Via Almond Board of California

As we ring in the new year, we should also prepare for almond pollination. Since pollination is the single most important factor for determining a good yield, it is never too early to begin thinking about how to keep honey bees happy and healthy once they arrive in your orchard.

Wondering where to begin? The Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds outlines how you can take your first steps toward a successful season:

  1. The Communication Chain: Establish clear communication among all parties involved in pollination and pest management during bloom. It may be as simple as the grower and beekeeper connecting, but larger scale operations may have a more complex communication chain. It is also important to contact the California County Agricultural Commissioners to determine if there are any honey bees in the vicinity outside of almond bloom, particularly when applying pesticides.
  2. Grower-Beekeeper Expectations: Communicate with your beekeeper prior to almond bloom to set expectations. Reach out as early as possible before the pollination season to discuss requirements, such as pesticide use during bloom. Outline a pesticide plan containing which materials will be applied when and how everyone in the communication chain will be notified. A few other expectations to consider are the number of frames of honeybees, including averages and minimums; the date and location of placement in the orchard; payment amounts and terms; and when bees will be removed from the orchard.
  3. Prepare for Arrival: Consider the optimal placement of each hive in your orchard. Placing hives appropriately can enhance pollination. A general rule of thumb is to place an average of two hives per acre that have an average of eight frames of bees with six-frame minimum hive strength. Moving hives into orchards at about 10% bloom is recommended. Growers should provide a clear area for bee drop-off and keep access roads clear and maintained. Hives should be placed in areas with eastern and southern exposures and away from areas prone to shade or flooding. This will encourage honey bee flight. Make sure to choose locations that have appropriate buffers between pesticide-treated areas and colonies. Provide abundant water for bees to drink, so they spend time pollinating rather than searching for water.
  4. Assess Hive Strength and Quality: Inspect beehives as they arrive in the orchard. The inspector can be a third-party apiary inspector or the beekeeper who is observed by the grower. Make plans for who will inspect hives ahead of time.

These simple steps will get you ready for pollination and give you a strong start to the 2018 almond growing season. For more information, visit Almonds.com/pollination.