Posted April 15, 2013 by Dan Cummings
A near perfect almond bloom met with a relatively poor pollination force this year, nevertheless an excellent crop appears to have been set. Almond bloom got off to a late start as abnormally cold night time temperatures held off flower development. Once bloom was underway however, excellent overlap of almond varieties required for cross pollination was accompanied with ideal temperatures. Strong colonies were able to pack on 20 to 30 or more pounds of almond nectar honey during the course of bloom. Excellent post-bloom weather has continued to promote crop development.
Hive numbers and strength were highly variable this year with many reports of a more bimodal distribution of frame counts than typical. That is to say there were a good number of both strong (10 plus frames) and weak (less than 6 frames) colonies but not the typical bell curve distribution peaking in the ~ 8 frame average. Overall counts were down, and it was not unusual for almond growers to receive reduced numbers of colonies or the bottom of a previously negotiated range, i.e. contracts with a plus or minus percentage allowance were fulfilled but often at the minus threshold. Few almond growers went entirely without bees, but many accepted weaker colonies than would typically be expected even with lenient grading. Pollination prices rose to $200 plus for mediocre hives as bloom began and some growers struggled to address their pollination needs.
The ongoing press coverage surrounding CCD and the plight of the honey bees led to the following 2013 almond bloom documentary by Dan Rather Reports Click here.
Post bloom there have been many reports of bees “going backwards,” losing two to three frames of bees, then either collapsing or stabilizing and building again. The northern California Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) has reported witnessing bees dwindling, spotty brood patterns, and diagnosed the cause as European Foul Brood. They explain that the variability of weather temperatures and the rapid onset of a very heavy almond bloom are likely the cause.
Dr. Eric Mussen was recently interviewed by National Public Radio Science Friday discussing the current state of the honey bee industry and his expectations for this past winter’s losses. Click here.
Dr. Gordon Wardell had the following to write about this past almond pollination event at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. A very clear pattern developed at Paramount this year. Bees out of the south were by far the strongest. Colonies out of the south averages 11.5 frames of bees while the Midwest averaged around 8 frames with heavy culling. Beekeepers from the Midwest by far experienced the heaviest losses, many of Paramount’s beekeepers from the Midwest reported losses in excess of 50%.
Heavy drought, lack of effective mite control, and poor fall forage held back the Midwest bees. Many of the same bees saw additional losses when moved to holding yards in California. A prolonged December cold nap in San Joaquin Valley caused heavy losses in bees with over expanded brood nests. Colonies with two brood boxes full of bees were knocked back three and four frames. Chill evidence was clear from dead adults on the ground, ejected pupae and cannibalized brood patterns. The bees were slow in rebuilding and unable to recover prior to bloom. The late bloom didn't help these bees either, but once the bloom began many of these colonies built quickly. Three and four frame colonies that would not normally be rentable found eager growers who were unable to secure colonies from normal sources.
Posted January 16, 2013 by Dan Cummings
Many feel hive quality going into almond bloom last year, February 2012, was the best it has been for several years. The chart below, showing percentages of honey bee colony winter losses, would certainly seem to support that observation. The explanation may be the abnormally warm winter experienced during 2011/2012, indeed the fourth warmest winter in U.S. history. In an article by Kim Kaplan published by the USDA, Dr. Jeff Pettis was quoted, “A warm winter means less stress on bee colonies and may help them be more resistant to pathogens, parasites and other problems.” Click here.
Another prominent bee researcher commented to me that bees emerged from last winter indeed relatively robust but also with bigger varroa mite loads than usual. Consequently treatment was required earlier and many beekeepers missed the timing, instead treating based on historical calendar dates. Much of the U.S. suffered drought conditions last summer, honey bee forage was significantly reduced in many areas and this further compounded stress on colonies. Finally, this winter we are experiencing just the opposite temperatures from last year with cold weather in much of the country and especially cold temperatures in California during January and just in advance of almond bloom. Graph courtesy of Dan Cummings
Honey bees are being sampled by researchers in Southern California at present. The initial observations are that “colony strength is spotty – some have excellent bees, some have collapsing bees. Last fall mite levels, as determined by the national disease survey were higher than any previous year, so that in combination with poor honey crops in much of the country set the stage for high winter mortality. This seems to be transpiring…” A bee broker in southern California reports suppliers canceling out on 3,000 colonies last week. Other beekeepers report inquiries from their peers looking for additional colonies to cover contracts.
