yes, yes, and yes bud!
there is an interesting "fractal nature" of agriculture (by that i mean that the small form resembles the large form).
a tree will provide nectar to entice pollinators (including honeybees) to do it's pollination. the nectar is the bait.
a farmer (or big ag company) will entice the migratory beekeeper with $$$ in order to have bees moved into an area temporarily that:
1. doesn't/can't support a native pollinator population
2. requires (for the farmer) insect pollination
3. carries a measurable amount of risk to the beekeeper's bees (bees die in transit, bees are exposed to high levels of ag chemicals, bees are exposed to other bees in the vicinity).
the amount of money involved belies supply, demand, barriers to entry, and risk.
take a look at the situation with the almonds...the price being paid for pollination speaks of great risk (as there are enough bees and enough beekeepers to supply what is needed if the price is right). this is no different than any high risk/high return financial investment.
if there were good, reliable, predictable, and effective "treatments" for various problems aquired via doing almond pollination, the number of beekeepers willing to do the pollination would rise...and the price would fall.
i personally don't see a future in the migratory way of doing things for the long term. i think the more beekeepers we have like bud (non-migratory, largely self contained), the better shape we as a nation will be in when things do crash. what we need is a wide distribution of beekeepers who can expand locally once the migratory model fails.
i wish no ill will on those doing migratory, and i would do nothing to hasten or worsen their problems...i expect these things will take care of themselves.
(my recollection is that the 40% he lost were of about 70,000 colonies!)
Adee Honey Farms – one year later
Richard Adee of Adee Honey Farms owns the largest beekeeping operation in the U.S. He lost more than 40 percent of his bees that he trucked out to California in the fall of 2007 in preparation to pollinate the almond crop, which starts in early February.
Around Dec. 1, 2007, he said his bees were looking real “nice,” but Adee said things went downhill quickly from that point.
“All of a sudden they started collapsing through the rest of December and through most of January and early February, so it was a big hit,” he said. “We lost a lot of them before they started pollinating the almonds, so we had to scramble all over the U.S. to find bees to fill our contracts, which we were fortunate to do. That really takes a toll on a person.”
This year, Adee said they are planning to send about 65,000 hives to pollinate the almond crop. Beginning in October, his bees will be put on more than 150 truckloads out to Bakersfield, CA, where his son, Bret, runs the family operation there.
Adee said his focus right now is on keeping his bees as healthy as possible, which he hopes will help them build up more of a resistance than they had a year ago.
He knows some beekeepers who have been in the business a long time and who had to file for bankruptcy after last year’s bee collapse. He said one beekeeper he knows who lost most of his hives stacked up all of his equipment and burned it all in frustration.
“It’s really been devastating for us,” he said. “If there’s one good thing that’s come out of this, it is that there is a new awareness of the value of the honeybee in our food chain, but beekeepers sure have paid a high price.”