Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 11 – Post Tour: Day one – Melbourne – Adelaide- Murray Bridge

A very early start this morning; 4:20 a.m. The bus takes much longer than expected to get the full quota of passengers; we visit 5 hotels and cross the Yarra River at least 4 times: Finally we are off to the Melbourne airport, and we push off the gate on time at 0:800 destination Adelaide, named after the queen of King James and designed in the European style with a center square framed by four others; we journey through the town and back on the main road to Melbourne, having a coffee break just east of the town of Murray Bridge (called King’s Crossing as well). Two bridges are here; the motorcar and railway, both built before the turn of the century. There is a hilly winding road out of Adelaide, which then dips down to the Murray River.

Harry, our bus driver, gives us a discussion of camels http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/camel/index.html. Abandoned by their Middle Eastern handlers when railways and trucks took over distribution of goods and commodities throughout the great deserts of Australia, a wild population now flourishes at times even to pest levels in some areas. These also have become a resource, however, as many are shipped back to the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) to add genetic diversity to herds, which often have disease problems. The breeding program in Australia has also attempted to produce a jet black camel, for which there would be huge demand, but although individuals have become darker (chocolate) the true black camel so far has yet to be produced. The females are the basis for much of this and the males not as important. The often are harvested for meat and camel burgers are considered a delicacy in some places as the meat is high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrate.

There is a large enclosed pipe along the road here, which delivers Murray River water to the region http://www.envict.org.au/inform.php?item=1258. There is also an aquifer in the region that is being pumped to the detriment of the water resource, similar to the Ogalala aquifer in the U.S. Most roofs have guttering systems delivering water to cisterns. Every hotel in the country provides information on the effect of the current drought and need for tourists and others to conserve water.

Areas along the roadway show that on occasion, fairly rich farmland gives way in low areas to almost barren, swampy sites. This is where salt has risen to ground level. Close to these areas are usually patches of salt bush, which is a crop http://www.abc.net.au/landline/stories/s331210.htm. One result is sheep fed on salt bush creates a lamb that is a delicacy in some regions, so-called “saltbush lamb.” http://www.bultarra.com.au/.

An interesting and well written article by Shelley Gare, The Sting, The Weekend Australian Magazine, September 15-16, 2007 http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22417482-5012694,00.html
reveals the depth of press coverage Colony Collapse Disorder is receiving in Australia and around the world. The Melbourne Congress is mentioned as is the research by Dr. Denis Anderson, billed as “The world’s only general bee pathologist. Bearded, unassuming and smiley…” There’s a general history of Varroa, especially introduction to New Zeand’s north island (2000) and the south by 2004, leading to a loss of 2000 beekeepers and 30,000 hives “that’s about 2,000,000,000 bees.”

There follows an explanation of the bees’ pollination value and how it has been understated and taken for granted with a research budget of only $AU 40,000. According to the article, there are just under 10,000 registered beekeepers in Australia with about 1.5 million hives, but only 2000 commercial operators (250 owning more than 500 hives), producing 20,000 to 30,000 tons of honey a year mostly for export, and “everyone knows everyone else.” There are also bee brokers for pollination and the author came in contact with one “bee smuggler, a man who once tried to sneak in eight queen bees from Liguria, Italy, inside 8 ballpoint pens http://www.honeybee.org.au/may01.html..”

There are just three package bee producers in the country, the largest is “Warren Taylor from Blayney in NSW…with an annual turnover of $AU 2.5 million.” There follows the history of almond pollination in California and Dr. Anderson’s belief that the press has over sold the issue and its based on anecdotes rather than data. He says scientists see things through their own specialty, bacteriologists blaming bacteria, virologists viruses, and all through the prism of not enough funding. A side bar suggests the honey bee situation could be saved by Australia’s native bees. See http://www.uq.net.au/~zzrzabel , http://www.aussiebee.com.au and http://www.sugarbag.net. He decries a recent article in Science linking CCD in the U.S. to a specific strain of Israeli acute paralysis virus found to have originated in Australian queens, concluding that the virus has been found in hives not suffering from CCD and asking why if this was so, there are no hives in Australia suffering from the malady.

