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Author Topic: Almond Pollination  (Read 3940 times)
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« on: January 07, 2005, 12:04:53 PM »

Bee shortage impacts pollination
Issue Date: January 5, 2005

By Christine Souza
Assistant Editor


Wheatland beekeeper Bob Seifert is gearing up for the almond pollination season in early spring. With pollination right around the corner for almonds and a number of other crops, growers and beekeepers share a mutual concern about a potential bee shortage aggravated by a destructive bee pest.

Both groups point to research as the answer to eliminating the Varroa mite, an external parasite of the honeybee whose population increases until it kills the entire bee colony.

The California State Beekeepers Association and the Almond Board of California have researchers working to find solutions to the Varroa mite problem, including U.S. Department of Agriculture experts at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz.

"Our lab and all of the USDA bee labs are working very hard to get new solutions to the Varroa mite issue. Once we get that under control the colonies will be more predictable," said Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, research leader at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. "We have several alternative compounds at the lab that look very promising. With one of these compounds we hope that we are just about a year away from having something."

Since a possible solution to the Varroa mite issue is not expected for the coming pollination season, it leaves beekeepers and growers in a tough spot for 2005.

The window of time to reserve beehives this season is becoming smaller and smaller. Growers who have not done so may be left without honeybees, a crucial part of the business of growing almonds.

"Right now we are trying to take care of our regular customers who cannot find any more bees," said Wheatland beekeeper Bob Seifert, a director of the California State Beekeepers Association.

Many growers reserved hives several months ago, so trying to locate hives in California and out of state now could be a difficult if not impossible task because of this year's bee shortage. This is why almond growers and beekeepers cringed at recent news that a truck spilled 12 million honeybees on a Las Vegas freeway after it struck a ramp. The bees were en route to California for almond pollination.

Colleen Aguiar of the Almond Board of California said about 480 hives were lost in the spill. The lost bees could have pollinated 240 acres of almonds and led to production of 400,000 pounds of almonds, with an approximate value of $650,000.

During 2004, Varroa mite infestations caused much trouble for beekeepers by invading bee colonies and killing the bees, spreading diseases and reducing honey production. Hive losses have reached 50 percent in some cases.

"The crisis that we are in right now is due to the Varroa mite. There is nothing that we can do right now. The pest strips that we insert in the hives are no longer effective," Seifert said.

Eric Mussen of the University of California, Davis Department of Entomology, who is a member of the California Farm Bureau Federation bee commodity advisory committee, said beekeepers are running out of the tools necessary to fight the Varroa mite.

"We went through Apistan and now we are basically getting to the tail end of CheckMite+ where most people say, 'I put the strips in the hive and nothing happened,' Mussen said. "Now we have a serious problem because there is no third magic bullet. Mite numbers are just growing and growing."

Growers experienced a shortage of bees during the 2004 pollination season due to beehive thefts, drought experienced in California and out of state, and an increase in honey prices.

It is estimated that beekeepers in California have between 475,000 and 500,000 beehive colonies. To pollinate California's almond acreage, it is estimated that it takes more than 1 million colonies. This means more than half of the necessary bees are brought from out of state.

The state's $1.189 billion almond crop is entirely dependent on honeybee pollination and growers are responsible for more than half the world's almond production. Some other crops dependent on honeybee pollination include apples, avocados, cherries, cucumbers, melons and sunflowers.

Since almond acreage has increased each year for almost 10 years, the demand for beehives has become greater.

Arbuckle almond grower Joe Marsh, a Colusa County Farm Bureau director, was able to reserve bees in October and said many other growers are still looking for bees.

"A lot of guys are out hustling and looking for hives right now that should have been doing it sooner. I heard back in October that a bee shortage would happen next season,˜ Marsh said. "I think the shortage is a little bit of an issue but I think it is more of an opportunity. The bee guys have some leverage to bring their prices up on the bees. The price of hives has basically doubled.˜

Beekeepers say that the price of pollination for 2005 is as high as it ever has been. The average price to rent a hive for pollination for almost five weeks in 2003 was about $45 per hive, and during the 2004 pollination season, the average cost was about $48 per hive. To rent a hive for the 2005 season, the price is expected to reach $75 to $85 per hive.