Much remains to be seen as another pollination season unfolds. More than 100,000 colonies are being pulled from winter storage sheds in Idaho over the next few weeks, will be graded and then shipped to California. One bee broker has called this “the great unveiling.” Abnormally cold weather in California has made it difficult to grade colonies. Beekeepers really can’t start until noon and clusters are tight to protect against the cold. Pollination is a collaborative process and this year perhaps more than in the recent past, communications between grower and beekeeper will be required to set the best almond crop possible.
Posted August 20, 2012 by Dan Cummings
The difference in writing the almond and bee reports is striking. The California almond industry supplies 80% of the world’s almond supply from two valleys totaling 400 miles long. In contrast, the U.S. honey bee industry, indispensable pollinating almonds, is not only a national industry, but also part of a complicated global honey market. The almond industry enjoys relative transparency with its concentrated region of global production and accurate industry statistics, including crop forecasts, from a respected and very accurate, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Global honey production is far less transparent with few reliable statistics/crop estimates and rampant transshipments to disguise country of origin and consequent antidumping duties. While the quality of California almonds is beyond reproach, it is not uncommon for imported honey to have residues of antibiotics used in managing honey bees, be tainted with heavy metals, and be blended with other cheaper sweeteners. China is clearly the 800 pound gorilla in the honey market both in production and lengths to which it will go to dispose of its crop. China’s dumping of honey in the US has been the subject of great frustration for American honey producers and increasingly the subject of US, and international, law enforcement efforts. The following information from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations puts in perspective the U.S.’s global position as a producer of honey.
Meanwhile the potential for US honey Production in 2012 may be the worst in several decades with over 60% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing “moderate drought or worse” and nearly a quarter of the country experiencing “extreme drought or worse,” according to the US Drought Monitor. A drought map of the U.S. is available by clicking here.
Expectations are for 25% to 50% of a “normal” honey crop in California with below normal rainfall this year and hot temperatures. Conditions have been variable for Florida but generally poor overall with few sources of nectar and high temperatures and less than half a crop expected. Hot and dry is the case for most of the region responsible for the majority of US honey production including the states of North and South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Idaho and Minnesota. A somewhat detailed state-by-state discussion through the month of July is produced by the USDA National Honey Report by clicking here. Finally, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) does report reduced winter losses of only ~ 22% this past winter down from the over 30% average loss rate the previous 5 years. Click here. This drop in losses may in part be attributed to an unusually warm winter 2011/2012. The sense amongst California almond growers was that the quality of bees going into almonds this past bloom was the best it has been in several years.
Now to expectations for almond bloom 2013 bee strength and availability. The drought has required beekeepers in many areas to already supply supplemental syrup and pollen substitutes. Discussions revolve around beekeepers’ even greater dependency on almond pollination fees, given this year’s honey production bust. However, how much money will be available to care for bees between the end of this generally very hot and dry summer and almond bloom? What weather will we experience this winter? And, will the specter of CCD loom even greater than ever with the dearth of natural forage this summer? Lots of questions exist as to the effect of the drought on available colony numbers and strength next January.
Posted April 12, 2012 by Dan Cummings
Pollination of the almond crop is now complete, with reportedly the best quality bees on average in the last several years. An adequate supply was available this year and with larger frame averages.
Beekeepers reports on the 2012 bloom:
- "...the best I have ever seen for the bees, tremendous pollen and good weight coming out of the almonds. (However,) since the weather turned on March 9th, things have gone downhill, requiring feed now to maintain the bees."
- "Hives temporarily gained honey storage late in the bloom."
- "The 2012 almond pollination season in hindsight had a near perfect balance of supply/demand for bees."
- "Border entry problems were again a concern in 2012...even though we had very clean loads...trucks were held up which resulted in damage to the loads."
While CCD and other maladies affecting honey bees continue to result in 30%+ winter losses, beekeepers appear to be improving cultural practices and incurring costly inputs sufficiently to be at least gaining ground on almond pollination supplies. This is needed, given a resurgence in new almond plantings and is especially impressive with the one of the smallest U.S. honey crops, and one would presume corresponding reduced natural forage, in the last 10 years.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service 2012 Honey Report was released March 30 and can be viewed here . Honey production was down 16% from 176 million pounds in 2010 to 148 million pounds in 2011. Of the five largest producers; California was down 35%, North Dakota down 30%, Florida down 20%, South Dakota up 7% and Montana up 15%.
