The Buzz

 November 18-20, 2014 - 125th Annual California State Beekeepers Association Convention

California State Beekeepers Convention As 2014 president of the CSBA, Bill Lewis, also had the exciting though somewhat daunting task of producing the 2014 CSBA Convention "Celebrating 125 Years of California Beekeeping." As promised, the convention was educational, informative, timely, and fun. The gathering of beekeepers included multiple generations of family owned commercial beekeeping operations, urban beekeepers, and those hoping to start their very first hive. We heard about things going on in the world of beekeeping on the local, state, and national level. Over 35 speakers (entomologists, biologists, commercial and urban beekeepers, and authorities in the industry) spoke on topics ranging from "Keeping Bees Safe in Almonds" and "Land Trusts Working With Beekeepers" to "Mead Making" and "Urban Beekeeping: Beginner and Advanced." Each year funds raised at the CSBA convention go to bee research. Reserchers attend the conference and provide updates. They are in the "front lines of the bee health battle," Lewis notes. 

October 17, 2014 - Smith Brothers Cough Drop Commercial

Bill Lewis for Smith Brothers commercial
Liane Lewis on Smith Brothers commercial
Where's the bees! They're finished work for the day and now Bill and Liane Lewis get to play - with the giraffes!! Yes, the bees went to work on the Smith Brothers Cough Drop Commercial and what a great fun day for all!


September 26, 2014 - DJ/Musician/Activist Moby Hosts First Video by "Hollywood Food Voices"

Bill Lewis, Bill's Bees and Moby on Hollywood Food VoicesCenter for Food Safety is excited to announce the launch of "Hollywood Food Voices," and the release of its first video in the series, featuring Moby, the award-winning musician/DJ/activist. The video, which drops on Friday, September 26th, gives fans a guided tour of Moby's four-acre home atop the Hollywood Hills, where over 30,000 bees dwell. While delving into his passion for bees and the causes of alarming bee colony collapses nationwide, the video offers simple, concrete actions for viewers to help reverse this trend.
Stand With Moby to Save Our Bees 
View video at: Center for Food Safety
Read more at: Huffington Post

Bill's Bees provides the backdrop for Moby as he shares his passion for saving the bees.

August 24, 2014 - LA County Fair Bee Booth

Los Angeles County Fair Bee BoothLos Angeles County Fair Pomona Fairgrounds
1101 West McKinley Ave. Pomona,CA 91768
August 29-September 28 (Wed-Sun)
(Across from the Big Red Barn)

Bill and Clyde set up the honeybee observation hiveEach year Bill Lewis and Clyde Steese of Bill's Bees help the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association prepare the Bee Booth for the enjoyment and education of thousands of school children and the general public.

Clyde's unique style and gift of gab captures the attention of hundreds of fairgoers. They learn about bees, beekeeping, and the importance of honey bees in our lives. As Clyde says, "Come to the fair, see the bees, get some fried food!"







August 2014 - CSBA - The President's Word

Bill Lewis, CSBA PresidentFellow Beekeepers,

For those of you who have not already set aside the week of Nov. 17-21, 2014 to attend the CSBA Annual Convention, please do so today! This year's 125th Annual Convention will be hosted by the Hyatt in Valencia, CA just north of Los Angeles with easy access to the I-5 freeway and very close to the Magic Mountain Theme Park and more for those familiar with the area. Please see the full-page ad at the bottom of this issue! 

We are expecting a large turn-out of attendees from all over CA and around the country. There should be plenty of interest to both those making their living keeping bees as well as a large contingent of urban beekeepers, especially from the over 1,000 members of bee associations in Los Angeles and vicinity. I encourage all attendees to spend the extra dollars to stay at the Hyatt. Avoid the hassle of the morning commute; share a room to get the cost down. I am interested in booking as many rooms as possible since our group earns 1 complimentary room for every 50 rooms booked. These complimentary rooms are used to house some of our speakers, which saves the CSBA the cost of these rooms. We are bringing in many speakers that will need these rooms so please book your room today! Convention information is being added daily to the CSBA website so check back often to get the latest updates on the program. There will be links to most of our speaker biographies. 

Our September 4th CSBA board meeting is fast approaching. I encourage any CSBA member to attend these board meetings and get involved in supporting your organization. The CSBA Board of Directors is a core group of individuals that give up time out of their busy daily schedules to make the decisions that will better the beekeeping industry in CA. New blood is always welcome and encouraged. It is most important to share the burden in advancing the interests of CA beekeepers and beyond.

Work is being done to make almond orchards a safer place for bees. Your Board of Directors is working hard to communicate with almond growers and Pest Control Advisors (PCA's) to mitigate bee health problems that occurred last season during almond pollination and to avoid the same problems this coming pollination season. There will be a panel at the CSBA convention with representatives from the almond Industry, PCA's, and beekeepers affected by bee kills last year in almonds. The goal - finding a safer path for bees in almond pollination in 2015.

