Fewer Healthy Bees Threaten World’s Supply of Almonds

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)


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3 Responses to Fewer Healthy Bees Threaten World’s Supply of Almonds

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Worrying. I use almonds a lot in baking.

  2. Todd says:

    “Jack – That’s why I do not feed my bees.”
    But the point is you have the forage Jack. We have nice houses around and people with yards that irrigate their landscaping, thus the nectar and pollen. If you didn’t and let your bees die, would you be a good beekeeper? How and where you keep your bees is in stark contrast to loading them up on pallets and shipping them around the country on 18 wheelers. Fortunately we have that luxury on the Peninsula 🙂 I just harvested a 30 pound winter crop from my backyard hive a week ago! It does show that we still have major issues with our bees. For us on the Peninsula, mites are our bane, and for others near large farms it’s the neonicotinoids among other things. Hopefully the migratory guys get a break from the weather this year.

  3. Todd – Yes, they have to feed the bees due to no food source for them after the bloom. But good thing about beekeepers like us, like you mentioned, we have forage through much of the season. But I have seen even hobby beekeepers feed their bees. My statement was not for the commercial guys but hobbiest. 🙂

    BTW, those bees are so abused after Almonds that you can buy these beat up bees for so cheap. I would totally stay away from them especially they are also heavily medicated.

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