treatment you tested or would you rather not say at this stage?

Randy:

Oh no, I’d be happy to say. We were trying a different way of using formic acid we’ve been trying to use the mite away quick strips. I have nothing but good comments about their wonderful treatment but on a commercial scale, it’s a pain in the butt. Scraping the strips out, if you’ve got honey on the hives they work very well, if you got honey on the hives and you gotta get mites down and you want something to put on when the honey is on the hives – the mite away quick strips are wonderful but its back breaking work with a thousand hives to be putting them in there so we were trying using a formic flash treatment applied from the top of the hive and which has been experimented with a lot in Canada, some good success in the United States, so we wanted to try it ourselves so we did the extreme treatment in hot weather, because when we have a problem the weather is quite warm, here in the upper 30 degree centigrade and we found out how much it takes to [laughs] really hurt a colony.
Then we got a lower dose that didn’t hurt the bees, but knock the mites back pretty well, but not well enough. When we came back after two weeks the mites levels had knocked all the mites off the adult bees, but firstly all the mites. When we dissected all the brood it killed about half or two thirds of the mites in the worker brood, not as many in the drone brood. Drone brood has a thicker capping so the formic fumes don’t get into the drone broods as much. We expected to have a pretty good sustained mite kill but the mite levels came up so, the Canadian literature had said you need to do multiple treatments like five treatments with formic in that manner in order to get good mite kills, we said ok so let’s set up a trial and treat them once a week with a mild flash treatment and it did not harm the mites and did not show any negative effects on the bees with a one flash, with the second flash just hit the colonies hard we put eight of them on and four of the colonies got the snot knocked outta them, a couple of them just depopulated.
And I could not figure out. It was so frustrating, we just stood there with our jaws hanging going ‘What the heck!’ That treatment was so mild to the colony and it says to do multiple times so I made a call up to Canada to one of the researchers up there and they said, you know what those recommendations, yeah they are out there, but they don’t work! [laughs]. Way too rough on the bees. So, even on official websites, and official government recommendations, you gotta take them with a grain of salt. I’m glad I didn’t do it to a thousand hives, we would have just wiped out half our hives.

Gary:

Yeah, absolutely.

Randy:

So, we are still experimenting with that. We have currently tested the hop guard treatment, the hop guard 2. Which were pretty good in the spring. We got some good results. And then we set up a formal trial and was not quite as impressed with the results, so, we did a second treatment in the same hives and we haven’t collected the data from that yet. So we’ll see how that works. So, what I do is I use the beekeeper donation money and when a new product comes out, I just go ahead and run formal trials with it and the publish the results so, to save beekeepers money to let them know what works and what doesn’t work.

Gary:

Yea exactly, and doing so is also less risky for them, because I can see what works for you guys.

Randy:

Yeah, everybody doesn’t have to go out and try themselves. Manufacturers, they have money invested in developing products and they wanna get them out to market and start selling those products and you need to take it with a grain of salt. There’s products out there. That have been sold for years, that are sold in very large quantities from the supply houses. They have zero supporting data that show that they do anything what so ever.
What manufacturers realized is that beekeepers are just total suckers and many of them are looking for something, magic ingredient that comes in a bottle and you pour this bottle into your beehive and all your troubles go away. Easiest sales pitch. In the United States we call that stuff snake oil because there used to be snake oil salesmen that would go around and sell stuff called snake oil, so that’s the derogatory term for patent medicines that are sold that really have no effect. Well there’s plenty of that stuff out there in the beekeeping catalogues, so if you gonna try something and you don’t see the data on the sales brochures say ‘Where’s the data?’, ‘Where’s the supporting data? and ‘Let me see what trials have actually been run?’, controlled trials by somebody that you can trust, and to show that this treatment actually works, it improves colony health. Otherwise your just going to be better off saving your money and utilizing that money to pay yourself to spend more time taking care of your bees.

Gary:

Yeah, absolutely. We have got some lists and the question that—now that we are talking to. Should we discuss those?

Randy:

Oh, is this live?

Gary:

No, no, this isn’t live.

Randy:

Oh OK. [Laughs]

Gary:

We are podcasting, so you can listen to it whenever you can. No, no, not live. We got a guy called Nate from Wakatani has asked what are the three main things you do to manage Varroa?

Randy:

Number one is to split all your colonies every spring and start fresh, if you’re in an area where your spring time comes early enough to do that, that’s the number one best thing and it knocks the mites back to especially doing splits that have a brood break. So we have splits with Queen cells that give you brood break. It also means—now let me ask you this is oxalic acid registered for mite treatment in New Zealand?

Gary:

It is. Yup.
Randy- Oh God, then that’s wonderful then. What you do is you do your splits and put in a queen’s cell. And day 19 after you do your split, there’s a window of opportunity when all the mites are forced out of the brood for about a day. And when they are out of the brood that means that they are very susceptible to treatment with oxalic acid. So you can do an oxalic dribble on day 19 and start with splits that are almost free of mites. It only takes you a few seconds and cost pennies. I have got a whole article on doing that on my website and we’ve switched over to doing that and we just love that method.
So, splitting your colony and getting a fresh start, something about that brood break and the fresh start and putting in young queens just makes beekeeping a whole lot easier. When we have tried running colonies without that break in the spring and we split every single colony we own every spring. Nobody goes through. When we have experimented with trying to over winter take out over winter colonies out of almonds and then running them for a second year, they’re just so much harder to keep. And a matter of problems is so much greater between Varroa and swarming and other things. So, starting fresh works very well, if you can’t do it in the spring, you can do it later in the season. If you have drones out there you have to work with local conditions.

Gary:

Yeah, yeah.

