With almond bloom upon us, the Western Farm press has good news about honey bees. According to an article by Greg Northcutt, bee supply is “expected to meet demand for almond pollination” this year.
That’s a report we welcome, because – as you know from following this blog – without honey bees there are no almonds.
The continued availability of bees needed for almond pollination is a testament to the hard work and resourcefulness of beekeepers – as well as the advances that have been made by all involved in the pollination process.
A variety of factors have made it harder to beekeepers to maintain the health and strength of their hives. Northcutt identifies some of the key challenges:
The biggest problem continues to be the parasitic varroa mite and the viruses it transmits. At the same time, the cost of controlling mites has risen, now that only one company supplies Amitraz, the main chemical used to control this pest.
In the past several years, the amount of bee forage in the Midwest has decreased as farmers there have replaced alfalfa, clover and other pollen- and nectar-producing crops with much more profitable corn and soybeans.
These challenges have made the strong partnership between almond growers and beekeepers more important than ever. Our own Bob Curtis (the Almond Board’s Associate Director for Agricultural Affairs) recently wrote on that subject in his own Western Farm Press article:
In general, beekeepers say that they and almond growers have the same interest: producing and maintaining healthy bee colonies to optimize pollination.
“It’s a relationship that’s built on trust,” [beekeeper John] Miller stated.
Beekeepers say that communication between partnering growers and beekeepers is critical.
For example, Bob relays that when beekeepers raised concerns about the practice of tank-mixing insecticides, almond growers “almost universally responded to beekeepers’ concerns by changing practices.”
For their part, “beekeepers make robust efforts every year to meet rising demand for healthy hives for almond pollination.”
We’re glad that will be true once again this year.