The increase in cost to rent the beehives, Marsh said, could cause some almond growers to get into the bee business.

"I know guys that wanted to increase their hives and because of the increased cost, growers are going down in numbers on the amount of hives per acre,˜ Marsh said. "Let's say you just get three hours of really good weather, you want to get as many bees out there working as you can. If you only have two beehives working per acre, they are not going to cover much ground.˜

Almond acreage has increased steadily since 1984, when bearing acres totaled 381,000. In 1994, bearing acres were 433,000 and in 2004, they numbered 530,000 according to the Almond Board.
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2005, 07:47:25 PM »

I was reading something about that, varroa mites are going to hit hard this winter. Its projected that 1 outta every three hives are going to die. That was in this months Bee     ure Magazine.




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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2005, 09:10:40 PM »

you know a lot of big beekeepers from all over the USA are going to go there for the money and probably bring back those super mites to everybody so get ready guys
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Bruce Hanson
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2005, 11:26:01 AM »

Ithink your wrong to think the so called " big beekeeper" is responsible for the mite problem.Yes we are in it for the money it's called trying to make a living.Thats why we are doing every thing possible to find something that will get rid of the mite. The freight on one semi load of bees is  8000$$fromSD toCA. and back.,and we are paid for good healthy hives only.I have 2500 colonies that I shipped to California and so far only lost 5% .but the guy down the road 50 to 60 % .                     Just wanted you to know that us    "big beekeepers" have more than just a hobby to lose on the mite problem,                                       Keep Buzzing
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2005, 09:50:43 PM »

UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY BRUCE, business is business, all I'm saying, if there really these super mites over there and your hives are brought over there and you have not found a new way the kill them then you bring your hives home or to another state that might not have these so called super mites then what would you call it , everyone needs to make the best living possible and ill stand behind you 100%, but you can't deny the commercial beekeepers can tranport these super mites to location that have no super mites. I wish i had enough hives to bring there myself, hard to pass on that kind of money, im not blaming the commercial beekeepers for spreading mites or other deseases but they do help with the spread. for example i'm in Georgia and we have besides mite's have the SHB, i bring 500 hives to california, dont you think I just carried the SHB across the USA and they aren't going to stay just in my hive's they will be there for good then i go to washington and ext. just something nobody can control. I'm not downing nobody, im just stating facts. I'm working on becoming a commercial beekeeper now aslong as everything works out but im going for the queen rearing and selling.  wink
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2005, 10:25:07 PM »

Interesting points.  However, I believe the bees themselves help spread the mites.  Through robbing, drifting etc.  There was a heated discussion about AFB being spread by beekeepers rather than robbing on another board recently.  My own beliefs aside, if one hive is crashing from mites, it makes sense some hitchhikers will be on board as it gets robbed out.  This would include feral colonies as well as managed colonys.  The mites probably expand shortly behind the bees as swarms reestablish themselves in the wild.  How long does it take for a swarm from beemaster's hives to be considered feral? (this is a trick question cause I like to tease beemaster about his swarms) The survival of those "feral" bees would speak a great deal to natural comb.. whatever that might be.  Bees build alot of different sized comb, and the small cell theory seems to be evolving to include only the "CORE" brood nest.  I don't know what the answer to all the mite/shb problems, and personally, I believe the answers will come from the "commercial guys"  They have their livlihoods pinned on it.  They are on the leading edge of each development
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« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2005, 11:25:51 PM »

good point golf and i have to agree with you, the commercial guys will be the one's behide the development, I have a friend that is a commercial beekeeper and he says he will do what ever he has to to stay in businees,he has helped me out a whole lot, i thought i knew alot about bee's since i helped my father with them growing up but he helped me catch up with todays beekeeping and still helping me. I talked to my uncle the other day that lives in California and he has friends that are beekeepers and he said they have lost about half there hives, i wish  Bruce has all the luck and hope he don't lose to many hives.
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THAT's ME TO THE LEFT JUST 5 YEARS FROM NOW!!!!!!!!

Never be afraid to try something new.
Amateurs built the ark,
Professionals built the Titanic
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