Randy:

So, the first thing is splitting. The second thing is use bees that are naturally resistant to mites to some extent. So we have our own bee breeding program and we select every year from colonies that exhibit resistance to mites. We do not have completely mite resistant bees yet, we still need to treat in our operation but it’s easier if you have bees that have some degree of mite resistant.
Then, what we do is we use what I call the brass knuckles approach rather than the silver bullet approach. Silver bullet approach is where you got the Apistan. Once a year you wave the magic wand and place the Apistan strips and all your troubles go away for a year. That’s the silver bullet approach. The problem with that approach is the mites develop resistance to magic wands or silver bullets pretty, pretty quickly. So as long as you do that, you just gotta jump from synthetic mytocide to another. You have a certain number of years before that will fail, and you’re back to square one again.
So instead of the silver bullet approach we beat up the mites all year long. We try to make life difficult for mites throughout the entire year. So, instead of looking for treatments that give us a 95 percent mite cure we look for a treatment that only give us only a 50 percent mite kill. So we use a lot of the treatment at half dosage. It’s much less stressful on your hives and if you use them several times throughout the year. We typically treat them like about four times a year. And you knock the mites back by fifty percent four times every year, you, maintain low mite levels all throughout the season. And it’s not likely to develop resistant to those mitocides. Plus, we rotate our mitocides. After we went through the first—after I went through the first 2 generations of synthetic mitocides, first the Apistan strips the [00:25:06] and then to cumofos which is an organophosphate. When I opened the first packet of cumofos strips. Do you use Cumofos in New Zealand?

Gary:

I don’t think so, no. That’s never been approved here. No.

Randy:

Oh good. [Laughs]. When you open the foil pack you knew what nerve gas felt like.

Gary:

Yea. I think [Interrupted]

Randy:

And it contaminated – it contaminates the combs horribly. It’s just dangerous stuff. If you use it for a few years the combs become not taox* [00:25:50] it’s hard to keep a queen to raise a queen in those colonies. So, I used the cumofos for 2 years and I said, that’s it. That’s not why I became a beekeeper to handle this kind of stuff you have to take precautions with. So in the year 2000 I said that’s it, I’m not gonna use anymore synthetic mitocides I’m going to try to learn to keep bees—not as an organic beekeeper but to use natural treatments biotechnical methods to get ahead of the curve because I could see that no matter what—which synthetic mytocide comes out it’s gonna have a limited life and I’m just tired of being on that treadmill of having your mytocide fail every few years.
Well, it was a tough learning curve it’s tough to keep bees without the synthetic mytocides and it took me a few years to get successful at it and nowadays we are just fine we haven’t used a synthetic mytocide since the year 2000. We use Thymol, the Apicard gel we use formic acid and we use oxalic acid dribble at appropriate times of the year. It’s all detailed on my basic beekeeping page on my website under the beginner section and we are very happy with it. So, it also allows us to sell our nukes and our honey and our beeswax as it’s hard.
We can’t get organic certification because we’re—it’s almost impossible to get that in the United States anywhere because there’s a chance you might—they might be exposed to pesticides somewhere. But we can certainly—we can say that our combs don’t have synthetic mitocides in them and that our honey is free of synthetic mitocides and so we have a sales advantage to do in that so we utilize that. Get the premium to do that. Personally I like having those combs free. One of the things is that beekeepers have to realize is that it’s not Varroa, when you start loading your combs up mitocide residues now you have raised the base line for any other agricultural pesticide impact that bees are first happen to deal with detoxifying their 24/7 365 exposure to residues from mitocides in the combs and on top of that, and the other agricultural chemical is added.
Now what I find in our operation, our queen survival rate is far higher than it is for other beekeepers I hear of in the United States. We have fewer problems and it’s not because I’m any kind of special beekeeper and like that. I think that just by having the clean combs that are free of mitocide and pesticide residues, that our bees are just healthier for it.

Gary:

Yea. So you’ll be [00:28:43] call New Zealand organically managed.

Randy:

Ok, organically managed. That’s pretty much it, you know. I don’t call myself an organic beekeeper by any means but we are organically managed beekeepers but I guess we couldn’t say organic because when we feed sugar syrup to them it’s not organic sugar syrup. We just buy plain or general. Here in the United States we also have the option of getting syrup blends which are half sucrose and half high fructose corn syrup which makes a really nice blend for the bees. The bees do extremely well at it. So, it’s 50% sucrose, 25—roughly 25 % glucose and 25 % fructose and it works very well for the bees. I know you don’t have that available to you there, although I know I have met some beekeepers in New Zealand who do inversion of sugar with citric acid. So, we have more options over here than you do on some of those things.

Gary:

Yeah, yeah for sure. Did you find the fructose conserves harms the bees or causes them any troubles?

Randy:

Well that’s a generic question. If you say high—it all depends on who makes the syrup, where it comes from and if you test—when the USDA lab tested high fructose corn syrup with bees with cage trials and they brought syrup in from 60 different resources, some had problems, some didn’t. So, the beekeeping—the suppliers to the bee industry only use syrups that have—that show that the bees are okay with it. The bees do fine and when you say with high fructose corn syrup, it’s not just fructose it’s half fructose—if it’s type 55 then 55 % fructose and 45% glucose. So, it’s a mixture of the two. What we use is a mixture of all three sugars.

Gary:

Yea. So, do people in America feed only fructose corn syrup or not or they use a blend of it?

Randy:

No, no, no. A lot don’t feed at all. I went 25 years and never fed a drop of syrup to my bees. I just moved my bees to pasture from one pasture to the next for the year. That’s the best way I mean way cheaper than feeding and less work. You put the bees in the truck and you move them to better pasture. So, that’d be my number one recommendation. Let the bees feed themselves with natural nectar.

Gary:

Yea, absolutely.

