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Almond Grower Newsletter – June 26, 2009

To those of you that have sent in your order form for 2010 pollination, we thank you.

Some have asked why the July 1 deadline for signing up for 2010 bees. The reason is that beekeepers must start a supplemental feeding program in September in order to come up with strong bee colonies in February. We helped sponsor some work by USDA’s Dr. Frank Eischen that showed the benefits (to almond growers) of September feeding:

FRAMES OF BEES
Start of Feeding At Start End of January
September 6.8 8.4
October 6.3 8.0
November 6.1 6.7
December 7.0 6.3
January 6.8 5.6
Not fed (check) 6.3 4.3
from June 2009, American Bee Journal

Beekeepers must know what they will be getting for almond pollination so that they can budget and order supplemental feed for September.

We are well aware that almond growers are being hammered by a cost-price squeeze and are looking to cut costs across the board in order to stay out of the red. You have likely been approached with bees at bargain prices. This is a switch from past years when beekeepers made no commitments until Nov.-Dec. because rental prices generally escalated during the fall-winter months. Some of these beekeepers got left out in the cold this past season as growers cut back on bee numbers for one reason or another. For the 2010 season, beekeepers from the Midwest, the Dakotas and Montana will stay home unless they have an almond commitment by first snow.

Beekeepers that do not have an almond commitment by August, will not invest in a September feeding. They will hope to get by, as many have in the past, with colonies of marginal strength for almonds.

A recent USDA-Apiary Inspector study showed that 28.6% of US bee colonies were lost this past winter compared to 35.2% the previous winter. Although an improvement “the rate of loss remains unsustainable” according to the study. No beekeeper, including our suppliers, is immune from suffering a catastrophic winter loss. Because we have a large number of suppliers under contract you are assured, as you have been in the past, of getting your full complement of strong bee colonies.

Beekeepers that start a feeding program in September initiate a spiral of more mouths to feed with consequent costly feeding bills (for both sugar and protein) in the ensuing months. Few beekeepers are interested in investing in such an expensive program because to them it makes no economic sense. Our beekeepers are among the few that go to this extra expense because they know they will be compensated for their efforts.

Again, in cutting pollination costs, we urge you to cut colonies/acre, not cost/colony.

Joe Traynor, Mgr.