Where ever you live in the world you should apply the information on working your bees that is given below when the weather conditions in your area are right. So take notes and be ready.

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Cletus Notes

Hello Everyone,

February is a busy month here at Lone Star Farms in Bryan, Texas. This is the month that I put together all that equipment I ordered last month. It is time consuming to put together several boxes, frames, tops and bottoms. Then, when you finish all that, you still have to get the equipment painted.

By working with that good plan I made in January, I am able to have all the parts I need to complete my February work load. I don’t have to re-order anything which would only slow the process down.

I believe in keeping my bee yard in good order, so February is a good time to perform that task. I make sure that all the hives are sitting level on their stands, and that the grass and bushes are cut away from the hives. I like to have plenty of work space around each hive. The bees will need unobstructed access into their hive entrance when the nectar sources become available to them.

February is a good time to inspect all of my feeders to make sure they are clean, in good working order, and ready to go, in case they are needed when I perform my first hive inspection around the first of March.

The start of the bee season will be exploding here in Texas by the first of March, and if you have a passion for beekeeping like I do even after 50 years, you know how hard it is to contain your excitement.

Love and enjoy your bees.



Is the Future of Farming Female?




Ten years ago men dominated beekeeping meetings, but the demographics are shifting. Many more women are getting into bees, especially on the small scale or sideliner side. In Montana, there is a drive to expand women in agricultural leadership positions. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Statistics and United States Department of Agriculture show while women constitute less than 1 percent of the nation's agricultural scientists, engineers and policymakers, they occupy the majority, about 60 percent, of lower-paid agricultural jobs on America's farms and ranches.

Six female professors at Montana State University and Flathead Valley Community College hope to increase the percentage of women agricultural scientists, engineers and policymakers by way of a $94,000 USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant, "Empowering Women in Agriculture."

"Representation and participation by women is an incredibly important focus in 21st century agriculture," said Irene Grimberg, MSU professor of cell biology and neuroscience in the College of Letters and Science, and one of the grant's six principal investigators. "It's a privilege to administer the grant with my colleagues so that we can begin to explore how we can elevate and support a diversified agricultural workforce in Montana."

In 2015, the USDA published a jobs report in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environmental sectors. The report's strongest career projections are in agricultural science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, sustainable food and biomaterials. The report also cited a need to diversify America's agricultural workforce.

According to project organizers, the central goals of the grant are threefold: integrate research and education to increase the participation of women in agriculture, prepare the next generation agricultural leaders in Montana and bring greater public awareness to the critical role of females in agriculture. According to the USDA, 34 percent, or 15,065, of Montana farmers are women.

"The idea is to expose students to the incredible variety of agricultural workforce pathways and their associated rewards and demands, shared by women working in diverse roles in Montana agriculture," Estrada said. "There are many career opportunities for young women besides production that don't require farming or ranching background. When we developed the class, we wanted to facilitate communication between an older generation of seasoned professionals in agriculture and the current, or next, generation of women in agriculture for an opportunity to connect and empower each other."

Agriculture is a very male-dominated STEM field, Estrada added. "The more we can explore and recognize the wonderful and diverse contributions of women in agriculture, the more we can think outside the box and find opportunities to contribute."

A second aspect of the grant is a statewide survey of Montana women who work in agriculture. Grimberg said the survey seeks to identify the women workers' needs, aspirations and achievements. Its questions address pay inequity, women in leadership roles, entrepreneurial support, workplace characteristics, land and capital access, and principal roles in agriculture.

"The survey study is intended to gauge women's dreams, aspirations and expectations, in addition to their needs," Grimberg said. "We don't know what kinds of research, programs and tools are needed to better support Montana women in agriculture unless we have some baseline data."