Randy:

What we found as we increased our numbers I became more of a truck driver than a beekeeper. I didn’t enjoy that lifestyle as much so we did switch to, here in the Sierra foothills we may go for 5 to 6 months during the winter without a single drop of rain. Uh, during the summer I should say. Without a single drop of rain. Not at all, usually for 3 months with no rainfall what so ever. So we’re—the dry summer habitat is rough for bees. When there’s no rain you don’t get the bloom. So, the bees—since we got Varroa it was hard keeping the bees alive over the summer here in the foot hills which is why we moved them out to irrigated pasture elsewhere.
When, I then decided to stop driving truck so much and take care of my bees, we experimented with feeding sugar syrup and feeding protein paddies and found out yeah, we could keep the bees healthy here instead of driving all the time you stay and you hit a few yards locally, so all of our yards are fairly close to home. We got about 45 yards of bees and we had a few of them a day and we just bring them food instead. It’s not natural. It’s not perfect. But it works. The bees are healthy and we take good, strong colonies to almond so I have learned a lot about artificial feeding of bees.
Now back to your question. What can we feed? Easiest thing is just to make your own sucrose syrup. Just get white grains and then sugar and make sucrose syrup. We do a lot of that. We do have—an hour and a half away from us we have a bee supplier where we can take a truck down and pick up a tote of—I can’t remember what you call totes there, the big 275 gallon tanks [Interrupted].

Gary:

Oh, we call them yea. Barrels I think. That kind of thing?

Randy:

Yeah, somewhere there. It’s a 3 letter acronym you call them with. Anyway, we call them totes over here. Anyway we can go down there we can pick up 275 gallons of 70% sugar syrup, the blend the sucrose, fructose, glucose blend because it is able to have a very high sugar content. Higher than sucrose alone and it doesn’t tend to granulate which is a huge advantage to it. And I bring that back, so, it’s easier—so we trade off. If we are gonna be feeding a lot we just go down and get totes of premade syrup, if we are just feeding a small amount, we just make sucrose syrup ourselves. So, and then there are some beekeepers that feed straight high fructose corn syrup. So, it’s across the board all different ways. No one for everybody.

Gary:

Yea. I mean if the bees are starving you’ve gotta do something don’t you. Can’t let em all die because [Interrupted].

Randy:

Yea, I have not seen any negative effect from feeding a high fructose corn syrup I mean that’s a—again, depending on the source, if you have a good source, if it hasn’t been overheated, if it’s clear in color, if it isn’t kept in a plastic container, if it hasn’t been held at high temperature, any of those things you can get hydroxyl methofurfurol chemical reaction. You are gonna have problems with that. There was a big kill incident here in California a few years ago from overheated high fructose corn syrup. But high fructose corn syrup alone does not mean it’s any problem for honeybees.

Gary:

Yea, ok, well that’s good. Thanks for that. And we got another question from Roy Abon. He’s a beekeeper in the West Coast of New Zealand. And he’s asked: Do you think changing the cell size going to 4.9 made us Varroa intolerant?

Randy:

It certainly does not seem to have any affect. Of all the trials that have ever run, I’m the only one who has ever come up with results that suggest it might help. That’s a trial I ran with a plastic fully drawn comb called honey super cell, and I suspect that the results may have to do more without gassing from the plastic or something from the cell size. It looked promising but no study ever done before or after that has ever found any benefit from small cell size.
Now, there are people who – it’s more like a religious belief than scientific, and it’s hard to—I don’t try to change anybody’s religion. So, a few religious belief is that small cell size was the best thing ever invented in beekeeping. My God! Go forth with that your religious belief. But it’s not a belief that’s backed up by any scientific data or practical experience that I have ever seen, nor is it at all natural for bees. There’s a paper, just came out—oh god 2 issues ago in journal apiculture research where the whole founding of the small cell culture was based upon erroneous interpretation of some of the old data on how you calculate your cell size.
So, the standard cell size is the natural size for European bees. Now, Africanized bees they use a smaller cell size and feral colonies, if they tend to make smaller cells in the center of the cluster, they make smaller cells if they are hungry, and they make larger cells if food is abundant and they make larger cells on the outside of the clusters. So, there’s nothing natural about the 4.9 whatsoever. You will find some of that in parts of naturally build combs but it certainly is not universal. And I have cut apart a lot of natural combs built by bees and looked at it and yeah the standard 5.4-5.3 around there, that’s a natural comb for you.

Gary:

Yea, ok. So you think it’s a myth that she made them smaller in the past. It’s interesting.

Randy:

Yeah, well, that’s—you read the paper because I would say yes it’s a myth.

Gary:

Who wrote that article I would be interested to read that one?

Randy:

This guy named, hang on I have it, one second—Saucy, S-A-U-C-Y and, Journal Apiculture Research, I think 2 issues ago. It may even be open access. If not, email me and we’ll see what we can do with it and then you can share the results with your listeners.

Gary:

Yeah. I’ll look that up. I mean it’s really quite—I really should subscribe on the iPad and it’s really cheap to get the American Bee Journals so it’s [Interrupted].

Randy:

I’ll tell you something else. Now, be careful if you—I was searching for the paper one day and so I put in Saucy, which is his name and searched, and up comes, on the search one of them says Saucy Wench outfit, and intrigued I thought what is a saucy wench outfit, so I made the mistake of clicking on that and there were outfits for women, saucy wench outfits, they were pretty sexy-looking but what it does, I’m warning you right now is, the next time you do any search on the internet with your wife looking over your shoulder, up will pop all the images of saucy wenches. And your wife may ask you, ‘what are you doing looking at pictures of saucy wench outfits?’ So, yes the guy’s name is Saucy but he’s not a saucy wench, don’t click on that one.