California - “It just didn’t get warm enough for good honey production after getting lots of rain which is usually the problem.” “Above normal rainfall usually helps the native honey plants such as sage, buckwheat, toyon, etc., to produce copious amounts of nectar…” but 2011, “was a very wet year, with a long, cool and rainy spring that did not bode well for honey production.” “… most citrus groves had a very light bud set last year.”
North Dakota - “…poor hive health; poor queen-quality hives sourcing out of a well-above wetter California winter in 2011.” High prices for corn and soybeans displaced “… formerly forage-oriented acreage…” with these crops. And finally, well above normal rainfall, saturated soils and generally poor growing conditions for bee forage all contributed to a reduced honey crop.
Florida - “Citrus-greening management by grove owners…” and the resulting increase in pesticide usage discouraged many bee keepers from pursuing a citrus honey crop. “… wild plants such as palmetto, gall berry, tupelo and various small plants in the woods…” were all severely affected by the drought conditions which began in mid-April.
Montana and South Dakota - Simply experienced, “… good moisture for most of the spring and into summer.” This coupled with an “on” year for clover resulted in improved honey production over that of 2010.
Honey prices reached a record high of $1.729 cents per pound up 7% from $1.619 in 2010. This comes about as a consequence of a number of factors including; a smaller North American honey crop, short crops in Argentina and Viet Nam, recent successes enforcing anti-dumping duties on Chinese honey, and strong competing demand in Europe.
Two new studies by French and British researchers on nicotine-based insecticides were published in the March 30 issue of the journal Science. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of systemic insecticides applied to seeds and plants that affect the central nervous system of insects resulting in paralysis and death. Their widespread use is receiving growing scrutiny as a possible contributor to the decline of honey bee and other native pollinator populations. Two good general discussions of this research may be found at 1) The Guardian, a UK magazine (click here), and 2) the New York Times (click here).
Posted February 27, 2012 by Dan Cummings
US honey prices are at a record high. Water white honey, the highest quality, is approaching $2.00 per pound. This price increase is the result of a variety of factors. First, there has been some success in stemming the flood of illegally imported Chinese honey. The enforcement of antidumping sanctions against China has reduced the trans-shipment of honey through countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and most recently India. Also, the diminishing expectations for the 2012 Argentine honey crop and the lifting of an EU ban on the importation of Indian origin honey are further driving US honey prices higher.
Another factor contributing to higher honey prices is the drought conditions throughout much of the US resulting in one of the poorest domestic honey crops in history. Changes in agricultural land usage because of commodity prices further impact floral resources for honey bees and thus, the honey crop.
Conversely, the drought conditions in California resulted in favorable conditions for the placement of hives in almond orchards. Almond pollination fees have rivaled the value of US honey production these past five years since the advent of CCD and the resulting rise in pollination fees to almond growers.
Pollination fees changed little this year from last year. The primary determinants of bee rental fees - almond acreage and winter colony losses - remained the same. This equilibrium seems to be settling in for the time being and until either or both of these acreage and winter loss determinants change. Almond pollination fees now account for approximately 14% of the variable cost of production of a pound of almonds.
Beekeepers are reporting excellent pollen collection and decent nectar flow to date. Nectar is being consumed nearly as fast as it is being collected with accumulation in the hive only starting the last few days at the most advanced orchard bloom locations. Pollen accumulation in the hive has been strong and sustaining. Bees that over-wintered in the warmer- than- average California climate and that were fed throughout the winter, are doing the well going into almonds. Bees that overwintered in colder climes are doing better than average, relative to past years with the same management practices. What appeared to be a surplus of colonies in early January were readily absorbed as weak and failing colonies were replaced. All in all, supply and demand fell well in alignment with good average quality.
The dry California winter is on the mind of California beekeepers with only ~ 50% of normal rainfall to date. Queen producers are ramping up operations with grafting starting last week. While the dry conditions pose concerns for bee forage later in the season, queen producers would be happy for a reprieve from the cold and wet conditions experienced the last two years. Roughly half of all queens produced in the continental US are produced in Northern California. Beekeepers are now routinely replacing queens annually, at a cost approaching $20 per queen or 13% of the pollination fees per hive.