There are important meetings to attend to. Your CSBA President is planning to attend a follow-up meeting to the high level meeting held in Washington D.C. last March that resulted in a memorandum from President Obama in support of Honey Bee Health and Forage support systems. This USDA Forage and Nutrition Summit will also be in Washington D.C. in October. I believe Day 1 of the summit is open to the public. Day 2 will focus on working groups and will be limited to invited participants. This meeting will be followed by the 14th Annual North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) Conference. I expect a number of attendees at both these meetings will be in attendance at our CSBA Convention in November. I hope to get those attendees to regurgitate information gleaned from these meetings.

I have heard news of good honey harvests in the Dakotas and the Mid-West. I hope this translates to lots of $ being spent on auction items at the CSBA Convention in support of raising $ for bee research.

Bill Lewis, CSBA President
CSBA Newsletter, Bee Times

July 15, 2014 - Bill Lewis is featured on the Hallmark Channel's Home & Family Show

Bill Lewis featured on the Hallmark ChannelBill Lewis of Bill's Bees and 2014 President of the California Beekeepers Association is buzzing about town today with information on how to save honey bees and why we as humans are so dependent on them for our food supply. The bees not only pollinate the plant-based foods we eat, but also pollinate the foods animals eat, which in turn provides us with meat, dairy, and more. It's all about preserving the food chain. Learn more about how parasites, drought, and pesticides impact the bee population and how we can help by planting flowers. Plus, find out how to raise a honey bee colony in your very own backyard. Airs: Tues. July 15, 2014 10am/9c and Wed. July 16 at noon.

May 29, 2014 - Bill's Bees Now at the Camarillo Farmers Market 

Bills Bees at Camarillo Farmers MarketWe're happy to report that Bill's Bees is now at the: Camarillo Farmers Market Camarillo Community Center Park 1605 E. Burnley St. (Corner Carmen & Burnley) Camarillo, CA 93010 - Wednesdays 3:00-7:00pm Buzz By Bill's Bees for a Taste of Honey!


May 14 & 15, 2014 - Clyde Steese at AGdayLA - Bee Station

Clyde Steese at AGdayLABees - at the the Bee Station of AGdayLA is presented by the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association. Each year Bill's Bees partner, Clyde Steese, past president of the LACBA volunteers at the Bee Station to teach 3rd and 4th graders why bees make honey, why they are needed in orchards, how to act around bees, how important it is to respect these wondrous creatures, and how important they are in our lives.


April 2014 - CSBA - The President's Word
Bill Lewis CSBA President

There has been a whirlwind of activity since my last report in February.

CSBA contributed funds to send the "Bee Girl" Sarah Red-Laird (an awesome ambassador for bees) and myself to participate with a display and 5 bee activity tables at Pheasant Fest in Milwaukee, WI. It was an excellent opportunity to collaborate with the Pheasants Forever group and Pete Berthelson on promoting forage for bees and other wildlife. All of the postcards colored by youth and mailed to US Secretary of Ag, Tom Vilsack, must have influenced the decision to spend $3M to encourage Midwest farmers' conservation efforts and plantings for bee forage. ABF American Honey Queen Executive Director Anna Kettlewell was instrumental in recruiting the WI Honey Producers Association including President Derald Kettlewell, past President Tim Fulton, the current WI Honey Queen and past Honey Princess and a plethora of other volunteers to staff the activity tables.

I had the opportunity to meet with legislators at the Farm Bureau-hosted legislative reception and work with Platinum Advisors representative Holly Fraumeni on Assembly Bill 2185 introduced by Assembly member Susan Eggman that will hopefully encourage public land owners to consider honey bees in future land use plans.

Ag Day at the Capital was another opportunity to connect with legislators and a photo op with CA Secretary of Ag, Karen Ross, an active supporter of bees. Much appreciation goes to Carlen Jupe for coordinating and in the staffing of our booth by Eric Mussen, Kathy Keatley Garvey, Bill Cervenka and the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association's Marti Ikehara, and of course, Haagen-Dazs for donating the ice cream. Read Kathy's entire blog here.

