Almond pollination problems [Archive] - Beesource Beekeeping Forums

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almond guy
08-24-2016, 06:40 PM
I am having pollination issues with my almonds. I am putting out 2.5 hives per acre on a 20 acre piece but I am surrounded by 60 acres of nectarines that bloom almost simultaneously. It seems that my very expensive bees are spreading out over those trees as well as mine and I'm getting a very weak pollination. No one else has almonds or any other crop that needs bees for at least 2 miles currently. In my search for a solution I have come across an idea that I have heard a guy who knows a guy has tried and it worked but I can't find any direct information. As the story goes I wound erect a 30 ft netting perimeter fence, and since my trees are only about 15 ft The bees will have no reason to travel high enough to go over the nets. I have heard stories of someone doing this to keep bees out of his mandarins but cannot confirm it. Does anyone have any experience or advice for a situation like this?

08-24-2016, 06:42 PM
Is this a permanent location, or do you move the bees in for pollination?

08-24-2016, 07:08 PM
It wont work. If the nectarine blossoms are that attractive the bees can easily fly over the nets. I believe the mandarin trees are fully netted such as this:
Since the nectarines do benefit from bee pollination, maybe suggest some pollination cost sharing to rent more hives?
Ok not likely, but maybe worth a shot.

almond guy
08-24-2016, 07:11 PM
I move them in for pollination. I know that netting over the trees is the common method for mandarins but Ive heard of the unicorn that did it this way and it worked, supposedly. I also spoke to a netting guy who said he had done something similar and the grower was happy with it.

08-24-2016, 07:29 PM
Ok but I'm skeptical. My bees might bump their heads on the net a few times but if they really want to go somewhere, they will do it. I would talk to the grower who used the nets to get more details.

08-24-2016, 07:59 PM
A three inch high robber screen is pretty effective. Perhaps bees just won't go very far to get around (over) a fence. Probably best to get the bees inside and the fence built before the nectarines bloom. If the almonds don't bloom first I would open feed the bees in the midst of the almonds to develop the habit of where food is.

Keep in mind that I'm just guessing, the advice is free, and may be worth exactly what it costs.

08-25-2016, 07:28 AM
Just an idea; you could try orchard bees in your almonds, it might be as easy as just setting up houses and cleaning/replacing the tubes once a year. I don't think they travel as far, so they may have no choice but to stay and pollinate your trees. From what I have observed they use more pollen than honey bees.

I would still look into netting. But combined with your honey bees, orchard bees may increase your percentages.

08-27-2016, 09:12 AM
Just an idea; you could try orchard bees in your almonds, it might be as easy as just setting up houses and cleaning/replacing the tubes once a year.

Dr. Gordon Wardell has extensive controlled trials with Blue Mason (aka Orchard) Bees. They are indeed vigorous pollinators of almonds. A key issue with BOB is the "natural" flight period in California is April, months after the almonds bloom. The solution Dr. Wardell developed was to incubate the BOB pupa on a special top cover over a honeybee hive. This allows the BOB to emerge and fly correctly timed to the almond bloom. The pupa are a commercial product from the northern tier fruit production.

A popular account may be read here.

08-28-2016, 02:43 AM
The nectarines, peaches, and almonds all blooming at the same time.
I have them here with the same environment. So there is no way to keep
the bees out when they can fly 50' above. Besides, erecting such a fence around
the 20 acres is quite expensive and not even sure it will work for this situation. Many unsuspected birds
for sure will be caught by this net though. How many birds you have to kill before realizing this. Mandarines and
nectarines are not the same specie or related at all. They bloom at different time of the year when
resources are limited to the bees. My only idea is to put more hives per acre to make up for the drifters. And sharing
the cost of pollination with the nectarines grower is out of the question because this is not his problem at all. Why would someone pay/share the pollination cost when the hives are not on his side? How can you prove to be your bees on his nectarines orchard? Might as well absorb the cost of this one by increasing your colony number right in the middle of
the almond orchard.

09-01-2016, 04:14 PM
Are you sure they're going to the nectarines? I never saw my bees having much interest in the nectarine or peach trees at my house and I had hives there. Are the hives you're bringing in being graded and do you check for activity during the day?

10-06-2016, 01:55 PM
Your problem is the bees are getting a better return in nectarine nectar and pollen over a greater distance then they would get from the closer almond nectar and pollen. Here is an approach you might want to consider. Try and contract with a supplier to swap out hives that are at least 2-3 miles away every few days. Honey bees placed in a new location will begin scouting and foraging going an ever increasing distance until distance, measured as energy expended, exceeds return. The bees should orient to the almonds as they are closer and then switch to the nectarines. How long it takes for the switch to occur would be an interesting question. Drop your bees into the center of the almonds only after bloom has started.

Regards Peter
Have a read about hive rotation in low bush blueberry fields.

10-06-2016, 02:18 PM
Another thought, have the bees on trailors that you can haul in and out. Move half the bees in and half the bees out every few days. If you have someone who you can share with then costs should be managable.

Regards Peter

10-06-2016, 11:00 PM
Drop your bees into the center of the almonds only after bloom has started.

With our busy life it is better to drop the bees in before the almonds bloomed. It is
better to do it when the flower buds are still forming just before the bloom a few days ahead.

10-23-2016, 08:01 PM
spray the mandarins late with a pyrethin base insectide. next morning it has pretty well lost its potency but is highly repellant to bees .mandrin grower wins as the best are seedless mandarins .Almond grower is happy as the bees lock onto his crop . you have lost a handful of bees but have saved a fortune in movement costs .if you find this too hard on bees my advice is get out of pollination industry before it sets you broke.