Gary:

Be careful what you click on, exactly. [Laughs] That’s funny. We’ve got another question from a person called Fezzod, that’s an interesting name, I don’t think that’s a real name. They might be looking at some strange stuff on the internet but let’s see. So, they are saying, are there any truly Varroa tolerant bees in the US, you kind of sort of touched that before that don’t need to be heavily split, and if so, are they used in conditional operations?

Randy:

Well that, yes. There are Varroa tolerant bees in the US. The Africanized bees are completely Varroa tolerant. They still have Varroa, but they deal with it well. But they are not the bee that you’d wanna keep. Now, there are—I have also kept bees that are completely Varroa tolerant. It’s hard to maintain that germ line of the bees because they outcross they lose that. The Russian stocks are—some of them are completely Varroa tolerant other ones are aren’t. The Russian stock kept by the USDA program by the Russian wind breeders are all maintained with no treatments whatsoever, so, they keep bees with no treatments.
Also the VSH line can be kept with no treatments, the problem is maintaining it unless you’re getting pure bred queens from either of those lines they get outbred and after a generation or so they lose their Varroa resistance. The other thing that’s interesting is I’m seeing a lot of beekeepers who are keeping—we’ve had Varroa long enough. When it first came it wiped out the feral population of bees. Around 1995 to 97, it just wiped out the feral population. Well now, what is it, 95, two thousand… So, it’s been like eighteen years or so since then. The feral population is coming back in some areas and beekeepers who are keeping those feral stocks but, instead of buying commercial stocks, catching swarms taking cut outs. A number of them were saying that they were doing just fine with those bees with no treatments at all.
I visited them and as far as I can tell that’s legitimate, there are stocks of bees that are dealing with Varroa on their own. Their colony loss rates are no higher than typical commercial loss rates and the beekeepers practice no treatments. One of the things is most of those guys keep smaller numbers of colonies. As you keep more colonies in an api or an operation Varroa becomes much more of a problem, so if you have only 2 or 3 hives in the yard, you might be able to get by with just no treatments if you have resistant stock. You put 25, 50, 100 colonies in the same yard then Varroa becomes a problem. Even with the same bees.
And, also how close you colonize your space. There is a study recently completed by Dr. Tom Cili where he set up 2 yards one with colonies together and one with colonies spaced a few yards apart, the Varroa was a much greater problem in the colonies spaced close together than the colonies spaced far apart. So, it’s—the people always ask these beautiful simple questions about beekeeping and they think you’re going to give them the beautiful simple answer. I’ll tell you right now, there are no simple answers to any question in beekeeping. It’s kind of a joke with people when I give presentations and we start our question and answer session. After about the third answer they realize, it’s hard for me to answer any beekeeping question in less than 10 minutes. Because there’s just so much involved and you think it’s going to be a real simple one sentence answer. Anybody who gives you a one sentence answer has not investigated their question enough to give a full answer.

Gary:

Exactly, unless your answer depends.

Randy:

Yeah right. Depends. That’s a compound answer.

Gary:

Well that’s true I mean it’s exactly, absolutely [Interrupted]

Randy:

So, I mean the short answer is, yea there are stocks of bees that are resistant to Varroa, can handle it on their own if given decent conditions and not crowded too much.

Gary:

Alright yea, cool.

Randy:

But that’s not one that I have been able to perfect in my operation yet that’s certainly my goal that I’ll be able to keep bees with no treatments someday. We haven’t quite got there yet.

Gary:

Yea I think, ultimately it’s the bees that approach isn’t it. If you can keep to their stage, yea so [Interrupted].

Randy:

Yeah, keep that goal on mind. Yeah, the other thing is for commercial beekeepers. If you are a commercial dairy man. You don’t want to go out and find wild cattle to try to milk. You’re going to keep cattle that are bred for domestic production. If you’re raising broiler chickens. You don’t want to keep the wild jungle fowl. What you want to keep is a hybrid broiler breed, cornice cross hybrid.
And if you are a commercial bee keeper, as long as the mite treatments work, then you might want to keep domesticated commercial stock. They are productive gentle stock that way. If, on the other hand you are a recreational beekeeper with a few hives in your backyard, you don’t want to do that full kind of management you have to do to keep a Holstein dairy cattle or to keep cornice cross chickens alive. Neither of those are a well-adapted stock for living in the wild but they are very good for commercial production. Well, you have the same choice with honey bees, you want to do the husbandry necessary and keep your highly productive gentle commercial stock or do you want to keep a stock that takes care of Varroa on their own, has adapted to your local environment but may not produce as much honey and may not be as easy to work. That’s questions that the beekeeper needs to ask himself.

Gary:

Yea, exactly. You touched on Africanized bees, I mean who wants to deal with that every day, and you know it’s just…

Randy:

Well, not me, but I have visited operations down in Southern California that are all Africanized there. It’s not like everyone attacks you. It’s, you have to be a little bit more careful. I put a veil on, if I had to do big production I’ll have to put gloves on too. But the occasional colony can be really nasty. So, the question is, can you breed them to be a little less touchy and when I talked to beekeepers from Central and South America, they said yea if you start working with them, those Africanized bees, you can start breeding bees that you keep and then keep wearing a T shirt and they are not so bad. So, bees are very plastic species, which means biologically plastic means they are very adaptive and they select for different traits. So, we tend to leave it up to very few breeders to do all of our breeding for us. There is no reason for that, if you have—if you can control a population of bees, if you can control a thousand colonies of bees either in a group or by yourself and control your mating then, you can breed bees to do pretty much whatever you want.

Gary:

Yea, absolutely. In fact there’s a [00:46:03] trying to do that, trying to breed Africanized bees that make them less angry.

Randy:

In West Australia? They are not breeding Africanized bees in Australia are they?

