Preparing Your Orchard for Honey Bee Arrival

With bloom quickly approaching, communication with your beekeeper will become increasingly important, especially when preparing your orchard for the arrival of hives. The University of California recommends moving hives into the orchard at about 10% bloom, at which point there is enough bloom to hold bees in the orchard. When working with your beekeeper to plan the arrival of hives in your orchard, be sure to provide a clear and convenient place for the beekeeper to drop off the hives, and alert the beekeeper of any changes to your orchard.

“Make sure all the debris is out of the orchard, notify the incoming beekeeper of any broken water lines or soft spots, and be sure to have all the dormant spraying finished before the hives arrive,” said Jackie Park-Burris, CEO, Jackie Park-Burris Queens. “Communication with your beekeeper is huge. You may have been working with the same beekeeper for years, but don’t forget to alert them of any changes in or concerns about your orchard floor before they deliver the hives, so they can adjust their delivery plans accordingly.”

Hive Strength, Placement
In mature almond orchards, it’s common to place an average of two hives per acre that have an average of eight frames of bees, with six-frame minimum hive strength1 during pollination. Each orchard will have varied pollination requirements, but here are general guidelines for hive placement:

  • Where they are accessible and convenient at all hours for servicing and removal;
  • If possible, near flowering forage before bloom and after bloom;
  • With eastern and southern exposures for hive openings to encourage honey bee flight;
  • Away from areas prone to shade or flooding;
  • Traditional recomendations are that for orchards of 40 acres or fewer, hives should be placed at quarter-mile intervals, which in larger acreages may be within orchards.

If possible, place hives near forage that is flowering before bloom and after bloom.

“Once you’ve placed your hives, it’s essential to keep the bees’ health top of mind when continuing any spraying,” explained Park-Burris. “We recommend waiting until the bees are out of the orchard for the day and their hives are covered before spraying. It’s the job of the hive to pollinate the orchard, so we need to do everything we can to ensure the health of the bees and reemerging broods.”

 

Buffer Space, Water
When deciding on a location for your hives, be sure to consider the appropriate buffer space between pesticide-treated areas and colonies and do not spray the hive directly with any materials, including herbicides, oils and foliar nutrients. Provide abundant, potable water, free from contamination, for bees to drink. Therefore, if you spray, water should be covered or replaced. Providing water will ensure that more time is spent pollinating the crop than searching for water. Landings such as burlap or screens over containers make water accessible and prevent bee drowning. Either cover or remove water sources before a pest control treatment, or supply clean water after treatment is made.

For more information on Honey Bee Best Management Practices, please visit Almonds.com/BeeBMPs.

1 Mueller, Shannon. 2012. “Colony Strength Evaluation.” Presented at The Almond Conference.
 

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