Posted November 16, 2011 by Dan Cummings
The quantity, quality and diversity of naturally available honey bee forage is a primary determinant in the health of the hive and colony strength at almond pollination and therefore increasingly a subject of research. While supplemental feeding of protein and carbohydrates plays an important role in the management of hive health, there is no substitute for an abundance of diverse natural forage. 2011 has been a year of extremes at both ends of the weather spectrum and 2012 portends the same with a second year of La Nina conditions present.
The following is an excerpt from the latest El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) update from the National Weather Service, “A majority of the models now predict La Niña to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter and then gradually weaken after peaking during the November – January period...Over the last half-century, La Niña events that were preceded by ENSO-neutral conditions during the Northern Hemisphere summer (May-August). as occurred in 2011, were less likely to attain strong amplitude (less than –1.5°C) the following winter. This observation, in combination with the model forecasts, favors a weak-to-moderate strength La Niña during the Northern Hemisphere winter.” The full discussion can be accessed here.
The Western Weather Group has provided a very interesting graphic attempting to predict another La Niña year. Please see their graphic here. You will find graphs for both precipitation and for temperatures. Pay particular attention to the almond growing region, which is split between the odds for cooler, wetter Pacific Northwest influences and warmer, dryer Southwest influence. Some almond growing areas lie on the dividing line between the influences and are given “equal chances” for wetter/cooler and dryer/warmer.
The impact on honey bee forage of this past year La Nina was felt throughout the country with cold and wet late springs and summers in the north and a pronounced drought in the south. “Exceptional drought record for United States set in July” is the headline at the US Drought Monitor. The report goes on to state, “The percent of contiguous U.S. land area experiencing exceptional drought in July reached the highest levels in the history of the U.S. Drought Monitor… nearly 12% of the contiguous United States fell into the "exceptional" classification during the month, peaking at 11.96 percent on July 12. That level of exceptional drought had never before been seen in the monitor's 12-year history…”
Reporting on their summer experience and plans for almond pollination, beekeepers from around the country had the following to report:
“In Central California from the Sierra foothills to the coast, cooler than normal wet spring kept the bees and plants from producing a great spring honey crop. The summer honey crop was better than last year primarily because of the increase in cotton acreage, a primary summer nectar source for the bees. Many locations where bluecurl and tarweed normally exist in abundance (during a wet year) in late summer were totally bare of either of these great bee plants. Most of the hives have decent populations, similar to the last couple of years and better than a few years prior to that. We plan to rent about the same amount as last year.”
“North Dakota honey production was split. East River (Missouri) was generally miserable. In West River some good crops were made. In North Dakota, the continuing move by farmers to soybeans and corn for grain has reduced the formerly honey-producing acreage. Poor crop conditions predict poor colony conditions for the spring, 2012. Beekeepers reacted by feeding sucrose and fructose and placing protein supplements in hives. Overall, truckloads of bees returning from ND are lighter than last year.”
“Since my bees spend the summer pollinating blueberries in Maine and cranberries in Massachusetts, we do not try to make a honey crop. The fall honey flow in South Florida… has been normal. Our expectation is to bring a few more hives to almonds. A nationwide shortage of truckers to move bees has resulted in almost 50% increase in transportation fees. Sugar prices are at an all-time high. We will need more money in the almond pollination contract to make this work.”
“The Wisconsin spring was late again this year, cold and wet. The crop was poor again this year with a 58 pound average. Because of the late spring and flooding down South, many package bees and nucs were not installed in Wisconsin until middle to the end of May. The overall honey crop in Wisconsin ended up spotty. This fall is better than last year. We may ship 200 more colonies into the almonds but are waiting to see what other beekeepers are thinking on price.”
Northern California and Montana: “Spring supply of nectar is the worst I have ever seen and the pollen supply was adequate in California. Honey flow was 2 weeks late but good in Montana. Summer forage and fall forage was good in CA and Montana overall. Bees going into the fall this year coming from Montana are lighter than last year. Bee strength is about the same as the last few years being “real good” right now. This year may go down as one of the worst honey crops the US has ever experienced. Will have about the same number and rental price for hives going into almonds this year.
The USDA National Honey Report, provides a more detailed discussion of honey producing conditions and beekeeping activities by state through September 2011.
