I was picked up in the morning by both of Israel's two active bee inspectors at the Lensky's home and taken to the north. We first visited the Lin Bee Farm in Moshav Bilu near Rehovot, one of the largest beekeepers in the country running some 3,500 hives. We had a conversation in Yuval Lin's office. His major concern was nutrition of bees and he wondered where to get more information on this important topic. I told him the Australians were probably the best source of information, requesting that he consult their publication on fat bees and skinny bees. In addition, I know the USDA laboratory in Tucson has developed a diet and there are several firms selling patties, Global Patties, are located in Montana and Alberta, and supply or have have supplied patties using a wide variety of materials, including BeePro™, FeedBee™ and Global patties. including Dadant and Sons, Mann Lake and the Canadian World. The use of soy flour came up; this continues to be the basis of most pollen substitutes, but as I pointed out we know a lot more about chicken and cattle nutrition than we do for honey bees. The bottom line is that he will have to do some experimentation on his own to find the best product for his particular conditions.
The firm is also dabbling in various bee products, including something that contains honey, propolis and royal jelly together. Finally, this is part of a Moshav, and as such is also involved in other activities, including agrotourism, although beekeeping is not mentioned on the
agrotourism web site.
Of interest is a project where some 15 hectares of eucalyptus have been planted to try to find a plant that will provide nectar in dry conditions. This so far has not worked out well for Mr. Lin, but others in Israel have become fans of this activity. I told him I have only seen on country where plants have been selected for nectar. That was in 1983 in Hungary, when I attended an Apimondia Congress in the country. This is confirmed by a more recent paper:
"Production of honey The black-locust forests constitute the basis for commercial honey production in Hungary. In years favourable to flowering, 50 to 60 percent of the honey produced comes from black locust. In 1982, honey exports brought in US$16.5 million. The Hungaronektár firm gives financial backing to improving late-flowering varieties of black locust producing large quantities of nectar. Rose-colour A.C. black locust comes into flower a week later than common black locust. While the sugar value of common black locust - the sugar content of the nectar produced by one flower in 24 hours - varies from 0.8 to 1.0 mg, and the values of the varieties Császártöltési, Kiskunsági, and Jászkiséri, are 1.8,1.56 and 1.48 mg respectively, rose-colour A.C. reaches a sugar value of 1.9 mg.
"Because of the economic importance of honey exports, the National Planning Office allocated special funds in 1982 for the establishment of 1000 ha per year of new forests of improved varieties of black locust."
We then headed for the Ministry of Agriculture in Bet-Dagan. This houses the Extension Service and other offices like plant protection and veterinary services. Like Europe, veterinary services are responsible for bee health, a completely different situation than in the U.S., where bees are regulated by Departments of Agriculture, often not closely affiliated with professional veterinarians.
We sat around a table with the Israeli bee health team. It consisted of extension agents and researchers in veterinary areas including insect virology, and entomology (plant-insect interaction) and chemists (food residue analysis). Several subjects were brought up including Varroa and the recent situation with CCD. Here, like elsewhere, the fate honey bees and the world's plant pollinators are on people's minds. It appears that CCD is not a problem in Israel, although losses can still be quite high like many places elsewhere in the world. Varroa is fully under control and the Israelis are working on their 10th year of using coumpahos, a material that in the U.S. has had a checkered career, with resistance showing up quite early in the use cycle. However, the Israelis are extremely concerned that resistance to coumaphos is on the horizon and there's no material in the pipeline to replace it. Using Varroa-tolerance of so-called "suvivor bees" appears to be not on the radar at the present time. Some at the meeting were adamant that no survivor bees exist in the country, something that cannot be proven as there is little specific research on this topic.
Of particular concern is fairly recent detection of Apis florea on the Gulf of Eilat and its potential introduction to the rest of Israel. Some believe this to be an unstoppable natural event, whereas others conclude some form of control is a possibility.