Gary:

I think it’s at a DNA level. So, much of their study is their DNA.

Randy:

Introducing Africanized bees to Australia would be a very bad idea.

Gary:

It would be insane, yeah. I have got one more user question from Jeane in Manawatu. She says, ‘What is your recommendation for comb management? For residue and ultimate live long drone comb in the hive for drone presence. Because, I know you do drone management don’t you?’

Randy:

Yeah, we do, so, the question is what about? Drone management or comb management?

Gary:

I think it’s like a double question. I think for comb management probably for stuff like you know, pesticide residues.

Randy:

Ok, so Ok, I can answer both of those questions. What we do is, a large part of our income is selling nucleus colonies. We, I won’t say perfected it but we’ve got making nukes down. We can make nuke very fast like an assembly line. So we bring our hives back from almonds and we split every single colony five ways to make—we have 20 frames in a deep box. We have around 10 frames in a box. So we get 5 four frame nukes out of a box, out of a hive. Out of that typically 4 out of 5 made out. So, then we can bind them down to 4 or 5 frame nukes. So, by the time we are done mating, every strong colony has now been made in to 4 new colonies with fresh queens. And then we keep what we need and sell off the rest. So we simply sell off a half to a third of our brood combs every season. So, that takes care of our comb rotations. When answering to your question, we sell all of our combs to other people in a constant rota… (Laughs).

Gary:

That’s a good idea.

Randy:

Rotate them out. No, we are not selling junk comb, we sell nothing but high quality combs because we’ve been doing this forever. So, we don’t have any old combs. All our comb turnover is so fast that all of our combs are beautiful. Now, this brings us to the next question which is drone management. What we did is we tried putting in drone trap frames and the frame I use is a special design, it’s on my website. It has a section that the bees are free to just draw a natural comb if you put it in the right place, they will draw a drone comb 100% of the time there. We thought we will use it as a Varroa management tool and it does work for that.
Small scale works fairly well, you can just cut out the drone comb. Large scale, what we found was—it was handy doing that but of greater benefit we found when we put the drone trap frames in there the bees stopped reworking worker comb into drone comb. Well, that was beautiful because when we sell nukes, people prefer to buy nukes that are made with frames that have no drone comb in it. So, it’s just 100% worker comb. So, it revolutionized our nuke making so now we run, biologically it’s stupid to think that you can put 20 combs work foundation—worker foundation in a hive and the bees will maintain 20 combs of worker foundation. Bees won’t do that, they are going to 10 to 15% drone comb no matter what. So, what we do, if you just provide them with one comb in a hive, in every hive to put their drone comb in, you manage where the drone comb is. And they don’t build it between the boxes and they don’t build it in in the comb so you have clean combs and you manage where your drone comb is.
So, we like to add a whole lot. It gives you the option also of—if that drone comb becomes infected with Varroa you can cut it out and stick it back in. the bees will rebuild it. Or you can just run a capping fork across it and just kill all those drones and that kills a lot of the mites and when the bees clean it up that stops the mite reproduction. Then you can put it right back in. So it kills two birds with one stone for us. That we manage where they built it, the drone comb. It’s actually three birds with one stone, manage where they built it. It gives us better combs,… actually four things, we also control our mating, when we come back from almonds, when we split from any colonies that we do not want those drones to contribute to our mating we just pull out the drone comb and kill all the drones in the hive before they hatch out. You can better control your breeding stock.

Gary:

That’s fantastic. We use that as well. It’s a really good idea. Really great. It was one of the ideas we got from you actually. It’s a really good idea about getting a comb out. In one of your articles you’ve say that every time you split or half the hive, you give half your mites to someone else, don’t you?

Randy:

[Laughs] Yup. If you split it four ways, you’re giving three quarters it to somebody else.

Gary:

[laughs] Exactly. That kind of touches on there’s a guy called Travis from the Bay of Plenty. He’s asking, do you use queen or do you or how do you split them up. Do you use queens or cells?

Randy:

We use cells. The reason, we rarely put a queen in the cage ok. The Queens are really cheap to raise. I’ve got about a minute total in raising of my time in raising a queen cell. Like when we master it, I’ve got a minute. Queen cells cost me very very little. Now if I put the queen cell in the nuke and see how she is laying, I’ve still got only a minute invested in my time. The queen cost me essentially nothing. The cost of the queen is involved in finding, catching, marking, putting her in the cage, transferring around that’s where it gets very expensive. We just never handle the queens. We just handle those nukes instead.
The queen just stays in the nuke that we just raised the queen in. We just use those nukes to either requeen a colony or build those nukes up to strength. To boost nukes, to frames to those nukes, we work backwards from our first main honey flow. And we know how many weeks in advance is that flow, how strong a nucleus colony needs to be. So, our nukes that we make very early in the season, a 5 frame in the nukes big enough to build a honey crop.
Nukes two weeks later they got to be a six frame nuke. You know three weeks later they got to be a seven frame nuke, then you want to make a ten frame nuke. So we do that by mating out our queen with our small nukes so then adding bees to them to build them up to size depending upon the time.
The other advantage of using queen cells in a nuke is that you get that brood break. One that allows you to do that oxalic dribble to knock your mites back. Second thing is that there’s something about a brood break in a hive that I think it stops the transmission of pathogens and parasites. So, I think maybe some of the virus dynamics, maybe the bacterial dynamics by having that brood break by letting those cells go without any fresh generation for twelve days or so they start off real nice. The queen start off real nice with fantastic patterns so we like that brood break.

Gary:

Yeah, absolutely. We are coming up to the end of the interview here so do you enough time for a couple of more questions?

Randy:

Yeah, go ahead.