In summary, this was generally not a good year for summer bee forage. However, bee colonies look to be going into the fall in pretty good shape but more dependent than usual on supplemental feeding. Most beekeepers are planning on running about the same number of hives as last year in almond pollination and at about the same price. The exception would be those beekeepers that have been priced “under market” and may raise their prices a bit to be nearer the norm.
Posted July 29, 2011 by Dan Cummings2010 Honey Report US honey production in 2010 was up 20% over 2009. Average honey prices also increased 8.8% from $1.47/lb to a record high $1.60/lb. Hive numbers were up 7% from 2009 at 2.68 million. Click here for the 2010 National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report for the 2010 US honey production released February 25, 2011.
A full 44.3% of all honey, 39.4% of hives, was produced in the Upper Midwest region states of North and South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. North Dakota alone was responsible for nearly a quarter of all honey produced! California produced 15.2% of all honey with 15.5% of hives. And Florida, with 7.5% of hives, produced 7.7% of all honey. Collectively, these 6 states support 62.1% of the nation’s hives and produce 67.2% of all honey. Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture, published an insightful discussion of the USDA’s report (click here).
Chinese Honey China continues to find new channels for circumventing the US tariff on Chinese honey. China began transshipping honey through Indonesia and Malaysia after more aggressive efforts in the US at enforcing tariff requirements. As these and other transshipment channels have been blocked, Vietnamese and Indian shipments of honey to the US have suddenly ballooned. Many European countries have banned the importation of Indian honey after numerous rejections of honey shipments testing positive for a variety of contaminants. A detailed American Bee Journal editorial, “Tsunami of Indian (Chinese) Honey Now Arriving on U.S. Shores--Threatens to Drown Rebounding U.S. Honey Market”, more fully describes the situation and a new global strategy by the FDA to help deal with this problem. Click here to access the article.
USDA National Honey Report The honey market report for June, 2011 can be found here. This monthly publication of prices paid to beekeepers is remarkably up to date and also provides information state-by-state on weather conditions, pollinated crops and prices, and honey shipments by month, quality and destination. This is an interesting site and worth a visit.
Honey Production/Almond Pollination The total value of honey produced in 2010 was $282 million according to NASS. The value of almond pollination is harder to determine. However, the 2010 CSBA Pollination Survey reported an average of $150.79/colony for almond pollination. A Giannini Foundation report on pollination estimated 1,480,000 colonies for pollination in 2010, i.e. 2 colonies per acre average on 740,000 acres. This results in almond pollination fees of $223 million in 2010. I believe average pollination fees, and stocking rates, could have been lower and have used $145/colony in the past and total hives of 1,332,000 or 90% of the Giannini estimate. Consequently, pollination fees would have been $193 million. A range of $193 million to $223 million is pretty reasonable. Therefore, the 2010 relative value of almond pollination to honey value is 70% to 80%.
CCD cost to Almond Production The Giannini Foundation report previously mentioned reports that almond pollination fees now account for, “… about 20% of budgeted cultural cost per acre.” The report concludes that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the increase of almond acreage have contributed roughly equally to the dramatic increase in almond pollination fees over the last six years. It further estimates the increase in cost of almond production attributable to CCD at $83 million. Click here to read “The Estimated Impact of Bee Colony Collapse Disorder on Almond Pollination Fees” published by the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, University of California.
Posted June 7, 2011 by Dan Cummings
California: The same wet and cool conditions retarding the development of California’s almond crop are also hampering bees in the Golden State. Orange honey production in the Southern San Joaquin Valley is reported down significantly as a result of poor nectar flows, netting of significant acreage for seedless mandarin production, and over stocking of locations. Many beekeepers throughout the State have been forced to feed far heavier after almond pollination this year than past years. Late spring rains have developed significant wild flower populations but cold weather has compromised nectar flows. Beekeepers are reporting significant grasshopper populations in the coastal foothills of the Sacramento Valley which bodes poorly for this year’s vetch and star thistle honey crops.
Northern Central US: Very wet conditions prevail in most areas of this region; e.g. Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota. Hive placement for honey crops is two to three weeks later than normal. While the abundant moisture is favorable for sweet clover, alfalfa, and other native forage, the same wet conditions may impede planting of crops like canola that are rich in nectar and pollen sources for bees. Climbing agricultural commodity prices, e.g. corn and soybeans, may result in these less nutritious bee food sources displacing previously rich bee pastures.