Tallow Under Threat:
Southern States May Lose
Major Nectar Source

Courtesy of Louisiana Beekeepers Association


To Whom It May Concern,
On behalf of the Louisiana Beekeepers Association, all beekeepers and pollinator supporters statewide and nationally, we strongly urge you to oppose any action to introduce the non-native flea beetle, Bikasha collaris, as a biological control for the Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera). The introduction of this beetle and control of Chinese tallow would result in the loss of a major forage source for honey bees and other pollinator species. This would directly affect these important pollinators, exacerbate the already disastrous Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and lead to very serious economic impacts for beekeepers and farmers on a national scale.
The current and future status of honey bees and other pollinating insects has received increasing scientific and public concern in the last decade. Honey bees and beekeeping are now considered an essential part of our overall agricultural efforts, not just for the economic contribution of honey sales, but for their key pollination contributions to one-third of the food that Americans consume (
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2701761/). According to economic research from the Cornell University, pollinators contribute 29 billion dollars to the agriculture sector. “More specifically, honeybees pollinated $12.4 billion worth of directly dependent crops and $6.8 billion worth of indirectly dependent crops in 2010.” (http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2012/05/insect-pollinators-contribute-29b-us-farm-income)
The Chinese tallow is now found in 12 states as noted in the BCIP Project Proposal (exhibit A). It provides a major (honey) market value in at least four of these states. Tallow can be found in all 64 parishes in Louisiana and also in 55 counties of Texas. Honey sales in Louisiana contribute over eight million dollars to the state agriculture sector (NASS). In 2016, Texas produced eight million pounds of honey, with a wholesale value of $11.5 million, seven million pounds of which are attributed in part to the Chinese tallow nectar flow. Nationally, honey sales contribute roughly 336 million dollars to the value of US agriculture commodities in 2016 (
https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Louisiana/Publications/Livestock_Press_Releases/BeeHoney/2017/lahoney17.pdf). Even though this is a significant contribution to our economy, the US still remains the top national importer of foreign honey at 423 million dollars (http://agriexchange.apeda.gov.in/product_profile/Major_Imporing_Countries.aspx?categorycode=0408). The obvious conclusion is that beekeepers and honey producers in the United States need public support to preserve existing pollinator forage and nectar sources, particularly those so valuable as Chinese tallow. Hence the Pollinator Protection Act instituted federally in 2014.
There are over 4 million pounds of honey produced annually in Louisiana (NASS). Commercial beekeepers move thousands of colonies to Louisiana for the main purpose of capitalizing on the abundant forage here and particularly the nectar of the tallow tree. The Chinese tallow is a major nectar contributor to the amount of honey produced in Louisiana. In an article published in the American Bee Journal, Hayes (1979) states “(The Chinese tallow tree)… has become the most successful tree nectar source ever introduced into the United States.” Tallow trees have been around since the founding of the United States. “[Ben Franklin] sent tallow seeds to a farmer friend in Georgia in 1772 to be grown as a cash crop.” (
http://blog.chron.com/houstongrows/ 2011/08/did-ben-franklin-bring-invasive-tallow-tree-to-texas/) Tallow trees have truly turned into a cash crop for beekeepers.
Steve Bernard, local commercial beekeeper and owner of Bernard Apiaries Inc., claims that loss of the tallow trees would result in a 1.25 million dollar annual loss for his business. A decrease in tallow population or even worse, the complete eradication of the tallow tree by the flea beetle would greatly damage the commercial beekeeping industry statewide and nationally.
Reiterating, hundreds of thousands of hives are moved through the gulf coast areas during the tallow season. These hives are used specifically in the migratory pollination process and depend on tallow trees for pollen and spring build up. The hives later go to other areas in the country for further honey production and pollination services. This is of greater economic value than the honey produced from tallow trees.
Colony Collapse Disorder has been linked to a number of problems, but notably from the disappearance of critical pollinator habitat. Federal government dollars are being set aside to fund the repopulation of areas for pollinators and to provide protection for existing habitat. In Louisiana and other southern states, the Chinese tallow provides a significant source of nectar as well as pollen. To control or reduce the population of this targeted species, as suggested in the BCIP Project Proposal, would be counter to the Presidential memorandum…“to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.” Under “Sec. 3. Increasing and Improving Pollinator Habitat (e) The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior shall… develop best management practices for executive departments and agencies to enhance pollinator habitat on Federal lands.” There are many acres of Federal land that would be directly at risk in Louisiana should this beetle be introduced and not contained and/or non-target plants be affected (exhibit B). As in all biological control agents, there are no guaranteed ways to contain them.
This concern leads to others, such as the success record for introducing related biological species with or without appropriate trials and very careful research protocols. In the case of the purple loosestrife in Massachusetts a biological control was successfully introduced in eliminating this plant, but at the same time the honey crop was eliminated, as well as forage for all pollinators. A more aggressive invasive species, phragmites, replaced the loosestrife, and now, there is no known control of this plant. Another similar story of unsuccessful biological control is the case of the Asian Lady Beetle which continues to be problematic today. Many other failed biological controls can also be cited. Release of the Bikasha collaris into less than very carefully controlled settings could lead to disastrous consequences. The opportunity for the beetle to adapt and reproduce ina new environment is virtually unknown. In Biological Control: Measures of Success (editor G.Gurr, Steve Wratten), the authors report “only around 10 per cent of attempts are successful”and that the success rate has changed little for a century. They also note that “biological control can cause harm, for instance when the released agent attacks a non-target organism of conservation or economic value.”
We certainly recognize the research and claims that invasive Chinese tallow is leading to an economic loss of $300 million over a twenty year period in certain timber and forest regions of this state and others. Some of these industry researchers also believe that introducing the flea beetle could conceivably decrease the amount of chemicals used in that industry and other agricultural sectors to control the encroachment of the tallow tree on cleared land. Yet these industries have alternative methods of control whereas the beekeeping industry does not have an alternative forage source comparable to the Chinese tallow. As of today, the states that would be most affected by the proposed flea beetle gross an annual $76 million in value of production (USDA, 2016), much of which is attributed to the presence of the Chinese tallow. This particular honey is produced in such volumes that it merits its own classification. Tallow honey sales are differentiated from other honey crops harvested and can bring up to $1.60/lb (USDA Honey Report, November 2017) and in some areas of Louisiana over $2/lb. Tallow honey is also used to make unpalatable honeys “table grade” by blending it with other honey to improve flavor. There are other beneficial uses of the Chinese tallow. Studies have shown that the tallow can be a lucrative source for biofuel. The trees are also considered ornamental plants to some locals.
Nectar and pollen from the Chinese tallow are of substantial economic value to commercial beekeepers and the beekeeping industry. Protection of this pollinator habitat needs to be secured. For these reasons, we respectfully urge you to oppose the introduction of the non-native flea beetle for the control of the Chinese tallow tree. Further research and experimentation with such a potentially dangerous biological control species should be restricted, or at the very least, very closely scrutinized and carefully monitored, so as to not lead to irreversible damage to existing Chinese tallow and cause great harm to pollinator populations, the entire beekeeping industry and ultimately the entire agriculture sector.


Clear Lake Apiaries