Gary:

So, what do you think is the biggest issue facing the beekeepers in the New Year at the moment? I guess it’s the drought isn’t it probably?

Randy:

In my area? Yeah, well, Varroa, well nutrition is always number one. I mean, people think that you can just put a beehive anywhere and they can just take care of themselves. Well that’s just kind of silly. You just can’t just take a herd of cattle and put them anywhere on earth and think they are going to take care of themselves. You got to find a place where there is food for them. Why do people think they can do the same thing with a beehive. prior to Varroa, when there were already an established population of bees, that’s like putting a herd of cattle on top of an existing established herd of cattle. Well the beehive population has already reached the carrying capacity prior to you adding a another hive so when you add another hive you the tragedy that comes. You’re over populating at particular pasture for the carrying capacity which means your going to have to give something that will feed the rest of the season or the honey flows over or to move those bees to somewhere else.
It’s not like you can just magically just out a beehive and suddenly there’s enough food to support another hive. Nutrition is always the huge issue, when you have very good nutrition coming into the hive any fool can be a good beekeeper it’s hard to kill a hive when you've got plenty of nutrition coming in. It’s when nutrition becomes poor that when the pollen flow drops off when the Varroa becomes the major problem. That’s when you start getting other major virus and other pathogen issues in hives.

So, nutrition is a huge thing. With the Varroa virus dynamics, it just changed the dynamics. We are in the middle of the evolutionary process right now. Watching the bees slowly adapt to Varroa. For me, it’s frustrating when we first got chalkbrood [00:55:45]. It took just a few years for the bees just to adapt to chalkbrood. When we got the trachea mite, it took just a few years for the bees to adapt to trachea mite. They are adapting to small high beetle, it’s taken a long time with Varroa, far longer than I or anybody suspected. I thought I’ll have Varroa resistant bees in just a few years. I’m not seeing that. It’s a tough bugger. I’m totally optimistic that one of these days we are going to have Varroa resistant bees. I’ve seen Varroa resistant bees, I know I've seen the future, I know that it’s possible. It’s just a matter of shifting of our genetic population over to furor resistant bees. It’s going to take coordination of the bee industry as long as we are propagating non-Varroa resistant bees, it’s hard to develop Varroa resistant bees.

Gary:

Yeah, and some people even say that treatments are a crutch to them[00:56:40], aren’t they?

Randy:

Absolutely. Treatments are a crutch. It slows down the evolutionary process. But if we didn’t use treatments we’d all be out of the …there will be no bees.

Gary:

There’ll be no bees. Exactly.

Randy:

Right so, there would be bees, there would have been feral colonies. They would have survived. But there wouldn't have been beekeepers. There’s a difference between bees when this whole CCD thing. It’s not about the bees, the bees are not going to go extinct, it’s about bee keepers. Beekeepers can stay in business so we have this trade office. It’s not a perfect world. And we—I’ve got an article I’m working on, it’s called “An idealistic beekeeper in a realistic world.” And it’s how we do this. Certainty, we can be idealistic about what we want to do, then we got reality of, man, if we are going to make a living out of this, you would need a much more sober pragmatic way of looking at beekeeping. So, it’s all based upon value judgments and drawing lines and what you want to be doing.

Gary:

Yea, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, I know. I totally agree with that. You can’t keep them alive you, you can’t make a living out of dead bees can you?

Randy:

Nope [laughs].

Gary:

Yeah, true. It’s probably a big question but what do you think is causing the CCD in Europe and America?

Randy:

Well, we don’t CCD is a specific set of field science. The sudden depopulation of the colony. The adult bees leave—leaving behind the brood. We saw that during the late first decade from about 2004 to about 2008, we saw a fair amount of CCD. I saw in my operations. I would think most operations was attributed to various viruses mainly the Israeli acute virus progress, some—lake cyanide virus in combination with Nosema ceranae [00:58:43]. Nosema ceranae invaded us and just exploded at that time.in my operation, and many I looked at, it was very much involved.
We were able to create CCD in situ in a trial by isolating a strain of Israeli Acute Paralysis virus, which was very virulent. We cultured it in Bee Pupa [00:59:03], purified it, and then inoculated healthy colonies with it. And we created all the sides of CCD. It’s the only trial done on the planet where anybody has created CCD signs, symptoms and a controlled trial by inoculating with a pathogen. So, it was very clear to me so what caused it. That wave passed.

We don’t see much of that anymore. The only times I see colonies collapsing now is either if Nosema ceranae, and or lake cyanide virus or one of the other acute viruses is involved. I see that every spring, there’s a few colonies, it’s not Nosema ceranae that the initiator, it’s the coup de grâce when the colony starts to decline due to viruses and then at the last minute when they can no longer thorough regulate well at that point. Then the new Nosema ceranae then takes them down. But most beekeepers don’t see that anymore. Colonies are being lost for other reasons
And it’s gotten people saying CCD but it’s not CCD at all. They should just call it elevated colony mortality. Now, not all beekeepers are experiencing this. Many beekeepers in the US are not experiencing that kind of mortality. I, myself, am not experiencing this. We run these controlled trials. So, I ran a trial last winter, the year before, over 150 of our worst colonies of our very worst colonies, the sickest colonies we had. And over the winter, we had 148 of them survive. This last year, I ran another trial of, my god, I forgot, more colonies than that. And again, we have like survival in 98th percentile. So, we don’t see those kind of losses. One, I suspect, is because we do take care of our bees. But two, I think, we don’t have the miticide residues in the comb, and we don’t have much pesticide exposure. There are beekeepers I can tell you right now in the middle of the American Corn Belt, with the full neonicotinoid exposure…

Gary:

Yeah…

Randy:

…but they have very very low losses. I don’t see any on the ground correlation between neonicotinoid exposure and colony loss rate. I do see it with exposure with other insecticide. I feel that the turning of our attention, the tunnel vision focus on the neonicotinoid detracts what we should be looking at, which is impacts of all pesticide put together. So, I’m not on that anti-neo bandwagon at all. They are an insecticide, yes, they cause problems but I don’t see any evidence that they are any worse than the other insecticides and in many ways if properly applied, they’re probably a whole lot better for the environment than some of the other insecticides. So, I think a lot of the, some activists beekeepers is misdirected towards the neonicotinoids.

