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Almond Grower Newsletter – May 20, 2003

2004 Bee Rental Prices
Enclosed is our pollination price schedule for 2004.

We urge you to make pollination arrangements well before bloom. The strongest bee colonies are always the first to get contracted.

Our 2004 prices represent a $2.00/colony increase over 2003 prices (the entire $2.00 will go to our bee suppliers). This is the first year we have raised prices 2 consecutive years. Almond pollination prices, like prices for any commodity or service, are dictated by supply and demand. Demand for almond bees, especially for strong bee colonies, has gone up in recent years due to increased almond acreage, while the bee supply (esp. the supply of strong colonies) has gone down.

Recap of 2003 Season – Coming Through For You
As we indicated in last year’s newsletters, we anticipated the shortage of bees that occurred this year. 3 factors contributed to this shortage:

  1. High honey prices caused some beekeepers to strip their colonies and either stay home or winter their bees in southern states.
  2. Drought conditions in the western states caused sub-par colonies for many beekeepers (and required expensive feeding to bring colonies up to almond pollination standards; some beekeepers opted not to feed).
  3. Some Texas beekeepers (and beekeepers that have to pass through Texas) decided it wasn’t worth risking their loads getting turned back at the Arizona or California border (from inspection for red imported fired ants).

For some individual beekeepers, varroa mites and/or tracheal mites (and in some cases nosema disease) continued to be a problem in maintaining strong, healthy colonies.

At the start of December, last year, we had ample bee colonies to cover our grower contracts but it looked like it would take a lot more winter feeding than normal to achieve our 8-frame strength standard. Reports from our southern California beekeepers were unsettling – their bee pasture was the driest they’d ever seen and their colony numbers were shrinking. Normal warm temperatures made the colonies active, but their were no flowers. Queen bees stopped laying eggs because no new food was coming in.

Then the December rains came, supplying enough moisture to make southern California beekeepers cautiously optimistic. By early January, things had turned around completely. Bee pasture was abundant, and warm January days triggered rapid colony buildup. Queens started laying eggs that would hatch plenty of bees in February.

Once we became aware that 2003 could be a banner year for colony strength in So. California, we hopped on the phone to increase our bee supply from that area and, at the same time, cut back on our out-of-state bee supply. Most out-of-state beekeepers were only too happy to be relieved of their commitment to us – they were getting calls from other beekeepers and from growers for their bees where lower colony strength requirements would save them considerably on feed and culling expenses. We wound up working with several southern California beekeepers we had never worked with before, but we had first-hand knowledge of them and of their bees.

In January 2003, we were able to secure the best of the best bees from So. California, then cherry-pick the best colonies from out of state. The result was that our over all bee colony strength for the 2003 season was one of our best ever, averaging well over 10 frames. A season that looked dismal in early December turned completely around. If we had stayed with our original December commitments with our beekeepers we would have fulfilled our 8-frame commitment to you, but our January dealings allowed us to deliver the best possible product to you.

What happened this year is similar to what happens every year. By having a large number of beekeepers to draw from, we can select the strongest possible colonies for your orchard. If we worked with only 1 or 2 beekeepers, as some individual almond growers do, we wouldn’t have this flexibility. When working with only one beekeeper, the beekeeper’s problems become your problems. Every year, one or more of our beekeepers has problems, but we never allow these problems to become your problems.

Although our standard for almond pollination is 8-frame colonies, our goal is to supply 10-frame or better colonies every year. The overall strength of the colonies you are renting from us is usually in excess of 10 frames. Those of you that go out with us to look at bees (or that have the county inspect the bees) know that this is true.

With higher bee rental prices, almond growers throughout the state are taking a closer look at bee colony strength; colony strength has become a paramount concern for many. The result is that beekeepers with the strongest colonies, our beekeepers, are getting enticing offers for more money and/or bonus payments based on frame count. We haven’t gone to a bonus payment for frame count because it would require inspecting 100% of the colonies in order to be fair to both growers and beekeepers.

We feel that the price you are paying for bees entitles you to an above-average product. Our promise to you is that we will make every effort to continue to supply you with the strongest bee colonies possible each and every year.

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SCIENTIFIC AG CO.
P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303

Toll-free number: (877) 356-5846
Office Located at:
1734 D Street, Suite #2
Bakersfield, California
24 Hr. Phone (661) 327-2631