|Survey: Input costs for colonies placed into almond orchards|
A survey was conducted by Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Extension Apiculturist, to estimate input costs to place colonies of various levels of strength into almond orchards in February. He found a difference of $100 or more between colonies of 4 and colonies of 10 frames of bees.
How Much Does it Cost to Keep Commercial Honey Bee Colonies
Going in California?
By Eric C. Mussen, Extension Apiculturist, December 2009
Responding to a request by beekeepers and growers of honey bee-pollinated crops to make an estimate of the cost of maintaining a colony of honey bees in California, I accumulated the following information. Although the information was contributed by a relatively small number of successful beekeepers, it is interesting to see how similarly they thought. I solicited their estimates of what it would cost to maintain colonies that would result in various levels of strength at February almond pollination time.
I was told in 1976 that an "acceptable" colony for almond pollination was being upgraded from "four frames of bees and a laying queen" to "six frames of bees". Theoretically, four frames of bees is the size a Central Valley California colony is likely to be (if it survives) when it is not fed extra syrup and protein during the year. Currently, in 2009, almond growers are not pleased with colonies having less than eight frames of bees, and ten or twelve frames are much more to their liking.
The estimates in dollars for maintaining certain hive strengths are depicted on the graph, below. (The trend line is hand-drawn, not calculated.) The most common sentiments expressed were, "Who would want a weak colony, anyway?" "We feed them all to be ten-framers or better, but there is no guarantee that is what we will get, or that they will even survive."
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