Cover Crop Competition

Are you concerned about a blooming cover crop competing with your almond bloom?

Will a nearby flowering cover crop divert honey bees away from the almod bloom? This is an understandable concern on the part of almond growers. The efficient pollination of your crop is top priority. In-the-field research shows that providing honey bees forage prior to almond bloom can actually increase the frames (or numbers of bees) and that these bees are healthier and more robust to pollinate your crop.

  • Your almonds provide bees with large quantities of high protein pollen in a relatively small area, making it very easy for bees to collect.  Bees want to work almonds!
  • Bees generally have worked all the pollen from almond trees by mid-afternoon – targeting almond pollen before moving on to other pollen sources.
  • By design, the anthers on the almond flower readily display the pollen, making it very attractive to honey bees.

 

Why plant a cover crop for honey bees? 

  • Having other pollen sources available, like mustards and clovers promotes a pollen-collecting cycle.
  • The pheromone of brood triggers pollen foraging. Pollen collection stimulates the queen to lay eggs (brood) which motivates the bees to collect even more pollen to feed their young.
  • As the population increases, the field-worker force also increases. If abundant, foraging bees may collect nectar and pollen in greater amounts than are needed to maintain brood rearing.
  • When reared in pollen limited hives, bees communicate less efficiently, and communication is critical for foraging.
  • Cover crops also help the almond orchard by increasing organic matter, nitrogen, soil fertility and preventing erosion.
  • Anchor your bees to your orchard by providing an attractive alternate source of food.  If your neighbor’s orchard has a cover crop and you don’t, the bees you paid for will spend time at the neighbors.
  • In contrast, the hard-to-get pollen on the cover crop, located on the ground, is less appealing.

 

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