What do I need to know and do while our honeybees are in the almond orchards?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Sacramento County, CA
    Posts
    877

    Default What do I need to know and do while our honeybees are in the almond orchards?

    Title kinda says it all...

    We have never taken any colonies to the almond orchards before...and I have some questions and was hoping someone here could help me understand what to expect and what to do.

    Getting ready to sign the contract.

    So here's some questions we have...

    1. Will the bees bring in lots of pollen only or will they bring in nectar too?
    2. Should we keep sugar bricks on the colonies while they are in the almond orchards?
    3. How long do most growers want the bees in their orchards?
    4. Must we be aware of any dangers [such as fungicides, rainy weather emergency sprays etc.]? I read somewhere about this...
    5. How can we make the almond orchard farmers super happy so they will want our bees again next year?
    6. Does anyone sign contracts an entire year before placement?
    7. Does anyone split their colonies while they are in the almond orchards?
    8. What else do we need to know?

    Thanks

    PS We have never ever placed our honey bees in the almond orchards, so we have no clue whatsoever what we are getting into...any advice would be deeply appreciated.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Tacoma WA
    Posts
    15

    Default

    Hello, this is my second year taking bees to almonds. Have 500 this year.
    We bring our bees to the orchard in mid January and feed them 1 gallon syrup and 1 patty pollen sub. 2 weeks later we feed them 1 gallon syrup again. (That will give them just enough till the end of almonds).
    We don't split during almond pollination. Keep in mind though if you have strong bees in single boxes, they will swarm during pollination so add a second box to those.
    To make farmers happy. Have good bees and come on time and leave on time. I go through a broker who also unloads and loads my bees onto the semi and spreads them out on the almonds and then collects them after pollination. I get about $170 per hive after paying the broker. You should be in the area of $190 per hive if working directly with farmer.
    Last edited by R055; 01-24-2019 at 06:08 PM.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    John Day River, OR
    Posts
    277

    Default Re: What do I need to know and do while our honeybees are in the almond orchards?

    Uf. Where to begin.

    I am no expert, been pollinating for only a few years...

    By all means, find a mentor. Find someone to work with and see how they handle it. Everyone has their own way, but the bottom line is having good bees going in, and good bees coming out, ready for the next thing you throw at them. Good bees going in are often great coming out. Not so good bees will hold or crash.

    So that is probably the first question. Where are they going after almonds? A beekeeper sending bees to citrus for honey is going to do things different than a beekeeper sending bees to Oregon/Washington for cherries and/or apples.

    We ship south the end of January. Grade and equalize, trying to make everything 8+ frames. If I can't build it up with brood from the super big ones, we crash them to make grade. Everything gets fed a gallon, maybe a little less if they are super heavy, two if they are super light. I usually try to go home for a week or two after they have been set, returning about the last week of February.

    An HEALTHY 8+ frame hive at the beginning of February is going to grow quite a bit by the middle of March. We ship north the end of March, to fruit orchards in Oregon. It could be beautiful, it could be snowing. The bees need to be ready. We find it useful, and productive, to do some pruning. So while the bees are still in the almonds, we pull brood and bulk bees. I also generally put Apivar strips in around this time, sometimes earlier, but I think the end of February is a good time for us. There are always some hives that need to be fixed. Most years, if I have access to queens, I have built singles to ship home. Some years I have sold brood or bulk bees. I try to leave them with 5-6 frames of brood, pulling between 0-4 frames. If shaking, we can usually manage 2-4lbs/hive. There is a good market if you ask around. We also feed as needed, making sure they are plenty heavy to send north. A big colony with a lot of brood eats a lot of food. In our case, they are going to sit in cherries till the middle-end of April and I don't want to find starving bees when I get to them next. Syrup is cheap insurance.

    If you are working bees in the orchards, robbing can be a big issue around petal fall. Keep your yards tidy, don't leave comb uncovered on the truck. We generally save feeding for the late afternoon, occasionally feeding into the dark (ouch).

    As for nectar and pollen. Yes. The pollen is very good but it is all very weather dependent. The last several years when it has been really nice and warm, has made the nectar flow pretty strong and the bees can plug out. If it is cold and foggy, they will lose weight.

    In general, most orchards apply fungicide around petal fall. Some will also use an IGR. Alot of guys spray at night, but not all. Most of these materials are "ok for bees" according to the label, and generally show no acute damage, but I think contribute to the brood damage we see in april.

    Have fun, Good luck. And go find someone to work for/with. If you are serious about commercial pollinating, the amount you learn and relations you make, will vastly make up for the low starting pay.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Spokane, Washington, USA
    Posts
    1,120

    Default Re: What do I need to know and do while our honeybees are in the almond orchards?

    1. On a good year they will plug out with pollen abd nectar.
    2. Forget the sugar bricks. Feed them syrup.
    3. Depends if its a flash bloom or not. Can be over a month.
    4. Flooding can occur. Fungicides will be sprayed.
    5. Bring in very good bees.
    6. Sometimes in the fall. The growers usually plan on us for the next year.
    7.Yes, towards the end of bloom.
    8. Treat you bees well. They will pickup mites( as well as rear a bunch)

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