Investing in Bees

Investing in Bees makes sense.

I first wrote about this years ago. Here is a reprint from a 2006 article I posted at one of our sites.

I am looking for ways to invest in bees because some years ago our son, Jake, showed us the video that started me thinking about an idea that affects international investments, business and our health.

The film was “Pollinators in Peril”, a film about the declining number of honeybees in America and its impact on our food supply. This video was filmed by Rhett Turner, narrated by Peter Fonda and aired on Ted Turner’s TBS station in March 2000.

The danger of the loss of pollinators left such an impact on me that I bought the website “BeeTheWorld.com” (and still have it) because I believe there has to be huge potential in saving or growing or investing in bees.

But to date the right idea has not presented itself and I have not researched …just too many other things to do…until this week. A BBC News website article “Almond farmers seek healthy bees” by Mark Ward struck a spark.

The article says:

“The US is in danger of running out of honey bees to pollinate its almond crop – the country’s number one horticultural export.

“Annually the crop is worth more than $2.5bn and a lot of jobs depend on a good harvest,” explains Dan Cummings, one of the directors of California’s Almond Board and head of its bee task force.

“Currently about 222,000 hectares are under production to grow almonds. Mr. Cummings expects this to grow to 330,000 hectares over the next five years.

“Roughly two-thirds of the bees in the US need to come to California for almond pollination,” said Mr. Cummings. “Beekeeping in the US is very much migratory.”

The article explained that the price of renting bee colonies has been rising and that the almond growth has pushed ahead of bees.

“In 2004, beekeepers could get, on average, $54 for every hive they sent to almond groves in California. Last year, prices peaked at about $85, and in 2006 there are reports of owners charging more than $150.”

Here is what interested me. The article says that this crunch is being enhanced by a resurgence of debilitating attacks from the varroa mite, a tiny parasite that stunts the growth of bees, saps hive resources and slowly kills off the colony.

The varroa mite is an ectoparasite of honey bees, first noted in Indonesia in the early l900s. The first varroa mite in the US was discovered in Maryland in 1979 and in 1987 it was detected in Wisconsin and Florida. Like all monocultures, bees in hives that are set near together are more susceptible to disease and now the mites have spread across the nation.

“Mite control is bound to create international investment opportunity” I thought. “And it could certainly help the environment and our health.”

I have been researching. There are a number of treatments for the mites. Formic acid fumes will kill some varroa mites. Other treatments are the Apistan strip, manufactured by Sandoz Agro Canada, Inc. This is made of fluvalinate, which kills the mites when the bees brush up against it.

Bayer also has 20 years experience in this field.

Investing in these firms though does not interest me. First, I am not sure that a bit of extra business in the bee divisions of Bayer or Sandoz have much impact on the share price of these huge firms.

Secondly, many pesticides have been so widely used that some mites are gaining resistance. But mainly, I do not want to contribute to the use of chemicals.

My interest is finding opportunity in new, better ways to manage mites.

One spark of interest is a small highly focused British company Vita Europe, has developed a thymol-based treatment derived from thyme, and vapors from oil extracted from the herb have proved useful in killing the varroa mites.

Thymol works in a very different way from traditional pesticides which target specific points on the nervous system. Thymol has a much wider effect on varroa physiology and in tests had been able to knock out more than 90% of the mites in a colony. This type of pesticide is more difficult to become resistant.

Thymol tends to knock out both resistant and non-resistant varroa mites, so beekeepers could use it in rotation with established treatments to keep the numbers of parasites under control.

Vita’s anti-varroa treatment is now undergoing certification in the US and could be in wide use for the 2007 crop.

I could not find any lists for Vita Europe shares and have emailed the finance director asking. I’ll keep you informed.

The University Wageningen in The Netherlands has written about a system developed by Johan Calis, Joop Beetsma, Willem Jan Boot, Jan van den Eijnde, Aad de Ruijter and Sjef van der Steen in its Entomology Department.

They call this the Darreraat Methode or “drone comb method” which adds manpower but is totally non-resistible and cheap.

West Virginia University also reports progress on the use of essential oils to kill varroa mites in two ways.

1) Toxicity by direct contact: When varroa mites contact essential oils such as wintergreen, patchouli, tea tree oil, et al., mixed into oil or grease, they are killed on contact–usually within a few minutes.

2) Impaired reproduction via feeding syrups containing essential oils: When varroa mites feed on larvae that contain essential oils, their reproduction is interrupted. If the oil is strong enough, the females are unable to lay eggs. If the oils are in lower concentration, eggs are layed, but development of immature mites is delayed; young mites do not reach maturity before the bees emerge from the cell; consequently, the immature mites die.

More on this is available

I’ll keep researching and would love to hear anything any of you know.

The fundamentals are clear. #1; Pollution has killed almost all native bees. #2: Agriculture needs colonized bees to operate. #3: Without bees agriculture stops and mankind will be in a pickle.

I believe there is going to be growing opportunity for investing in bees

Learn more about investing in bees at Funky Business II.

Gary

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