The Most Heavily Traveled Livestock in the World Heads West
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Author: Charlotte Duren, Bee Health Communications
Cold mid-West temperatures last week sent many commercially-kept honey bees on a road trip. Beginning in mid-October and through mid-February, about 1.6 to 2 million honey bee colonies are placed in California almond orchards for pollination services. Other bees travel to Texas for overwintering.
Even though almond trees blossom from February to March, many of the commercially-kept honey bees travel to the San Joaquin Valley early because their home climate is too cold to keep them active for the winter. The natural bee cycle is to “overwinter” when temperatures drop below 55 degrees. During this time, bees feed off of their honey stores, cluster tightly together, and batten down the hatches until warmer weather prevails.
Commercial honey bees arrive to less-than-optimal conditions in California where there are no blooms and drought conditions prevail. Dave Shenefield prepared 2,000 hives to make the 2,300 mile journey from Indiana to California last week. He will feed his bees protein patties and check on them two to three times during their visit to the almond orchards.
Beekeepers are paid $100-$200 per hive depending on the hive’s condition and other factors, according to Shenefield, although he looks at $150-$175 pricing for his eight-frame hives that are well populated. It costs about $35 per hive for him to ship the bees and another $25 per hive goes to his broker.
The Almond Board of California recently released a set of Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) that outlines practical steps that almond growers and pesticide applicators can take together with beekeepers to protect and promote bee health.
Shenefield participates in Bayer’s Sentinel Hive program designed to investigate causes of poor bee health.
Read more honey bee health stories in the November edition of the Bee Care Buzz newsletter.