Almost to the Victoria border we come to Tintinara, the home of Zadow apiaries. Here two brothers, Ian and Ross Zadow run 1400 hives. Ross is one of the featured naked beekeepers on the Aussie beekeepers calendar sold at the congress. They represent the youth and future of Australian beekeeping. This small town of 300 features 7 beekeepers.

Australias’ small towns are suffering to survive as the magnets of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide continue to attract young folks away from the rural lifestyle. One woman has stayed because she is employed by a governmental program assisting farmers in programs like reforestation, but these jobs are scarce.

Ian Zadow is president of the local association, the southeastern branch of the South Australia Apiarist’s Assocation http://www.honeybee.org.au/members.htm#SAAA. There are other branches in this state, including riverland, northeast and central, representing about 800 beekeepers running 64,000 hives. There is also an amateur association, which Ian says is entering into an arrangement with commercial beekeepers to develop a 5-year strategic plan.

The newest crop in the region is canola http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canola, which has come on strong in the last few years and considered a great resource for beekeepers. The big crops here are oats, barley and Lucerne (alfalfa) http://www.lucerneaustralia.org.au/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfalfa; the latter produces a good honey crop and beekeepers do not charge for pollination. However, there is a budding almond pollination industry as like California, this crop is due for rapid expansion across Australia in the next few years.

Discussion with Yurij Riphyak on the tour, Chief Marketing Officer of Medyanarosa, a Ukrainian outfit http://www.medyanarosa.com which is attempting to develop markets for Ukrainian honey. He and others in his group know Dr. Alexander Kommisar, who I met at the 2005 meeting of the IUSSI (International Union for the Study of Social Insects) in St. Petersburg, Russia http://home.earthlink.net/~beeactor/papers_htm/ABJ/IUSSI%20Meets%20in%20St.%20Petersburg_full.htm. The company is attempting to get youngsters involved in beekeeping.

The Zadows have a large building with an integrated extraction room, but they also extract in the field. A trailer carries the extraction house fully set up, which pumps honey into pipes that dump it into the 1000 liter plastic Capilano containers sitting on the truck bed. They wheel the frames from the field in a carrying apparatus that looks like a wheel barrow. They use plastic foundation dipped in wax and try to re queen regularly, sometimes introducing 50 queens per week into the operation. Like others in Australia, biggest problem is AFB treated by irradiation and burning; wax moths controlled using a cold room, both emphasize the philosophy of no chemical treatments. No major small hive beetle problems (drought contributory?).

We see cape weed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctotheca_calendula, which can result in EFB and blue gum http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Gum, one of their major nectar plants like so many has little pollen. Feeding Palmer’s protein patties http://www.penders.net.au/catalogue/quick_order.php. Discussion of a wooden extractor on the premises; intricate wooden gears which turn a galvanized screen container (typical 4 frame tangential extractor, often used by small-scale operators). Discussion of the unique fork lift seen on the premises. The inventor was on hand, billed the oldest beekeeper there, filled with historidal information. His forklift design was disseminated around the country and further improved on. The wheels are large to accommodate sandy soil and the boom is able to move colonies through a good radius; this may be the ideas behind the commercial boom (self levelers).

We proceed to Mr. Barry Pobke's apiary, where we see a demonstration of a forklift and various pallets being moved. He has a solar panel on his forklift to help maintain a trickle charge. He shows us his record keeping system; most beekeepers in Australia use isolating mechanisms either hive barriers or yard barriers to ensure disease is not transmitted. Mr. Pobke shows us his record keeping system and also his records involved in the quality control plan he uses; this was discussed at the Apimondia meeting, the B-Qual plan http://www.b-qual.com.au/overview.aspx.

We have a farewell barbecue hosted by the Zadows and others in Tintinara http://www.smh.com.au/news/South-Australia/Tintinara/2005/02/17/1108500204720.html
at the local meeting house, also a theater, containing historical items and pictures. We feast on Coorong mullet http://www.abc.net.au/tv/cookandchef/txt/s1865509.htm. Originally the tour was to be to the Corrong http://www.thecoorong.com/exploring.html but this was deleted from the itinerary. We return to Murray Bridge Motel for the evening.

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