Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trip to Haifa, Two more Kibbutzim and Hula Reserve

Haifa is quite a sight. Looking down on the lighted harbor from high up on Mount Carmel is dramatic, especially the Bahai Temple on the side of the hill. I arrived with my companion, long-time bee inspector Yossie Slablezski, who took me to a local restaurant where we shared a wonderful, vegetable soup, moussaka and portion of stuffed grape leaves. Late we repaired to Yossie's apartment, exhausted from the days events.

The next morning we were up bright and early, making a stop at Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuhad. There we met the General Manager and Madeleine Shaked, the Export & Import Manager, who shared with us her story of coming to Israel. Originally from Ireland, she said even as a little Catholic girl, she recognized that her future was in Israel. She is new to the bee business, but not to agricultural product development and is fully conversant in ISO9000 and HACCEP technologies. She showed us some honey substitute made for diabetics and also said that she was importing honey from the U.S. Israel, like the U.S. is hard pressed to satisfy the population's demand for honey and so imports the sweet, but there often is a high import duty. The outfit runs a couple of thousand colonies and like many large-scale beekeepers, moves several times a year, sometimes including at least one stop for pollination.

From here we skirted the west side of the Sea of Galilee, finally arriving at at Kibbutz Dan. It is there that my host in Rehovot, Dr. Yaacov Lensky did his pioneering research on swarming. We met a pioneering beekeeper who started in the 1960s and survived the wars the region is known for with Jordan and Syria, each time returning to the Kibbutz. He recently has found two young people to train in beekeeping and says the outfit will be going from 750 to about 1000 hives in the near future. One of his problems is finding suitable locations. It seems that Israel's Honey Marketing Board strictly controls locations, by plotting them on a map and telling beekeepers when they are too close to each other to move or face penalties. Yossie says about 1.5 kilometers is the distance decreed by law; all beekeepers must be registered. This keeps the bee pasture from being overcrowded.

It turns out the small size of Israel is good for the beekeeping industry in the sense that most if not all beekeepers are registered and the majority are doing the same management (especially for Varroa) at the same time. This is one of the reasons that Varroa remains under control in the country. One of the best management suggestions has always been to encourage beekeepers to treat at the same time to avoid treated colonies being re-infested from untreated colonies.

From Kibbutz Dan, we ride to the north of the Sea of Galilee and find the Hula Nature Preserve. This appears to be a popular destination for we saw several bus loads of youngsters here. One attraction at this Israeli park is a 3-D movie complete with other sensory information that is played in both Hebrew and English on migrating birds and the hazards they face each season. There is a board walk around the preserve in some places covered so those walking do not disturb the bird life. Clearly it is a disturbed habitat with a huge population of African catfish and abundant nutria. Those at the center were concerned as this year not as many birds showed up as in the past.

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