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Yesterday I drove thru CA's almond orchards to visit a commercial beekeeper who puts hives on my property during the winter. It's been a challenging pollination season as the rains have been heavy and almost unending, but the last couple of days had been fairly nice and allowed things to dry up a bit and let the bees fly.

The first thing you notice is the explosive color from all of the blooming trees. There are almond orchards everywhere, ranging from mature trees in full bloom to huge fields of young trees with only a few buds. Stacked next to the trees are piles of hive boxes of all sorts of colors and configurations, ranging from neatly arranged boxes of the same color to somewhat jumbled multicolored boxes. Most had gallon sized metal feed cans on top as the weather has brought about the risk of starvation due to the lack of decent days to forage. Interestingly, some orchards had trees that looked to be mostly thru their bloom (with petals falling from the buds like a gentle snowfall) and others looked to just be starting. Perhaps different varietals?

I stopped alongside the road to take some pictures (almost getting stuck in the mud doing so!). Upon opening the car door I was hit by the unexpected and almost overwhelmingly pleasant smell of the blossoming trees. Truly a spectacular thing to experience, I ended up driving the rest of the way with the windows open so I could enjoy the aroma. I can imagine that the commercial guys must love that smell, knowing it means they've done their job for another year.

I went on to my friend's yard that was busy with trucks returning from the fields. He has a big operation, over 20k hives, and they've been extra busy having to rearrange hives due to the flood waters. I picked up a few queens to make some splits and saw in his office a neat display of hive tools from all over the world. Look closely and you'll see some are labeled with their country of origin.

A really neat experience that's well worth the trip. That aroma will stay with me for a long time! IMG_0071.jpg IMG_0073.jpg IMG_0070.jpg IMG_0074.jpg
 

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Thanks for that Bison, enjoyed reading your post and looking at the photos!
A bit of an insiders view for you, i'd say.
 

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And I thought I had too many hive tools.. haha I liked the one with the integrated brush. Wonder if it gets in the way a lot?
 

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Thanks for sharing the photos.

In the late 70's, I use to help work bees in a friend's orange orchard in southern California. My god, the smell of thousands of acres of orange trees in full bloom is like heaven on earth.
 

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Bottom pallet is for sacrificing to the mud & moisture, top one is usually painted and has clips and has either an SBB or Winter bottom board arrangement for 4 or 6 beehive boxes.

Yes, second rough year in a row for the almond growers who've suffered rain during the bloom, and for many of the beekeepers who have lost up to 60% of their bee colonies - many to a larger-than-normal mite load this last Fall/Winter.
 
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