Gary:

Yeah, do you think it’s better to look at all pesticides as a big family.

Randy:

Absolutely, yes. Protest pesticide, yes. But in general, we are not going to stop using pesticide. There’s no way, no agriculture is not going to go all organic. Deal with that. Ok, I’ve been an organic gardener all my life. I got a 110 fruit trees, I got a huge garden, we feed ourselves, and we are organic. But I can tell you right now, organic farming is not going to take over agriculture. They are going to be using pesticides. So, deal with that. So, what we can—the best we can hope for is that more integrated pest management, better use of pesticide, better regulation of pesticide focusing only on the neonics, does not well, anything we should say about the neonics should be applied to all pesticides. Agencies should look at those. The guys who do the regulation, they know what they are doing. They read all the science and they know a whole lot more than any beekeeper does about it and—speak to our regulatory agencies, regulated the guys who do the assessment, look at their data, look at their papers, look at their analyses. They are doing an OK job, not perfect job, I disagree with a few things, but, the focus on the neonics is clearly tunnel-vision. I encourage beekeepers not to get stuck into that tunnel vision.

Gary:

Yeah, yeah, I mean a recent article about that and you’re talking about the study. It was quite interesting. It was talking about Dr. Lou’s study that was quite a good…

Randy:

Oh my gosh. There are some science that is just so poorly done that it is a joke. Unfortunately, the media doesn't realize how poorly done it is and they publish this stuff and then on the internet everybody reads this stuff and thinks that it had any validity whatsoever when it was just junk. Absolute junk. That’s unfortunate. I don’t know. I guess Lou likes being in the spotlight, brushes off the moment he’s done, before he published anything, makes sure he has a press conference and he knows he’s going to get media attention but all the science just shake their heads, ‘What in the world?’ There’s all these great bee researchers out there that nobody pays attention to. And this publicity hound from Harvard Medical School gets all this attention because he knows how to work the media.

Gary:

I guess he’s trying to, you know, try to find the cause of CCD and I think that’s very, the media is very receptive to finding a single cause [overlap].

Randy:

What apparently he seems to be doing is to try to link the neonicotinoid to some kind of human health issue. And, he’s a human toxicology and I admire him for that but I think he should stick to humans and if it’s a human health issue, I would like to know that. I would support completely and follow him for that research. But he has no business working with honey bees.

Gary:

Interesting. We recently had Dr Henk Tennekes recently discussing his work.[01:05:06]

Randy:

Oh you did?

Gary:

Yeah.

Randy:

He and I had had a very long discussion on his books, his research and me asking him—because, he really got my attention also. So, in one of his books, one of the publishers asked me to review his book and I did an open email correspondence back and forth inquiring with Dr Tennekes [01:05:29], by copying the head of the EPA risk assessment and copying the editors of both bee journals and asked him point by point to support his hypothesis on the birds, on the water and everything else. And he was unable to support any of with data and the book never even made it to review and in the bee journal here because the editors saw he had nothing to stand on.
So, I appreciate people bringing environmental concern to our attention, I donate heavily to environmental causes. But I think, environmentalists should hold ourselves to a higher standard than the industries, the pesticide industries, we expect them to favor themselves, paint themselves in a good light. We expect not to trust everything they say, we want to check it, well, I feel we environmentalists should be better than that. I feel that we should check ourselves and by allowing things like Lou's paper, by Henk's [01:06:32] fear-mongering and that’s what it is, it’s fear-mongering to stand out there, we do a disservice to the public who really wants to help the environment. We should demand that they back up their statements with actual data the same way we would demand the [01:06:53] to back up their statements with actual data.
And if their fear messages don’t stand up to scrutiny, then we should not support them. People have plenty of stuff to be afraid of. There’s people in California that won’t eat fresh produce because they are so afraid of pesticides, despite the fact that when the USDA test them off the shelves of supermarkets. They show the levels, if there’s let any at all the levels are so low, they are not going to hurt you. So, people hurt their own health by instead of eating a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, because they are afraid of pesticides, they eat other food instead. It’s—it’s people misinterpret the messages. Most people are not going to do the science, most people are not going to do their homework and actually read the data.
I found the same thing with the GMO issue. I’ve read the books, I’ve seen the movie on the anti-GMO and they scared the snot out of me man. How in the world! I mean, really these guys are really good at selling fear. Then, what I would do, I’d do what most people don’t do, you go to the back of the book and you look at all the references they used, for all the study they used that they based what—their statements on. And then I read the original studies and I found out that there’s no, the emperor has no clothes, these people, the anti-GMO movement, they got nothing to stand on, the data is not there. There’s a ton of scientific data showing how safe these foods actually are. You know, the world’s not perfect but the promise of genetic engineering for organic farming, for coming up with crops that we don’t have to use pesticide on, for crops that are drought tolerant, for crops that are naturally pest resistant, the promise is incredible. So, I think again, the anti-GMO movement is largely misguided being based upon people selling fear because fear sells. Fear sells really well.

Gary:

Exactly, it’s like you know, stories about car crashes, it’s true.

Randy:

Stories, like what?

Gary:

Oh you know, like, bad news sells, like stories about the car crashes.

