Blue Orchard Bees
With an impending shortage of honey bees, almond growers are looking with increased interest at the Blue Orchard Bee (BOB). The January issue of California Farmer has a good article on this bee.
South Valley Farms, in cooperation with the USDA Bee Lab (Logan Utah) has 3 BOB sites in their almond orchards. The area map at the right, gives the general location for 2 of these sites; a more detailed map on the other side shows these sites.
BOBs work at lower temperatures than honey bees and are more effective pollinators because they collect (almost) solely pollen. They have more body hairs than honey bees, which allows for more pollen transfer.
The intitial cost of BOBs is relatively high (around 35¢/bee) but growers are optimistic about increasing their bee numbers, so that this would not be an annual recurring cost. The bee is active only during a relatively short time in the spring. It requires about 3 weeks of continuous bloom to complete it’s life cycle; therefore plantings with a spread-out bloom period are preferred.
South Valley Farms has given the O.K. to visit these sites, but please use caution around them. The BOB is also called a Mason bee because it cements each cell with a dab of mud (be careful not to step on mud-collecting bees).
Wait until Nonpareil is in pretty good bloom before visiting these sites.
It is estimated that about 500 individual BOBs will pollinate an acrea of almonds and that 3 to 5 bees per tree is considered good BOB activity.
SCIENTIFIC AG Co.
P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303