Services we offer to the Almond Grower:
- Provide quality beehives
- Pre-inspection of hives in holding yards to help insure strength.
- Generate computer maps to beekeeper and almond grower.
- Correlate arrival and departure of hives.
- Inspection of hives in the orchard if necessary.
- Liaison between almond grower and beekeeper.
- Negotiate price with beekeeper.
- Choice of out-of-state or California beehives.
- Access to extra hives for emergencies.
- Provide written contract.
Tips for Maximum Pollination
To avoid exposing bees to pre-bloom pesticides and to reduce their visits to competing flowers, move colonies into the orchard when blossoms first appear. Often beekeepers cannot move large numbers of bees in a short time and so are unable to move all their bees to orchards when the first blooms appear. In excessively wet orchards with heavy soils, it may be necessary to move bees into the orchard as early as September and October.
Distribution of colonies should be accessible and convenient at all hours. Orchard roads should be maintained and graded for easy assess. Groups of colonies can be placed at 1/10 -to ¼-mile intervals throughout larger orchards to give the best pollination under the poorest weather conditions. Eastern and southern exposures are better for sun and warmer temperatures and encourage bee flight for pollination. Allow for hive placement in areas NOT prone to flooding or shade.
Move bees out of the orchard as soon as possible after pollination has been completed-usually when 90 percent of the blossoms have dropped from the latest blooming varieties. By this time, most bees forage away from almonds, thus greatly increasing the possibility of exposure to pesticides on other crops. Number of colonies. Use one to three colonies for each acre. Two to three colonies per acre supply adequate numbers of bees to almond blossoms in seasons when good flight weather is severely limited.
How to protect bees from pesticides:
Bees can be protected from pesticides only by close cooperation among growers, pesticide applicators, and beekeepers. Before choosing a pesticide, consult County Ag department to find the pesticide least toxic to bees and which will control the pest. Then the beekeeper and pesticide applicator should discuss the formulation to be used and the time of application. Guidelines for discussion are available in Leaflet 2286, Toxicity of Pesticide to HoneyBees. Attempts should be made to avoid using any pesticides, even those considered non-toxic to adult bees, unless absolutely necessary. Bees foraging in almond flowers treated with captan can return with enough chemicals to damage the colony. Captan does not affect adult bees, but larvae exposed to this material may die or develop into malformed adults. Whether or not captan is unique in its effects will be determined by experimentation with other fungicides and herbicides.
We simply can't say enough about communication. It can mean the difference between success or disaster. Early placement to a beekeeper may be 10% bloom, but early placement to the almond grower could be two weeks before bloom. Alleviating misunderstandings before the bees are placed in the orchard is a goal we strive to maintain.
Factors Affecting Pollination
Weather conditions during almond bloom (February to March) are frequently at or below the threshold for bee flight activity for prolonged periods. Honey bee's fly when temperatures are 55degrees and higher. They do not fly in rain or in wind stronger than 15 mph. Cloudiness reduced flight activity. Under optimum conditions, maximum flight activity occurs from 11:00 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. during almond bloom. In early morning and during poor weather, bees usually visit trees near the groups of colonies. As the temperature rises or the weather improves, the bees visit blossoms farther from the colonies.
Only some of the flower produces by an almond tree will set fruit that grows to maturity. The degree of fruit set differs with variety, age of tree, weather conditions, bee density, and number of flowers cross-pollinated. The flowers have a life span of about 3 to 5 days for effective pollination. Essentially, all flowers must be cross-pollinated and the earlier this is done after bud opening, the more likely fruit set will occur.
Honeybees may visit plants other than almonds if the plants provide more attractive pollen or nectar. Bees placed in an orchard before almond bloom establish nectar- and pollen-foraging areas on earlier blooming plants, including almonds in adjacent orchards. They also shift to other sources as almond blossoms become less numerous and less attractive.
Foraging behavior differs depending on whether bees are collecting pollen, nectar, or both. Bees differ in rate of flower visitation, varietal preference, and frequency of stigma contact. They tend to forage near their colonies, but may forage in another orchard or on another crop where bee density is lower and food is more readily available. Thus, the density of bees and other blooms within a mile or two of an orchard can greatly influence the quantity of bees needed for pollination. The dispersion of groups of 20 colonies throughout a larger orchard will maximize bee activity with that orchard.
The minimum standard set by the California State Beekeepers Association for the population of colonies used to pollinated almonds is "four frames of bees and an active laying queen at the beginning of almond bloom. Two hives per acre are recommended." The number of worker bees varies with the weather and available fall food supplies-nectar and pollen of native plants. If the beekeeper moves his bees to adequate pasture in summer and early fall, he usually has strong colonies that overwinter. With special management, such as feeding sugar syrup and pollen or protein supplement in early autumn, colonies may develop higher than usual populations. When colonies are strong-have greater bee numbers-more bees fly, and they fly in lower temperatures than when colonies are weak. Strength of colonies should be measured in numbers of frames covered with worker bees and in the total square inches of brood.