>>2013 Bee Supply
As we do every January, we will be making last-minute adjustments in our bee supply, cutting and filling as winter bee losses come into focus. Our + or – 5% on the number of bee colonies you contract with as allows us to book +5%, then cut back to -5% should conditions warrant.
Current Bee Problems
Getting strong bee colonies for almonds (8 to 10 frames of bees) will be a much tougher task for the 2013 season than it has been in recent years, for two main reasons. 1. loss of the most effective chemical for varroa mite control. 2. poor bee forage last year due to drought conditions in most bee areas.
The varroa mite has been the scourge of beekeeping since it was first found in the U.S. in 1987. Varroa mites not only kill or weaken honey bees directly, but also spread deadly viruses from bee to bee, from colony to colony and from apiary to apiary. The most effective varroa control chemical became unavailable in 2012 because the overseas manufacturer stopped production. Beekeepers that stockpiled the material in 2011 got good varroa control in 2012, but some beekeepers had to use alternate materials and found their colonies weakened to the point where many perished or were too far gone to nurse back to almond pollinating strength. There is a crying need for effective varroa-control products. The difficulty in controlling this pernicious pest with approved products is causing some beekeepers to improvise their own varroa treatments.
Drought conditions have left bee colonies in many areas in a weakened nutritional state, making them more susceptible to varroa mites and its associated viruses. This one-two punch from varroa and drought will result in above average winter losses of bees and overall weaker bee colony strength for almonds. Although it will be tougher this year, we are confident that we will meet our commitment to supply you with 8+ frame bee colonies. Some beekeepers are predicting $200/colony bee rental prices for almonds for the few growers that haven’t yet contracted for bees or for growers whose beekeepers jumped ship because they didn’t feel they were getting a fair price. We are confident that our beekeepers will stick with us even though some will lose money this year due to the unforeseen problems outlined above.<<
I think that about sums it up.