Almond pollination has come and gone. There were strange dynamics in almonds. The shortage of water resulted in some growers making the decision to pull out older trees reducing the need for bees. There were enough colonies to go around and there was perfect pollination weather again during bloom. I think almond growers can expect another close to record harvest. Unfortunately, some beekeepers, including myself, got sucker punched and lost large numbers of bees to what we are still uncertain. 50% of our colonies were affected. They all went into almonds at about equal strength with low mite loads. Towards the end of bloom, we experienced massive amounts of dead bees around the hives and it continued for several weeks after the bees were moved on to avocado orchards. I have always felt pretty safe in almonds but when an 8-10 framer that we expect to double in strength goes backwards to a 6, something is wrong. There were reports that a few growers may have been tank-mixing fungicide with insect growth regulators (IGRs) for a "free ride" to save labor cost. There were also reports that pesticides were being sprayed on alfalfa fields to control weevils within flying distance. Could the impact on bees have been avoided by releasing bees 7-10 days sooner without much impact on almond production? Some beekeepers may opt to stay home next season without some kind of guarantees that this will not happen again. Whatever is going on is making the costs to beekeepers skyrocket and this cost has to somehow be recouped.

Subsequent meetings with EPA representatives gave no indication that labeling language on fungicides and IGR labels or other chemicals including adjuvants would be changed to make them more protective of bees any time soon or even before the 2015 almond bloom.

CDFA was concerned enough to devote a whole day of their board's time to listen to beekeeper concerns in early April. Beekeepers gave some excellent presentations that focused on the need for more clean forage, the need for more help to defeat our # 1 pest - Varroa, and help to improve pesticide labeling to be more protective of bees. The Almond Board of CA is equally concerned and hopefully can convince more growers to give bees a break and delay the spraying of anything in the future until after the bees are gone. A meeting has been scheduled with CDPR later this month to address this situation as well. Hopefully, something positive comes out of all of this.

I really hope everybody gets a decent honey crop out of the oranges!

Bill Lewis, CSBA President
CSBA Newsletter, Bee Times

March 20, 2014 - The Buzz on California Agriculture Day

Bill Lewis at 2014 California Agriculture DayThe bees weren't all that buzzed at the 2014 California Agriculture Day, celebrated today (March 19) on the west lawn of the California State Capitol.

The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association (SABA) staffed a beekeeping booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and filled it with honey straws,Häagen-Dazs premier ice cream and bee-related pamphlets from Project Apis m. A bee observation hive, brought by Bill Cervenka Apiaries of Half Moon Bay, fronted the booth.

The bees buzzed all right, but the people--the general public lining for the ice cream donated by Häagen-Dazs-seemed to create the biggest buzz. They made a literal beeline for the strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Häagen-Dazs supports the University of California, Davis, through its bee garden and bee research (some 50 percent of its flavors require the pollination of bees).

By 11:35, the honey was all gone. "It vanished, just like our bees," quipped Bill Lewis, CSBA president.

Staffing the booth with him were Carlen Jupe, CSBA treasurer; Marti Ikehara of SABA, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Among those stopping to chat with the beekeepers were California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The California Department of Food and Agriculture sponsors the annual event, this year focusing on "Celebration, Innovation and Education."

Bill Lewis, who makes his home at Lake View Terrace in the San Fernando Valley, maintains 650 colonies of bees with his wife, Liane, and business partner Clyde Steese. Their company, "Bill's Bees," offers pollination services, honey, pollen, beeswax, candles and handmade soap.

Their bees pollinate almonds, oranges, avocados and alfalfa.

For Lewis, his interest in bees began at age 14 when he took up beekeeping in the Boy Scout program and earned his beekeeping badge. That was in Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee, where he maintained several bee hives in his backyard. "I 'abandoned' them when I went off to college," he said.

After earning his master's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University, he settled in California to work in the aerospace industry. Ten years later he began a 10-year period of working at a horse-boarding stable. "Horses don't much like bees," he commented. "It bothers the horses when they have to share the same water bowl."

How did he get back into beekeeping? "The bees found me," Lewis said. He began keeping bees in 1991, first as a hobby, and then as a business. "I'm a first-generation beekeeper."

"Our food supply is so dependent on bees," Lewis said. As visitors flowed by, some asked him what they could do to help the bees. Plant bee friendly flowers, buy local honey, try not to use pesticides in your garden, and generally, provide a friendly place for bees.

His favorite variety of honey is black sage "but we're not getting to get much of it this year due to the lack of rain." His second favorite: orange blossom.

He also has almond honey, which he and Mussen describe as "bitter." And, Lewis said, it gets more bitter with time."

Article and photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey at the Bug Squad Blog.

February 2014 - CSBA - The President's Word

Bill Lewis 2014 CSBA PresidentGreetings!

I hope everyone is as fortunate as myself to have rented all my bees to almond growers. I delivered my bees last week to the orchards leaving only one wimpy colony at home. I got to work with my bees yesterday in the orchards. At most locations, tips of the trees were barely starting to bloom. At one location, near Lerdo and I-5, there must have been close to 30% bloom and the orchard was alive with the buzz. That sound still amazes me and it is fun to have lunch sitting between the almond rows in the dirt. This is going to be one unusual year with almond bloom coming early, lack of water (I am envious of those in Northern CA who recently got several inches of rain). I have seen some big older orchards being ripped out, but also plenty of new orchards put in as well. I am optimistic that the demand for our bees will remain strong despite what appears may be a slight dip in demand this season. 