East Coast: Hives returned from almond pollination to find good spring nectar flows of titi and gallberry in the Florida woods. Tupelo, however, was a disappointment. Beekeepers have been moving hives north into Maine blueberries since early May. Maine too has been cold and wet and the blueberries are slow to bloom. Cranberries will follow typically from mid-June to mid- July. Bees are fed both protein and sugar during the blueberry and cranberry blooms to maintain the colony.
Queen Production: Roughly half of all queen bees raised in the United States come from Northern California. Production started off slow in March with early graphs not experiencing warm enough conditions for mating. The virgin queen must fly to mate with a large drone population in mid-air. The queen and drones require at least 65 degrees with calm winds -conditions in scarce supply for much of the spring. Queen producers report sales a few weeks behind normal but hopeful any shortfall can be addressed before rising summer temperatures bring a close to the season. Cold and wet conditions elsewhere in the United States have delayed demand for re-queening and populating new or lost hives so supply and demand may not be as out of balance as would otherwise be the case.
Production of queens in Hawaii has become increasing difficult with the appearance on the Big Island of Varroa mite in August 2008 and more recently small hive beetles in May 2010. Honey bee queen production in Hawaii takes place on the Big Island. Feral colonies have all but disappeared and managed colonies are under continual attack from the noxious hive beetle raiding colonies and fouling comb. Organic beekeepers have been particularly hard hit trying to manage the parasites and not lose their organic designation which garners a sufficient sales premium to offset shipping costs to the mainland. This especially valuable supply of fresh queens in the winter months ahead of almond pollination is adapting, but costs of production have risen dramatically in the last two years.
Annual Colony Loss Survey: The Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) report preliminary survey results indicating 30% of managed honey bee colonies in the U.S. were lost during the 2010/2011 winter. The report is available here. Losses have remained fairly constant over the last 5 years ranging between 29% and 36%. Roughly 20% of all beekeepers participated in the survey representing over 15% of the 2.68 million hives in the U.S. This survey does not include additional colony losses incurred other times of the year.
Posted April 2, 2011 by Dan Cummings
Most almond growers are cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the 2011 almond crop, with the notable exception of Sacramento Valley growers who suffered the brunt of bad weather during and after bloom. We thought it would be interesting to share the observations of beekeepers throughout California’s almond growing regions on pollination this year and their insights on bee activity relative to pollen collection, flight and overall quality of pollination.
Northern almond growing region. “We fed 100% of the colonies in the field … more than double in the past… because of the cold wet weather here in the Sacramento Valley. I’ve heard those that who didn’t feed saw a decline of 2 to 3 frames of bees during the first half of bloom. When the bees finally did get to work, the colonies were loaded with pollen; most pollen came in the second half of bloom. We made more nectar this year than I’ve seen in a long time, most of it during and after petal fall. Bees did fly at lower temperatures than customary, even below 50 degrees, but they had to be strong hives. It all depends on what you put into your bees prior to bloom.”
Central almond growing region. “The bees had four or five great days on the early varieties and they had a terrific run the last 10 days of bloom for the late trees. It started slow but ended up being a great year for the bees.”
“I know the almond crop will vary depending on bloom stage in different areas during the early rain but I pollinate an area 60 miles radius from Madera and the set appears to be very heavy at this time. The bees also gained weight in the orchard, gaining higher amounts on the west side of the Valley (Los Banos to Coalinga). If you had strong hives, they made a lot of nectar. If they were weak hives, they did very little.”
“We fed about one third of the colonies at least once after they were placed in the orchards, and had to feed again to hold them over through the subsequent cold spell. Populations increased during bloom as expected given that most colonies came in with at least 4-5 frames of brood. There was quite a bit of pollen collected during bloom even though some of it no doubt contained fungicide residues. All in all, I think the bees were able to fly enough here in the central portion of the Valley to set a decent crop of almonds.”
Southern almond growing region. “The delayed bloom was hard on colonies this year. Many beekeepers were going through their colonies in the orchards and feeding syrup. There was a serious threat of starvation – all that brood and not enough food. Colonies fed just prior to bloom and during bloom (protein and syrup) faired very well. Nectar and pollen wasn’t a problem the second two thirds of the bloom. Pollination was excellent the last two thirds of bloom. Some beekeepers had weight problems shipping their bees out - the colonies put on a lot of honey.”