A trip to the Almonds in California

| 3/6/2012 3:37:09 PM

Tags: California Almonds, breeder queens, migratory beekeeping, Bee Culture magazine, , Kim Flottum,

A Trip To the Almond Orchards Of CaliforniaA view from the air gives a hint at the magnitude of the almond crop in California 

I took a break from Ohio winter and traveled to California this month to take in the biggest agricultural event in the Universe…The Pollination Of The Almond Crop.

How big? In the central and northern valley in California there’s 750,000 acres of producing almond orchards. Add in another 100,000 acres that are coming on line and you have a crop that’s bigger than the state of Rhode Island. Those blooming acres need two colonies each for ample pollination and nut set, which comes to 1.5 million colonies needed for pollination. There’s only about 400,000, maybe fewer, colonies in California, so the rest come to the almonds sometime before the crop blooms in early February. It is the major migration of honey bee colonies on the planet and happens beginning in October or so each fall, continuing right up to almond bloom the first week in February or so.

Since there’s only about 2.6 million colonies in the country, that amounts to nearly 60% of all the bees in the U. S. are in California’s almond orchards right now. This is, without doubt, the most incredible bee-flower event…ever.

Water is the issue for crops and bees and wildlife in all of the growing regions of the stateBeekeepers from the Midwest usually bring their colonies to California before the snow flies and put them in holding yards…vast, empty acres that are good for little else because nothing, and I mean nothing, grows there. And nothing grows there because there isn’t the water necessary to produce a crop, a flush of wild flowers, or even ground cover.

And once the bees move into the almonds, there isn’t anything to visit except almonds, so they do get the best of the bees all during bloom…providing the weather holds…which is mostly, but not always does.

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