I am fortunate to have good help at home to keep everything running while I jet off to Milwaukee, WI to attend the "National Pheasant Fest" and to support wildlife and honey bee forage. I have met so many interesting people through bees and this event promises to be another one of those. I connected with Anna Kettlewell who is Director of the American Honey Queen Program (1999 American Honey Queen) and she took the ball and lined up at least 12 volunteers, including the current WI Honey Queen and the President of the WI Beekeepers Association, to help staff the bee table over the 3-day show in the Wildlife Pollinator section of the Youth Village at Pheasant Fest. Mike Laforge, current manager of the Dadant store in Watertown, WI chipped in to loan a large carload of beekeeping equipment to be used for the display. I am hoping to develop more fruitful relationships with Pheasants Forever (nationwide organization) and others in our pursuit of more bee forage.

In March, I will meet with legislators at the CA Farm Bureau in Sacramento. I am also continuing to line up interesting speakers for our convention next November, which seems like a long way off, but there is much to do.

Let's make the best of our strange and unusual CA weather.

Bill Lewis, CSBA President
CSBA Newsletter, Bee Times

January 2014 - CSBA - The President's Word

Bill Lewis, 2014 CSBA PresidentGreetings!

I am honored to have been given the opportunity to serve CSBA as President. I would like to thank John Miller and his support team for a job well done! His 2013 convention attracted record numbers of attendees, sponsors, and vendors.

During John's presidency, he made bee forage a high priority. He was instrumental in the Nov. 6th meeting to 'To Explore Developing Partnerships for Bee Forage'. The day brought together beekeepers, CA state and federal agencies, academia, NGO's and public and private land holders for the first time to share ideas, concerns and the path forward for gaining better access to forage lands. Thank you to Dr. Gabriele Ludwig, Environmental Affairs, Almond Board of CA, for facilitating the meeting and to Ria deGrassi, Director, Federal Policy, CA Farm Bureau and their organizations for doing the heavy lifting in making this historic meeting possible. There is much work to be done in the coming year.

As I sit at the CSBA Bee Booth here at the 2013 Almond Board Conference, I am most impressed by the scale of this event. The trade show fills the Sacramento Convention Hall the size of 3 football fields. I am amazed that without us, bee people, none of this would exist. Maybe, if the bee industry was concentrated in a single state, and not spread out all over the country, it would be easier to coordinate a more focused effort on bee-related issues. I had a chance to speak with Joe MacIlvaine, President of Paramount Farming Co., who encouraged me to revisit the CSBA effort to establish a CA Apiary Commission that could collect per hive assessments from beekeepers all over the country at almond pollination time. Monies would be used for bee research and to support other industry wide activities such as working to obtain access to more lands for bee forage. He also reiterated Paramount's offer to match donations to bee research from their pollination beekeepers and he wondered why more of their beekeepers did not take advantage of this offer. Bill Lewis CSBA John Miller

John Miller passes gavel to Bill LewisLocally, in Los Angeles, there have been two recent meetings addressing urban beekeeping. My local neighborhood council is in support of allowing beekeepers to keep bees on residential-zoned properties. Most recently, at the LA Planning and Land Use Committee Meeting, a motion was passed to allow beekeeping in R1 zones. The local group HoneyLove has been the driving force behind getting beekeeping legalized in the city. Fortunately, we will have an opportunity to work with the city planning office that will do the actual writing of the ordinance and should be able to require keeping of only European genetics in managed colonies. We have already submitted a list of "Best Management Practices" for keeping bees in the urban environment to the city planning office.

Personally, I feel like I am in the middle of a battle to keep my colonies alive and strong for the rapidly approaching almond pollination season. So far, we are maintaining. Colonies treated early for mites are booming and we have been able to make up new colonies (thank goodness for banked queens) to replace colonies that are crashing, most likely because we held off on mite treatment to eke out the last of our alfalfa harvest. Most of those too we have been able to salvage and pull back from the brink. I hope all of you are doing a better job keeping your bees healthy. Best wishes for a successful pollination season!

Bill Lewis, CSBA President
CSBA Newsletter, Bee Times

January 2014 - 2013 Almond Board Conference

Clyde Steese at the Almond Board ConferenceDecember 3-5, 2013 marked the 41st Annual Almond Board Conference at the Sacramento Convention Center. Bill Lewis and Clyde Steese (Bill's Bees) could be found 'talking bees' at the California State Beekeepers Association bee booth. Here Clyde Steese, past president of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association educates FFA students about beekeeping. The event was attended by thousands!