Article on toledoblade.com regarding shortage of honey bees for pollination this year.
Some key highlights:
Not enough bees covering a frame indicates an unhealthy hive — and fewer working bees to pollinate the almond bloom, which starts next week across hundreds of thousands of acres stretching from Red Bluff to Bakersfield.
California’s orchards provide about 80 percent of the global almond supply.
The bees must now pollinate 760,000 acres of trees.
More than half of the country’s honeybees are brought to California at the end of February for almond pollination, which requires about 1.5 million hives from out of state, and another 500,000 from elsewhere in the state.
Bee brokers, beekeepers and almond growers around the state say there’s a shortage of healthy honeybees for this year’s pollination, especially after colony collapse disorder took a higher toll this winter.
All-time high of more than $200 per colony.
“We have smaller populations in the hives and higher winter losses,” said Eric Mussen, a bee specialist at the entomology department of University of California, Davis. “Bees across the country are not in as good a shape as last year. When you stress them far enough, the bees just give in.”
This year, Mussen said, many bees did not get enough nutrition because a Midwest drought reduced forage. Conversion of pasture land to corn production for ethanol also reduced the number of flowers producing nectar.
To compensate for forage loss, beekeepers fed bees more high-fructose corn syrup and other supplements. But such substitutes don’t provide all the nutrients pollen does, Mussen said. Malnourished bees are more susceptible to diseases. (Jack – That’s why I do not feed my bees)