Randy:

Oh God, yes yes yes. All that sells. You know, there’s just a paper just released from UCD, University California Davis, where the researchers did the obvious, what I call ground truthing. And the obvious truth is there’s been a hundred billion, that’s a number inconceivable to humans, number of livestock, individualized stock raised on diets of genetically engineered crops over the last 15 years. So, these researchers compared the health and survival statistics of those animals prior to genetically engineered plants in their diet then post genetic engineered plants. If genetically engineered plants had any negative impact on organisms that eat them, you would see that in the livestock, you know, guys grow livestock, like chickens and pigs and cattle. They are not going to feed them something that harms their livestock and cuts back on their profits. Well, what she found was that the health of livestock has improved over these last years…

Gary:

OK.

Randy:

…rather than gone downhill. They are just—there’s no basis in fact for this fear that genetically engineered crops are causing harm to either livestock or human beings. So, that’s just—that’s ground trothing, that’s looking at actual real data on a large scale. So…

Gary:

Yeah.

Randy:

…that’s what I would suggest people do, do a reality check on these things.

Gary:

Absolutely, I think people, don’t just read the headline, read the actual studies and read the actual documents.

Randy:

Read the studies. Or find someone who’s willing to do it for you, and get an opposing point of view, a more realistic point of view.

Gary:

Yeah. Absolutely. But there’s been recently a case in New Zealand where about over 300 cows were killed by eating genetically modified seeds. They are still not sure what caused this, it’s still all very new. It happened a couple of weeks ago. So, it’s going to be interesting to look out for that too.

Randy:

I’d be very interested, in fact, I’d follow me up on that. Because I have looked on that. You know, there are reports in, from like India, of cattle or goats dying after going into the, cleaning up the cotton, uh, genetically modified cotton. And I looked at the—and of course the activists, they are all “Yeah, they all died from eating the genetically modified cotton plants”. Well, what you got to do is then read the actual itinerary reports from the vets. They went out there and they said “No, that’s not what killed them at all. They got killed by either pesticide issues or other issues” unrelated to the genetically—the engineered crops, whatsoever.

Gary:

Yeah. Exactly.

Randy:

Yeah, do your homework. Check the facts.

Gary:

Yeah, I mean this is all still very fresh. But at the moment it's all liver damage but like a, you know, do autopsies and it may not be related to what they ate. It may be something else but, who knows, we’ll find out…

Randy:

No, you probably won’t because if it’s a negative finding, the media will not cover it.

Gary:

Oh, absolutely.

Randy:

They very likely will not find out the truth unless you actually do your homework and find out because the media only wants to cover the story. ‘Oh it looks like genetically engineered crops killed these cattle’. And then that’s it, you won’t hear a retraction later on. Because the media is not interested in saying “Oh, yeah, they died from something else”.

Gary:

Yeah, that’s very true. The fear story comes out but not the story dying—I’ll be following up there for you, Randy.

Randy:

Yeah, let me know.

Gary:

If they publish, it never made the major news here, you know, it was the rural farming news sort of thing.

Randy:

Yeah.

Gary:

Absolutely, that’s fantastic. What are your plans for the next season?

Randy:

Well, every year we try to learn something so that we don’t do the same stupid things more than two years in a row. [Laughs]

Gary:

Good advice.

Randy:

We try not to two years in a row but it usually takes about two years of repeating the stupid mistakes then it finally sinks in and we get better. We figured out a new way of, making our splits which will save us a whole lot of time, it’s all about time, the less time—the more efficiently you use your time, the better a beekeeper you can be and if you are in the business, the more profitable it is. So, I figured out a way to be much more efficient in that. We try to continue to play with my mite treatments, we are trying to use them more efficiently. We are doing a lot of research right now on feeding protein supplements and figure out the most effective way of feeding protein supplements and in developing protein supplements that are better for the bees and less expensive. We are working with a major manufacturer and we are working with one of the research labs on doing that.

Gary:

Oh, fantastic. So, this will all be a scientific beekeeping?

Randy:

[Overlap] Oh, if anything gets there, I generally publish things first in American Bee Journal, and once its published I post them to scientific beekeeping.

Gary:

Oh fantastic, well. Thanks very very much for – it’s been fantastic having you on the show.

Randy:

You got it.

Gary:

And you've shared some great information on here and I’m sure people will listen to this many times. So, it’s been fantastic and thanks then. And enjoy the rest of your day.

Randy:

Well, thanks a lot.

Gary:

Thanks everyone for listening and the show notes for this one will be http://Kiwimana.co.nz/Randy.
-END OF TRANSCRIPTION-

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Gary Fawcett

Gary enjoys designing new kiwimana products which we sell through our on-line shop.He is passionate about saving the Bees and encouraging urban beekeeping.Gary loves to write about issues that affect the Bees and our environment.He is also into tramping/walking in the beautiful New Zealand bush.
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12 thoughts on “Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping – Transcription

  1. You guys are amazing… really appreciate the podcasts – but to also take the time to transcribe is beeyond… thank you for all you do!

    1. Thanks Caroline for all your support, what is time 🙂 ?

  2. Transcript could also be god for international listeners! Best wishes from Sweden. Johan

    1. Hi Johan, we do have a transcription for this podcast. Is that what you mean?

    2. I meant in general I think :), personally I have no. problem understanding as long as the sound is ok.

    3. Yes we would love to have transcriptions for all the shows. Perhaps we can look at that, when we can generate some income from the show.

  3. We have followed Randy in American Bee Journal and enjoyed your pod cast. Thanks.

  4. Olá Hugo.Usaste colmeias langstrough, e trocastes a disposição dos quadros ou construístes de raiz?Faço esta pergunta porque, com a largura dos quadros que mencionas, não conseguias colocar 11, numa colmeia lusitana, respeitando o espaço abelha.Abraço.

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